July through September, 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

July 1
The month ended with somewhat overcast skies. Although we are pleased it is a bit cooler, just a bit, we're met with raised humidity. We drive to Viterbo for a joint appointment with the always wonderful Dottore Bevilacqua, (he deserves to be in italics!); he treats us with great friendship and respect; prescribing different salve and pills for my insect bites. For Roy, tachipirina three times a day and ice packs for a week, plus more rest, more time off his feet.

But in an example of how important good relationships are in Italy, I ask our good doctor if he knows any one at the Prefettura in Viterbo to find out why my application for citizenship is stalled. Amazingly, he does! The man is called, he answers his phone, and is waiting for us! Wow!

Five minutes later, we've parked right out front of the ancient building, and this time the guard at the office right at the gate is given the name of the man we are to see. His expression changes, and in a couple of minutes we're told on what floor to find the man whose name is written on a little piece of paper. The man we are to see is one friendly guy, and is a relative of folks who live in Bomarzo and have a farm right at the edge of Mugnano. We know his cousin!

He takes us to Signora Altissimi, the tiny lady we visited a few weeks ago, and stands over her like a giant eagle. Our new friend walks around behind her to see what she pulls up on her computer screen, and yes, my application is still "in the final stages". He asks her if she'll find out who has my papers and what is keeping the process from moving ahead. She agrees, or so we think she does...

We're inching along in the process, and although he tells us it could take up to five years, there's no reason for the process to take so long. We're nudging it, and perhaps she or he can convince whoever has my file to let go of it. We surely have provided them with all they need.

We stop to see if the air conditioning unit we have wanted has arrived at Bricofer in Viterbo. There are lots of models, but not the one that we have. So later Dino will drive to Orte and see if the one with his name on it has arrived at that location.

At home, Sofi has been relaxing inside a cool house, and spends the next several hours by our side. It's too hot, really, to spend much time outside, although I do a bit of deadheading in the garden and Dino chops off some long wisteria fronds.

Paolo arrives in the afternoon to measure for new doors for the cucina estate, mostly to keep out mosquitoes and calabrone. If we're in luck, we'll have: the screen doors installed for the summer kitchen, the air conditioner installed in the main kitchen, and my citizenship approval by the time we post this first half of the month. You know as well as we that the chances for even one are only possibilities.Magari!(If only that were so...)

After Paolo leaves, Dino drives off to do errands, including looking for the air conditioning unit in Orte and filling up Giallina withmetano on the way home, while I fill you in on the day's activities.

Tonight is the annual cena alla Romana with Merritt and Kate in Montecchio to celebrate Kate's birthday. You recall what alla Romana means, don't you? That's a meal in which the total bill is split by the number of people in attendance. If the meal is alla Genovese, on the other hand, each person would pay for what they ate and drank. We have never gone to the second variation; the first is fine with us.

We check in with Candace and Frank, who are in France for part of a week visiting a good friend, and will celebrate an American 4th of July when they return; either Sunday or Tuesday or whenever. On the 4th, Dino has to meet people who are staying at a rental in Tenaglie, and we don't know what time they'll arrive, so can't plan anything.

I am feeling so much better; looking forward to a night out, with Sofi again snoozing at home. She'll be more comfortable here, and now and then it's good for us to go out by ourselves, although I love having her by my side. I am wearing a dress with silk tights underneath, to cover my legs, for mosquitoes love me but drive me crazy.

July 2
We drive to Terni this morning for a few things we can't find in Viterbo, and at the first, a large fabric store, I find great material for Emily's costume and a piece of really lovely fabric for dresses for Marissa and Nicole. This store has a great deal more fabric and excellent prices on some of the items than stores in Viterbo, so it's a good thing we've stopped here.

Dino wants to find a wooden paddle for the pizza oven, but the three places we try don't have them, nor do they give us suggestions for the correct places to try. Some night soon we'll have pizza at Carlo's and ask him. Come no? It's quite overcast, and after we return home and have pranzo, Sofi and I return upstairs to recheck spelling and grammar on the final June post and Dino continues to work on projects downstairs.

A substantial rain shower emerges; it's a really good rainstorm. Although it's finished within an hour or so, there has been a real soaking.

I'm adding to the list of things I'd like to do, and this time to write a story based on what I know of my parents when they met. I do like to write, and have given the letters my parents wrote to each other during WWII when they were newly married to my brother. I've transcribed them and have copies of them here. The longer the list of things I want to do, the more I want to live on and be able to complete every last one.

July 3
Don Angelo is our priest, and arrives late, so his sermon is short. He repeats the concept to remember in our hearts and minds that God is always in us and we are always in Him. I keep thinking of that Norman Mailer book, The Castle in the Forest, and although I don't think of Mailer as a particularly spiritual man, his concept of the devil is an interesting one, as his devils taunt his characters, just as they probably taunt us. It's our strength to believe in God and to decide to do the right thing when faced with choices both good and bad that hopefully propels us forward.

After mass, we sit with a few folks in the borgo to gain more information for our project;

Some are interested in chatting with us and taking the project seriously...and then there's Giuseppe, who has more important things to do.

Back at home, Dino works on the albero genealogico , while I marinate a pork fillet with wild fennel and garlic and olive oil and other spices. He grills it for pranzo, served with fresh zucchini flowers stuffed with buffala mozzarella and anchovies. These flowers are not fried this time, but are excellent as a little type of insalata.

After pranzo, Dino returns to work on the Mugnano tree project; then we take our gazebo to the borgo and sit for an hour or more with people of Mugnano who give us more information.

There are not a lot of people around, other than children playing ball, but Aldo comes over to sit with us for a while, giving us more family information and tells us how the borgo has changed since he was a child in the 1940's.

Years ago, Aldo shows and tells us there was a wall where the entrance to the borgo is now, and more of the borgo consisted of pasture land. Pigs and other animals lived in the borgo, right near where we're sitting today. It must have been quite a fragrant(!) place back then.

During the Mussolini era, he motions with his arm that a huge fascist flag hung next to the little church, and tells us that several hundred people lived here then. It was only after WWII that people began to leave, for there was no work to be found locally.

What impact did that have on the Mugnano family tree? Bit by bit, we are learning more and more. Today we did not bring the computer, for Dino finds it easier to take out the pages of what we have in our binder and add and change data on the pages first, then input the data at home later. He thinks it's too difficult to see the computer screen with the afternoon sun's reflections.

Sofi scampers around, but sits quietly for most of the time between us on the bench. This is such an interesting project; I can't help pondering how to paint a fantastic tree to represent these wonderful and generous people.

When we take the gazebo down, Silvano Spaccese and Mario Fosci are there to help us, and it takes no time at all to put it back together and drive home down the hill.

While I'm catching up with you in the studio, the cachi tree in front of the studio window reminds us that it grows quickly and yes, will provide lots of shade, soon. As long as it does not make a mess, we're happy to keep it around, especially as summer turns to fall and the leaves turn the beautiful colors of the Italian terra cotta and gold landscape.

Soon I hope we'll bring a tape recorder to record stories of the people. I think I know enough Italian to be able to encourage people to tell stories to me; I'm not sure how we'll transcribe the stories later, but first things first.

Most of the people we speak with cannot name relatives further back than their grandparents, which is not unlike many people around the world today. This project, hopefully, will provide enduring information to children in future generations. As they grow, we're hoping they'll take stories and family history information into their hearts and memory banks about this wonderful village and the events taking place here. It's a legacy we're thrilled to be able to provide.

Back at home, Dino putters around, as do I, while Sofi sits at my side and waits for me.

July 4
Above us, those colorless skies emerge once more, along with plenty of humidity. Thankfully, the temperature is not hot. Dino wants to celebrate the American Independence Day, to wear the country's red, white and blue. Come no?

We work around the house and then leave at around noon to pick up a sewing table for my studio at IKEA, just before reaching Rome. Eating paninis from an Autogrill in the car are fine with us, and we find a parking spot inside that is cool for Sofi to wait for us.

Outside IKEA, men are setting up for some musical extravaganza, and the set looks right out of a Broadway musical. What do you think?

Back at home, Dino works to set up the table in the studio, then Stefano Basili comes to look over the air conditioner he will help Dino install on Saturday morning. It has not been hot these past couple of days, so waiting is not a problem, at least for now.

Dino shows a couple from Massachusetts how to get to the Tenaglie rental, and wants to invite them here this week. Sounds as if we'll do a pizza night, and will try to include Candace and Frank as well as Mai Elin and Olaf. That makes eight, the perfect number for pizza...

July 5
After lots of rain over night, skies clear as we work in the studio. Ever open to new ideas, we're moving things around to make the room work better; it will be a place where I'll be able to orchestrate some of my crazy ideas.

Paintings long stored away are hung on walls, furniture is moved around, a padded cushion is fashioned with cotton fabric to be sewn over felt, to use when I want to iron something, but without a need for a separate ironing board.

I notice that there are many of my paintings that need to be reworked until I enjoy them. We have two large cavaletti (easels), so I can work on two paintings at a time and at the same time sew away on a third project, unrelated to painting. Nearby is the computer, where I still want to write the book, or at least a series of short stories. Shelves from Ikea hidden from sight behind a taupe linen cloth are hardly used; now they'll be repositories for many supplies.

Emanuela has given me great counsel about a few things in the journal, popping up almost right after the email has been sent that the posting has taken place. One word I need to use more and more until it is imbedded in my brain is the word ghiaccio (ice), with a very special spelling.

Another, the word lampione is one that is different than one originally used in the journal last month, lampone, which means "raspberry". Before the use of streetlights, Dino tells me that lanterns were used. So in that context, we're talking about large streetlights, note the ending "...one."

Before we know it, noon is upon us, and Dino drives to the next town for a couple of hardware items while I begin a pasta sauce with precooked leftover sausages, fresh wild fennel and tomatoes from the summer kitchen's slowly depleted larder.

The wild fennel is really a hit; I'll use it whenever we use sausage meat, unless some other idea strikes my fancy.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in the studio, rearranging, hanging hooks, hanging paintings, and overall changing the look of the place. Now my pals hang all around, smiling down at me. If only Dino would not hit his head when he works; he hit it twice in the space of an hour but will not wear a hat, especially a hard hat, when working. Sometimes one's head just gets in the way...

The room is not perfect, but has a lot more organization and plenty of open looking shelves with sparkly material to sew for my little darlings. Once I set up the sewing machine, I'll make a case for the felt material that is the size of the table, and will be able to use it as a large ironing board when I need it.

Pizza? Tomorrow night is our next festa, comprised of six or eight friends, including Merritt and Kate's new renters, who are from Boston.

When moving things around, I locate a large drawing of St. Peter the Martyr, just as he's about to go under the ax of Carino. I'd like to paint him, even though the church project is not a probability. Since I've spent ever so much time working on that project, I'd like to have something to recall the things I've learned and enjoyed.

With several canvases stored but in need of reworking, I'm thinking I need to set some goals and gentle timelines. I promised a painting of grapes for a winery owner in Languedoc, so before we drive there this fall, that is one that needs to begin in the next weeks. There are costumes to make before November, but then I'm waiting for the measurements, so that will wait. I think sooner will be a lemon yellow dress to make for me to wear to Tiziano an Alessia's wedding at the end of the month. I'd like a piece of Como lace to wear on the top, so if we return to Terni, that's what I'll do.

Right now, I'm going to make a couple of recipes of pizza dough, to keep in the frigo overnight. Tomorrow morning, we will shop for ingredients. Wonder what Dino will think when I add wild fennel to his Boscaiola pizza tomorrow night...

The pizza dough sits in two frigos, and that is a good feeling to have that part done. Now I'm going to make two buttery piecrusts for an apple pie for dessert for tomorrow night's pizza festa, and will make a lattice work design before putting it in the oven. Come no? July 6
The day is long and there is much to do to prepare for another pizza night event here. Although there will only be eight of us, which is the perfect number in which to carve up a pizza, almost the same amount of work is entailed for a group twice as large. No matter. I so enjoy the creative aspect of it all, as well as the fun having friends come by for an evening.

There are six pizzas for tonight, and as the guests arrive, I'm doing still more prep work. Although I'm well organized in terms of having things prepared and in bowls and on trays before the pizza is formed and slid into the oven, there's a lot to do.

The pizza bases have been sitting in the frigo overnight, and sit on a table for two hours before they are used, hopefully in a cool place. The first pizza topping is zucchini and feta cheese and mint. Unfortunately, although we've floured the paddle and the worksheet below the pizza dough, it does not slide well onto the paddle, and as Dino becomes unglued in all the heat, he winds up turning it over, so it is more of acalzone than a traditional pizza. No matter. We slice it up and it becomes a kind of cocktail food, with folks standing around and watching us.

(NOTE: Tony took the photo, so he has been inserted!)

There is Dino's favorite, boscaiola, followed by the complex one: garlic béchamel sauce, small shrimp, zucchini flowers stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and an anchovy on top of each; then we have caramelized red onions with chopped calamata olives and buffalo mozzarella, potatoes with rosemary and sea salt, and the ultima...: fresh figs, gorgonzola cheese, runny honey, rosemarino and walnuts.

We follow with a homemade apple pie served with artisan vanilla ice cream from Orvieto. There's clearly too much food, so next time we'll pare down somewhat...or will we?

We need to fashion an easier way to slide the pizza onto the pallet; it mostly sticks, even when we add extra flour to each part of the pizza dough and also flour the edge of the round aluminum pallet.

Dino has asked Carlo, who runs the pizzeria in the nearby town, where to find a wooden one. Carlo can order one for Dino, but uses aluminum himself. What's the trick? What's the knack? We surely want to know, for the cooking should be fun.

The night is fun, the weather is great, and there are no signs of mosquitoes. Perhaps the fire has had something to do with that. Dino has put up a large umbrella to work under, so as soon as we have constructed the extension of the summer kitchen roof, things will be more comfortable for him.

We're in bed a bit after midnight, but do appreciate the importance of cleaning up after a meal. It's terribly depressing to come down in the morning to a house full of dirty dishes.

July 7
What have I learned after our third pizza night has passed and I have reviewed the score sheets?

Everyone seems to like caramelized onions, the boscaiola seems to have lost its luster (or perhaps just with me) and could use some spice (pepperoncini?), the little shrimp add nothing to the garlic-y zucchini flower concoction, potatoes need to be crispy (cooked ahead of time?), fig pizza could use more honey and riper figs, the tastes of calamata olives and carmelized onions are strong, so need a stronger cheese.

More importantly, we need to find a way to keep the pizza from sticking to the palate. This caused a lot of stress for both Dino and me, and is an ongoing concern.

Those of you who know us know that we'll find a solution...soon!

It's time for pranzo, so Dino rekindles the pizza oven fire and we grill a beautiful Salmon filet that MayElin brought from Norway.

July 8
Today is the last day of Wendy's dig at Carsulae, and we stop by there early this morning. Here's what we find:

Afterward we return to Terni to pick up a piece of merletta (lace) to fashion as a kind of shell over the yellow dress I am making to wear for Tiziano and Alessia's wedding. After rejecting fabric after fabric, I apologize to the clerk and tell her I'm a painter and perhaps that is why I know what won't work.

We are at the front of the store and she marches me back to the area where we first stood, taking out a bolt of white silk. "Paint the silk yourself!" she tells me, and I am thinking of the bridesmaids' gowns and wraps for our wedding almost thirty years ago. Sure, it makes sense, although I have no idea what type of paint or brushes to use, and how to transfer a design onto the silk itself.

I pick up a meter of it, for it's expensive, and since we're also looking for a better palla for the pizza oven, we'll also try Marco's ferramenta, (hardware) shop, the place where I first learned to paint ceramics and studied every week some years ago for more advice.

Marco is there and welcomes us. He has just the perfect type of paint to use on silk, and now I'm into yet another type of painting; one that may become the most marvelous yet.

There are special stretchers for the silk, and Marco tells me to transfer the design just as I have been when painting in oils...with carta carbone (tracing paper). There is also a liquid that is used to outline what I am about to paint; it prevents paint from moving or bleeding outside the lines. I also see a sheet of wrapping paper that has two orchids painted upon it, so we buy that, too, and there just may be an orchid or two on the front and on the back of this silk sheath, which will be worn over the simple yellow dress I am making to wear to Tiziano and Alessia's wedding.

We're both already tired and ready for a nap, but drive home, where I fix a big salatone with yesterday's grilled salmon, now served cold atop lettuces and marinated veggies. It's really delicious.

After a nap in our cool bedroom with shutters closed and the air conditioning softly humming, I want to find out more about painting on silk fabric. Perhaps this craft is the perfect blending for me of loving fabric and loving painting light and shadows.

When painting people I'd continue to paint in oils on canvas, but for the sewing design creature in me, painting a scrollwork or flower or orchid on silk might become quite interesting; that is, if I can do it without having the colors run.

We purchased an agent known as gutta that will keep paint from running. Now Dino and I will purchase metal pushpins, elastics and safety pins to adhere the silk to the wooden frame kit we purchased this morning from Marco. Will I be able to make the yellow dress, paint the silk and sew it over the dress as a kind of overlay to wear to Tiziano's wedding at the end of the month? It's good to have a goal, so let's see how I can accomplish that.

Yes, the list of things to do grows. The studio is alive with all manner of projects and fabric and supplies. I'm so at peace!

While Sofi and I are inside catching up with you, Dino putters outside in the garden. Sorry, dear garden, I've been ignoring you. At least tonight we do some deadheading surrounded by birdsong and it's a lovely temperate evening.

July 9
Stefano Basili arrives to work with Dino to install the air conditioning unit above the door to the summer kitchen. Before he arrives, Sofi and I gambol out on the terrace, where I rake most of the leaves under the giant loquat tree beside the living/dining room using our ancient style scopa (broom).

Decades ago, scopas were handmade from branches. Now, the old tool is better than the newest ones, for it ever so lightly guides the dry leaves over the breccia (gravel; cut stones) and instead of breaking the leaves up, floats with them toward their final destination in the sacco (leaf bin), used to take leaves to the area on the far property, where we will burn them. This style scopa is still the broom of choice for most Italian street sweepers.

Sorry, Sarah, Dino just can't seem to get into composting, although many fallen leaves provide just that during the fall and winter months, resting under the box and lavender plants. Some things are just not worth fretting about.

My damp hair tells me the temperature is rising and it's time to stop for now. Although Dino tells me we're not very good housekeepers, he agrees that when I begin a project I'm hard to drag away from it until it is done.

I do feel a sense of accomplishment, for before beginning the leaf sweeping, I also moved the six giant green bottles from that area to the front terrace. With Cristina's counsel, after Stefano and Dino finish their project, Dino will move the bottles to the area above the parcheggio behind the planting area, in front of, and against, the high tufa outcropping. They'll provide an attractive and characteristic background for the ceanothus and other plants.

Did I tell you there's hardly a blue flowering plant on this earth that I do not love? I'm wild about plumbago and ceanothus flowers, and the plants themselves don't take a lot of care. Don't forget lobelia, which is a bit more difficult to grow, but its cascading loveliness on the front of the house is a joy.

Back in the studio, I'm anxious to go over the framing for the silk fabric, but there is other fabric to sew to cover the worktable that I will use to iron upon. The new table works really well, so let's get the sewing machine out. In the meantime, it's fun to look around the room at the paintings upon which I've spent hours and experienced much joy at the process. This certainly is a dreamy and joyous room.

Later in the afternoon, Dino and I drive to Viterbo. These days, Sofi would rather stay at home; it's just too hot for her to wait in the car, even in a dark garage. We find whatever we need, including a grand pizza peel, and with Carlo's advice it costs much less than the one he purchased a couple of years ago.

Back at home, Sofi and I walk up to Maria Elina's to give her a container of homemade cole slaw. She and Olaf are on the balcony enjoying the afternoon weather as children and adults play on the street below.

She's so sweet, delighting in the small gift, and wants to get together. Tomorrow night after they return from a day at the beach at Montalto di Castro, we'll all go to Carlo's for pizza together, including Sofi, who appears to be much better.

We do try the air conditioner while watching tv, but Sofi and I are tired of the movie and go upstairs, while Dino watches the rest of the action movie. No, grazie.

July 10
It's Sunday, and that means mass and Coro. These days, it also means taking a fan, for the air in the church is still and the mass seems to take forever. I forget to take one, but no matter...

We do our work for the Albero Project later in the afternoon during the summer months. But today, we seem to forget to do it. Instead, I work on it at home all afternoon while Dino takes a nap. Afterward, there's work to do in the garden before we are picked up by Olaf and May Elin for pizza at Carlo's, not to mention projects together in the studio...

Now that I have something to paint upon, I'll begin painting the grapes for the gift we will take to Languedoc in September for the friends at the winery. We've picked up a board upon which to paint the grapes, and we'll look at the photos we took of their vines when we were there to see what I will use for inspiration. Oh, how we love their red wine!

But first, there's another project to begin. We' take out the silk and the wood frame pieces to see if we can stretch the seta (silk) so that I can use the gutta to outline the design and then paint the fabric! I can't imagine that I'll do it perfectly the first time I attempt it, but am quite excited. Just the idea of it fills me with joy.

What's missing? Well, it's the applicator for the gutta, and since the liquid-y material must be applied in an uninterrupted line around the image that is later painted, and I don't have faith in my ability to do that with a regular brush. What is gutta, anyway?

Well, it's an interesting material, used to keep the paint from running over its line and spreading across the seta (silk). It is applied with an applicator, or a brush, and then must dry completely before any paints are applied to the fabric. My designs are precise, so this process is important.

Our dear friends pick us up and take us across the Tiber to Attigliano, where Carlo's place sits next to the big parking lot of Hotel Umbria. We all sit outside on this warm and pleasant evening. Olaf's diavolo pizza is wonderful, but the boscaiola that the rest of us have are less than usual. Carlo is out of fresh mushrooms, and tells us it won't happen again, and we're sure he means it. He's a really wonderful guy, so generous in his advice to help us to purchase the correct pizza utensils, and so we continue to recommend him and his pizza to you any time you're in the area, where one can eat either outside on the terrace under the trees or inside in attractive surroundings.

Time for some Italian news?

Farmers unveil anti-aging 'super tomato'
High in antioxidants, prevents cardiovascular diseases
(ANSA) - Rome, July 8 -
Italian scientists and farmers have developed a black, anti-aging "super tomato", the Coldiretti farmers association said Friday.

According to Coldiretti, the "Sun Black" tomato is rich in lycopene, a red pigment that is one of the most powerful antioxidants known to fight against aging and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

The tomatoes will be commercially available within a few days. Coldiretti will unveil the super fruit at the headquarters in Rome Wednesday morning.

Berlusconi says won't stand in 2013
Party head Alfano will be the man, says premier
(ANSA) - Rome, July 8 -
Silvio Berlusconi will not stand as premier again nor will he seek the presidency, the Italian premier told a leading national newspaper Friday.

Berlusconi, 74, said he would be too old to make another bid for the premier's post when his current term ends in 2013.

Angelino Alfano, 40, newly appointed as head of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, would be the centre-right candidate, the premier told left-leaning daily La Repubblica.

"The premiership candidate of the center right will be Alfano," Berlusconi said.

"I will campaign, and I'll help Angelino. I'll be the father figure. I will try to build up the European People's Party in Italy, but at 77 years of age I can no longer be premier".

As for the presidency, he said "it's not for me" and suggested his longtime aide and mediator-in-chief Gianni Letta, 76, for the post.

"He's the most suitable person and he has excellent relations with the center left. He would get their votes too".

Berlusconi, who has been hit by sex and corruption trials and recent local-election and referendum defeats, said the government was nonetheless strong and would last until 2013.

He said relations with key ally the Northern League, rumored to be strained, were "extremely solid".

The premier had unusually harsh words for his economy minister, Giulio Tremonti, another long-time associate, an internationally respected economic expert and one of his former tax lawyers.

Berlusconi criticised Tremonti for "not being a team player" and "just talking to the markets" and said his latest austerity package, which again kept the purse strings closed and ruled out mooted pump-priming moves and tax cuts to boost electoral support, would be changed in parliament.

"He (Tremonti) thinks he's a genius and thinks everyone else is a cretin. "I put up with him because I've known him for a long time and you have to take him as he is, but he's the only one who doesn't play with the team".

Naples to send trash outside region
Lombardy, Sicily among recipients
(ANSA) - Rome, July 7 -
Large amounts of Naples waste are to be moved to other Italian regions, said the governor of Campania Thursday.

Leaders from Sicily, Puglia, Marche, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Friuli Venezia Giulia are expected to sign an agreement Friday, according to Governor Stefano Caldoro, allowing Naples to ship rubbish to their territory.

Still, it is unclear if the measure will resolve the trash crisis that has snarled Naples streets in recent weeks.

"It does not fix the emergency," said Caldoro, "neither in method nor in merit".

A central government measure passed last week permits the Campania region to export refuse to other parts of the country, though not without resistance from the regionalist Northern League party.

Armed police escorts had recently begun accompanying garbage trucks as exasperated protesters had resorted to tipping over dumpsters, blocking traffic and setting fire to the growing piles of waste choking the daily flow of city life.

Naples and the surrounding region of Campania have suffered similar crises periodically for a number of years.

The previous public outcry occurred last November when weeks of clashes and rising trash piles brought Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to the city.

It was then that the premier, who won plaudits by sorting out a similar emergency in 2008, made a vow to clear the streets in three days.

But the problems have returned partly because of technical failures in local incinerators and the lack of investment in other landfill sites.

The issue is further complicated by the role of the local mafia, or Camorra, and claims that they have infiltrated waste management in Naples and dumped toxic waste on sites near residential areas.

The government has said it will present a plan within one month outlining a proposed solution to the crisis.

Prosecutors, however, say they have evidence showing the premier paid for intercourse with 33 alleged prostitutes after so-called 'bunga bunga' sex parties at his home near Milan, including Mahroug, who they say he slept with 13 times when she was 17 after she was allegedly recruited at a beauty contest at the age of 16.

Three other people have also been indicted in the case on suspicion of procuring young women for the premier's alleged sex parties.

They are Berlusconi's former dental hygienist, ex-showgirl and now Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti, the PdL official who was sent to the police station for Mahroug last year; a veteran news anchor at one of Berlusconi's TV channels and close personal friend of the premier's, Emilio Fede; and a showbiz talent scout and self-styled 'VIP impresario', Lele Mora.

Percorso:ANSA.it News
Dozens arrested across Italy for human trafficking
Immigrants shipped to France, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria
(ANSA) - Rome, July 6 -
Police on Wednesday arrested dozens of people across Italy for allegedly trafficking thousands of immigrants across Europe.

The arrests followed an investigation, which began in May 2010 by the interior ministry's Central Operations Service (SCO), local police from Lecce, Bologna and Ravenna, and the National Anti-Mafia Directorate At least 18 people were arrested in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna in the north and in the southern regions of Lazio, Puglia, Abruzzo and Calabria.

They are alleged to have trafficked thousands of illegal immigrants of Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani and Indian origin through cities including Rome, Milan, Bologna and Bari via a complex network headquartered in Greece and Turkey.

Police said many of the immigrants landed in both small boats and large ships along the Adriatic coast of Puglia and they were "in constant fear for their lives".

Once they landed in Italy, the immigrants were transferred to Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, France and Belgium.

"Today's operation has exposed a substantial trafficking of illegal immigrants," Vincenzo Carella, police commissioner of the southern city of Lecce told ANSA.

"In a year of investigations in Salento (province) we have intercepted more than 5,000 immigrants and conducted major prevention".

In Rome at least 15 people were arrested on Wednesday for aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

Police claimed the operation included falsifying documents for residency and non-existent work.

Piazza Chigi cafe shuttered in mafia asset seizure
'Ndrangheta sting bags cafe near prime minister's palace in Rome
(ANSA) - Rome, July 5 -
Italian anti-mafia investigative forces (DIA) seized assets worth 20 million euros Tuesday, including a bar located across from the prime minister's residence in downtown Rome. The sting was aimed at businesses, real estate assets and commercial activities traceable to a subset of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia called 'ndrina dei Gallico di Palmi, based in Reggio Calabria.

Assets taken included a mega-yacht, a 29-room villa outside Rome, and 18 businesses, among which was Antico Caffeé Chigi, located on the same Roman piazza as the Palazzo Chigi.

The café, strategically located between Roman seats of government power, remained dark and shuttered to clientele seeking cappuccinos and croissants Tuesday morning.

"It's impossible - 'Ndrangheta in front of the Palazzo Chigi. It is worrying," said a client in front of the cafe entrance. "There was nothing suspicious and nothing made one think that organized crime could settle in the heart of Rome". "It's been a shock. I still can't believe it," said an ex-employee of the cafe. "I worked here until two weeks ago, and it's a really weird thing. Who would have imagined it?" "This morning I went there for my usual coffee," said a local newsstand agent. "But there was something strange - a water bucket in front of the entrance. In that moment I didn't understand why the police were in plain clothes. I heard the news a few minutes later on the radio".

DIA agents took other assets in and near Rome, including the offices of the holding company for the Gruppo Adonis, alleged to have conducted operations worth millions of euros despite modest declared earnings.

"I express my sincere appreciation for the DIA's great work against organized crime, which saw the seizure in Rome of substantial assets traceable to 'Ndrangheta," declared Rome's mayor Gianni Alemanno. "This seizure demonstrates that institutions keep their guard up and defend the city from any form of infiltration of criminal (financial) capital".

The Calabrian mafia or 'Ndrangheta is continuing to grow in Italy and abroad thanks to "unlimited" financial resources, according to an annual report from Italy's anti-mafia directorate (DNA), issued in March.

The growth of 'Ndrangheta, Italy's richest mafia because of its domination of the European cocaine trade, has not been stemmed by a series of high-profile police operations, the report said.

Despite an "incisive and extraordinary activity" in fighting the Calabrian Mob, the report said, 'Ndrangheta "is expanding more and more on the national and international levels, aiming to reaffirm its supremacy with unchanged arrogance, above all through its financial resources, which are now unlimited".

Lombardy, the affluent region around Italy's financial capital Milan, had been victim to a "full-fledged colonisation", the DNA said. The directorate also said 'Ndrangheta was "further refining its criminal activity".

Thanks to its financial clout, the Calabrian syndicate has for some years been ranked the most powerful of Italy's four mafias, which include Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the Camorra in Naples, and the smaller Sacra Corona Unita (United Holy Crown) in Puglia.

It has carried out many vendetta killings in recent years including the massacre of six men in Duisburg, Germany, in August 2007, a crime that gained splash headlines for a syndicate that had been little known to the international public.

The Italian government has made the fight against 'Ndrangheta a priority and has set up its national mafia assets seizure agency in Reggio Calabria.

A massive police operation in July 2010 caught 'Ndrangheta's No.1, the equivalent of Cosa Nostra's 'boss of bosses', as well as its chief in Lombardy and revealed that the Calabrians, already known to be more closely knit and impenetrable than Cosa Nostra, also had a hierarchy similar to that of the Sicilian Mafia.

In March, in a follow-up to last July's operation, 35 'Ndrangheta members were arrested in Calabria, Germany, Canada and Australia.

'Ndrangheta, whose name means 'virtue' or 'heroism' in a local form of ancient Greek, once dealt mainly in kidnappings and extortion and fed off the pickings of public tenders, living in the shadow of its Sicilian cousin.

But it has since expanded to northern Italy, northern Europe and other countries, where it invests its huge drugs profits.

Italy must 'cut spending to avoid crisis'
Country 'risks fate of Greece', says Confindustria
(ANSA) - Rome, July 6 -
Italy must cut public spending in order to avoid an economic crisis, said the president of Italy's industrial employers association Confindustria Wednesday.

"Our country has to cut spending or risk becoming like Greece," said Emma Marcegaglia. "No one likes to make cuts, but we must".

Her comments come after the cabinet last week approved an austerity package designed to eliminate Italy's budget deficit by 2014 by generating 47 billion euros in savings to stop the country getting sucked into the Greek debt crisis.

Key measures include cuts to funding for ministries and local authorities, tax increases on bank trading activities and on high consumption cars, a freeze on civil-servant pay and a new levy on stock-market transactions.

Italy's fiscal system will be simplified too, with three tax bands of 20%, 30% and 40% set to replace the current five-band system by 2014.

Rating agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's have warned they could downgrade the credit rating of Italy, which is also struggling with low growth and has a national debt of 120% of gross domestic product (GDP), one of the biggest in the world.

Italy's budget deficit is forecast to fall to 3.9% of GDP this year, compared to 4.6% in 2010, thanks to measures already in place.

The cabinet-approved austerity package must now go through parliament.

Siena Palio 'no longer untouchable' after latest horse death
Minister responds to calls from animal lovers
(ANSA) - Rome, July 1 - Repeated deaths of horses at the world-famous Palio race in Siena might force a rethink of the historic event, Tourism Minister Maria Vittoria Brambilla said Friday.

"I think the time has come to put to rigorous scrutiny the Palio di Siena and other competitions in which living creatures are exploited and risk their lives for the sole enjoyment of people," Brambilla said after a horse had to be put down after falling in a trial run for Saturday's race. Animal rights groups have been protesting for years over deaths of horses before and during the event.

"The Palio, in view of what repeatedly happens, can no longer consider itself untouchable," said Brambilla.

Fifty horses have died at the Palio since records of their deaths began in the 1970s. The colorful, chaotic bareback race in Siena's main square attracts thousands of visitors to the Tuscan town each year.

But animal rights activists have long been campaigning to get the event banned, saying it is cruel, has little to do with sporting skill and is dangerous for the horses, jockeys and spectators.

Safety measures which organizers have introduced in the face of controversy include laying tufa sand over the cobble stones and padding the most dangerous corner of the circular course on the Piazza del Campo.

The square's stone surface is also monitored in an attempt to achieve the smoothest run and anti-doping checks have been introduced amid charges that the horses are drugged to improve their performance and mask their pain.

The Palio, meaning banner, dates back to the 13th century and takes place each year on July 2 and August 16. Jockeys from ten of Siena's 17 districts compete for the silk prize in a 90-second, no-holds-barred race.

The only rule in the competition is that the jockeys, or 'fantini', mustn't grab the reins of their adversaries. That means whipping a rival's horse or even knocking a jockey off his steed is allowed. Victory goes to the first horse to complete three laps of the square, even if it arrives at the finishing post without a rider.

July 11
Read On The Beach, in Normandy, France is an organization that sets up umbrellas on beaches and provides books to read for free in the summer time. What a wonderful idea!

Italians don't need encouragement to go to the beach...La spiagga is what they clamor about, and when they're there squeezed among as many as can fit on the beach at one time, they're at their happiest. Well, even those poor Umbrese (people who live in Umbria) who do not have a beach and are the only province in Italy that is land locked...can't wait to travel East or West in this narrow country to find a beach when weather is warm.

Here, Sofi makes her own swimming pool. She puts her front paws into her water bowl and moves it around until I find a bigger container and put it outside for her to dip in and cool off. It's not quite the right size, so she hops out after I use my hands to wipe water over her back and stomach. Of course, then she shakes herself off.

She's feeling much better, and this afternoon we pick up a little blue plastic container, just big enough for her and not too deep. Not worried about a little dirt, she takes a drink, then splashes her front paws about. Tomorrow we'll see if the size is just what she wants.

Sofi stays at home while we drive to Viterbo to shop when the stores open up at 4 PM. This is a good time to shop and the stores are not as full as they are in the mornings. I find the right container for the gutta at KLIMT, and tomorrow morning I'm going to begin to trace the outline of the orchid for the front of the dress.

Tonight at Coro practice, I learn that we're going to sing at Tiziano and Alessia's wedding and are to wear black! Well, our Coro costumes are black and white, so...Come no?.

There is so much cacciarata (gossip or chattering), for we're to name our group, and no one agrees on the name. I ask if we've finished singing and tell them Buona notte!, for I'd rather be at home with my two best pals than here in church, although I love these women and each and every one is very kind to me.

July 12
It's another beautiful day, and I suspect will be quite warm later. My mind is on the gutta painting on silk, the fabric stretched on the wooden frame and waiting for me in the studio. I close the shutters upstairs to the sun, and recall how funny we were when first owning this house; we'd keep the shutters open all day, so infatuated with life here that we did not care how hot it was inside. We loved all of it, even the underbelly of it literally, when we realized we had a cesspool in back of our house instead of a septic system, which we were told in no uncertain terms. "She seats twelve!" Stefano the realtor told us proudly, meaning the system was engineered for as many as twelve people using the house.

The reality was that the plans that were submitted and approved were never acted upon. Years later, dear Stefano the muratore found himself face down in it with a garden hose, testing where the water went...It went under the house....

Now we are properly engineered here; the stories now funny ones that were not so funny at the time.

After colazione (breakfast), we return to put together a wooden and cardboard structure inside the wood and silk framed piece, for me to draw a precise gutta line around the design of the orchid, its stem long and finished near the hem of the dress with a few of its green leaves. Then it will be left to dry completely before beginning to paint the design.

What is gutta? Gutta is a refined rubber-type product derived from the palaquium tree, which grows in south-east Asia. The product was historically known as gutta-percha and was used as a type of insulation, in cricket and golf balls, and as a glue. Because gutta resist is spirit-based, it must be dry-cleaned after steaming to remove the resist.

After pranzo, I can't wait to get upstairs to paint, but we have Stein's daughter and her boyfriend to pick up from the Orte train station, and after we drive there, their train is delayed several times. It is great to see Ane and meet her boyfriend, Nils.

Back at home, I look over the gutta, which as you know now keeps the paints from bleeding. The gutta is dry, so I spend a couple of hours painting, and only make a couple of mistakes; mistakes that I think I can correct later.

What does it feel like to paint on silk? Oh, I feel transported to another heavenly place, and don't want to stop, although for my health I must.

Nearby, Dino sits at the computer while I paint, and calls out to me as he learns new information. He is full of joy in his own way, and it is as if we are gliding together on a magic carpet ride. He's researching his family tree, armed with a letter we have that was written by someone who knew the grandparents and great grandparents, outlining the family history.

Tonight is Coro practice in Attligliano for Tiziano's wedding; we'll wear our black Coro outfits for the ceremony, and I'll change afterward, perhaps even in the sacristy, for I don't want to change at home, since Sofi won't join us at the reception.

Before practice, Ane and Nils visit for a welcome prosecco. Stein's daughter is even more delightful than I recall, with her father's gentle spirit; full of life and wonder. Nils is also kind, a bit more serious but also shows an interesting and interested character. We look forward to getting to know them, but perhaps not on this trip. They are deciding whether to move on to Spain to join friends who are there now.

After the visit, we drive le mie sorelle (my sisters) to Attigliano to Coro, where Angela guides us in the music we are to sing at the wedding mass for Tiziano and Alessia. Rosita chooses to sit next to me, and although she will not be in the Coro when we sing, for it is her son who is getting married, she gives her opinion on the pieces she likes the most. I have never seen her so full of such overwhelming joy and am very happy for her.

With all this talk about the "wedding of the year", we forgot to show you a picture of the happy couple:

July 13
Last night, I forgot to wear the night guard inside my mouth for the first time; perhaps that is the reason for the very vivid dreams. Hopefully a headache will not descend, and I take a look at the painted silk before catching up with you, looking forward to painting more after Dino returns.

I continue to paint, and Dino continues to work on his family tree. How wonderful the electricity in the studio as we each work independently on our own projects, sharing our joy with each other as we do. Every now and then I call Dino over to look at the progress I am making, and how funny it took so long to realize that painting on silk is my heart's desire...after Dino, that is.

I have always loved fabric. When I was about ten, I convinced my mother to buy yards of Laura Ashley Liberty fabric for me, in a design of lovely pink and rose-colored flowers. The fabric was expensive, as was the sewing machine; a machine I just had to have. Once I was given the machine, I purchased the most complicated shirtwaist design for the material, and to this day don't think I even finished it.

Jump forward twenty-five years or so to my wedding. I found a woman who knew how to paint flowers on silk fabric, and the theme of my wedding was Japanese inspired Art Deco, the color peach used as a focal point. The bridesmaids and maid of honor were to wear peach silk art deco long sheaths with cocoon wrapped hip length capes, also in peach silk, painted with huge Japanese style Deco flowers. Sound wild? What happens next is wilder yet...

The wedding was to take place on September 26, 1981, at 4PM in San Francisco, with a reception in Sausalito, so that we would drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to show my parents how beautiful and Art Deco the structure is. My parents lived outside Boston in a Southern suburb at the time.

At twenty minutes before the wedding, my phone rang, and the bridesmaids were all together when they called. "I will tell you something and then we will move on", Susan, a bridesmaid and also the wedding planner told me.

"We have no dresses!" Silence. "We do all have something to wear underneath our painted capes that will work. We'll see you at the church." The woman who was to make all the outfits had problems of her own, mostly with white powder, we presumed.

In the meantime, my mother's blue painted silk dress and matching silk coat, also painted by the same artist, showed up on the sidewalk, along with my nieces' little dresses, still a bit wet.

My mother quickly dressed and left after I ironed her dress and coat; then there was a photo of me being helped into my shoe by my father and his silver shoehorn, an inscribed wedding gift to him. He and my brother were wearing white tie and tails. You can tell I was into drama even then...

At four o'clock I told my father it was time to leave for the church, just a few blocks away, for I didn't want to keep Dino waiting, no matter what lay ahead. Did I tell you my brother was in crutches due to an accident before he left Boston for the wedding? Did I also tell you that we were married in a Christian Orthodox ceremony, since Dino was born a Catholic and the wedding to his first wife was not yet annulled, although they were divorced.

Bells began to peal, and the excitement was electric as my dear father walked me up the steps to a church completely unfamiliar to him. He was a Jew, and all this was quite preposterous to him, although I'd recently become an Orthodox Christian, after converting from Unitarianism. With dear Dino a Catholic, the rights are similar in both churches, except for the crowns, which were "over the top" wonderful.

The church was a tiny jewel box, and when inside my brother put down his crutches and walked around Dino and me three times with the crown over our heads, side by side with Susan, as did the other attendants with their partners. This is a standard part of the Orthodox wedding ceremony, and if you've seen the movie "Deliverance", you probably have seen the ceremony. No; no part of it took place in the mud, although hardly anyone remembers that a wedding took place in the movie...

Back to the wedding, the service was quite dreamy, and afterward we walked downstairs to sign the wedding register. While in front of the wonderful priest, Father Seraphim, someone told us the attendants wedding outfits were beautiful, and asked me the significance of the black.

I answered, without thinking twice, "Could you imagine, the bridesmaids in black nightgowns!" ... Followed by Father Seraphim, "In MY CHURCH?"

The stories are funny to tell now, although at the time I thought it was the worst of the worst of times, thankfully with Dino by my side to let me know that we'd conquer anything together.

It was not until we moved to Italy that my creative pursuits seemed to explode: first, violin playing until my shoulder suffered so badly that I had to stop after four years of bliss. Next came painting on ceramics; then painting with oil on canvas, and now painting right on silk. In the meantime came dress design for my grand daughters, including a family fashion show on Thanksgiving two Thanksgivings ago. If I had not fallen and hurt my foot last year, there would have been another.

Designing and sewing birthday presents of harem pants, scarves, turbans and tops followed this June for the girls' birthday, (see the photos in last month's journal) and you'll have to wait to see what will transpire between now and the time we return to San Francisco for another Thanksgiving.

Back to today, I finish painting the orchids, but realize that the gutta is stuck to the wood and won't come off. All the research we find on the internet tells me that there should not have been anything located so close to the silk fabric. What to do? We end the evening with me wondering what to do, but happy with the design. I'm planning to make a yellow dress, with a white sheath overlay of the painted silk. Will it all be for naught?

July 14
I forgot to wear the night guard again last night, and don't have a headache. Let's be sure to remember to wear it from now on...

As Bastille Day arrives in France, with parades honoring soldiers in so many wars, including five who have just died in Afghanistan, we listen to the France24 news channel in English. We watch it most days, instead of CNN, for we like the European slant to the news, although these days it's full of the phone hacking and Dominic Strauss-Khan scandals. When Dino is out shopping or doing errands, Sofi and I listen to SKY classical music in the studio.

Earlier this morning, my heart seemed to float through the air. Upon awaking, my painted design remained unchanged, as we wondered how to remove the gutta from the painted surface, allowing the silk to separate from the wooden backing.

We tried a hair dryer; we tried a steam iron; we tried a dry iron. And then Dino sat with a cue-tip dipped in water and was able to slowly separate the silk from the wood. We decided to take the tacks out of the silk frame and then submerge the entire silk and wooden backing into the bathtub, filled half way warm water.

Dino prepped the bathtub with about a foot of warm water, while I continued to iron on top of the silk, with two layers of cotton sheeting in between; the iron always moving in circles to prevent the silk fabric from burning.

I walked down to the bathroom with the wood and silk, and lowered it into the tub. Luckily, the design is long and on the narrow side, so it fit beautifully into our small tub. Holding each side down for a few minutes, we each began to lift our sides of the design, and what emerged was perfection on silk. In addition, the silk bled through onto the wood, leaving a lovely batik-like design that stands against a wall of the studio.

Now, the next step was to dry the silk out of the bright sun, so we put up a drying rack under the glycine (wisteria) and used clothes pins on the edges to keep the silk taut while it dries.

Dino leaves at this point in the old Panda to pick up wood remainders from Nando's wood shop to use in the pizza oven, while I stand over my handiwork and take a few photos of the silk drying on the terrace.

The material dries quickly, and although some instructions say to iron it before it dries, I don't do that. Instead, I fix Sofi's pranzo, marinate chicken for Dino to grill for our pranzo, and then we come upstairs to tell you all about it. Afterward, we switch gears to begin to fashion a yellow dress to wear under the painted silk fabric. Will I finish the dress in time to wear to Tiziano's wedding? Stay tuned...

The dress is mostly finished, except for final details at the arms and neck and the silk material. It's my intent to gather the front of the neck with the silk and attach it at the top, where I've previously cut a boat neck. The neckline will be covered with the silk drape, and there is probably enough to either fashion short sleeves with the silk or leave the dress sleeveless.

What I'm not sure about is how to fashion a stiffener on three sides of the silk, so that it hangs well. Being a very light fabric, it needs some weight, but not too much. The next time Dino wants to drive to Viterbo, we'll stop at my now favorite tessutti (fabric) shop, and ask them. We've all become friendly; the manager even modeled one of the harem scarfs I purchased there for the girls and mothers' outfits, around his hips, giving us all a good laugh.

I'm really tired, but in Evanne fashion, I just can't stop. I think I'm going to rest but find myself picking up wisteria cuttings as Dino thins the wisteria while standing on a ladder. I don't worry about him on a ladder; he's cautious, even asking me to "foot" him while he reaches far up into the middle of the bosco (forest) that covers the pergola shading our house from the summer sun.

We pick the little cherry tomatoes, which Dino does not like, and we also snip back the tops of the basil plants growing between the pomodori plants next to the summer kitchen.

I'm going to make some bruschetta tomorrow with them, and Dino will like it. There is plenty of fresh basil around, and I'd like to make some pesto, but Dino tells me he does not like it. He later agrees that it's the strong garlic taste that he does not like, so I want to come up with a lemon basil pesto recipe that will taste fresh and not so garlicky. I'll fiddle around with it and put a recipe on the site if it comes out well.

There's plenty of wind today, and it's balmy, but I'm now too tired to make pizza for a bunch of pals tomorrow night. So Dino lets them all know, and everyone is kind. Kisses and thanks to you all, dear friends.

Perhaps we'll even post on time for the first half of the month, since tomorrow is the fifteenth, and we've nothing specific to do, except finish the dress. Tomorrow we'll drive to Viterbo early and I'll take the silk with me to my favorite shop and ask them what to do about sizing the painted panel of silk on three sides.

July 15
Well, we have plenty to do, this morning in Viterbo again. I'm afraid of Sofi sitting in the car when it's hot, so she stays at home and we spend the morning doing what Dino does better than most of us...shopping. He's shopped since he was ten, given a list then from his mother who probably did not like shopping, and he's always been a great shopper. Today is no exception.

We stop first at my friendly fabric store, but he won't accompany me, telling me it's best that I practice my Italian conversation skills by myself. Va bene.

Inside, I show Daniela and the manager the silk I've painted, but want to see what silk they carry, and how expensive it is. The manager shows me two different mixes: one of silk and polyester and another polyester that he tells me I can paint on with the same results as pure silk. I roll my eyes, so surprised if he is correct, and try to be respectful of what he wants to show to me.

Daniela walks over after finishing with a customer, and shows me the silk that they have...It's more expensive than that in the shop in Terni and is also heavier.

While I'm showing Daniela the painted silk and speaking about finishing it off, a woman comes over to look at the painting and wants to tell us how we should finish it off, when I nix all the fancy ribbon and feathers I'm shown.

She takes the corner of the fabric and uses the word piega (fold), and it is then that I realize that hand rolling silk to make edges of scarfs are what I should do with the painted silk. Yes, it's a time staking project, but that does not bother me. I think it will be lovely.

Let's stop for a minute: "Time staking" sounds strange, but the words are correct. I suppose the two words have to do with taking time, or "times taking..." What do you think, Don? Let's not forget, "What do you think, Sofi?" That sound you may hear is Sofi snoring next to the desk in the studio just now. Sweet dreams, dear doggie.

In the meantime, I take half a meter each of the two other options, each much cheaper than pure seta(silk), and back at home will make a silk scarf for each grand daughter, painting a sea scene with a fish for Marissa and an owl and a forest scene for Nicole while I test each piece for adaptability.

We do our other errands, including trying to see if there is an option to the existing cover on the parcheggio, one that needs cleaning and possibly replacing. The place in Viterbo where we purchased the original cover does not sell them now. So Dino will work out another option, and we discuss it back at home when we're getting out of the car.

I am so happy we are not doing pizza tonight. I enjoy making it, but these painting silk projects are in the way right now, and I'm so tired from the past couple of days full of painting and sewing, although I'm mightily content.

While Dino sleeps in the afternoon, I look for photos of fish and owls to paint on the pieces of fabric as tests, and later when he wakes up he'll help me to clamp the wood frame and anchor one piece of silk at a time into it, after which I'll use gutta to draw out the design, let it dry and then paint.

When I'm not doing that, I'll be cutting the painted silk for the dress, rolling it and pinning it, to ready it for hand sewing of three edges. The top edge will have a graceful cowl neckline, and the top edge can be sewn into the neck lining. Depending on how it works out, there may be plenty of silk left to make more of a drape around my neck or sleeves. Two weeks to finish that should be sufficient, don't you think?

That all means that there won't be any news posting about Italy this first half of the month, other than to say that the country is in a financial mess and Parliament is voting on changes to put the government back on the right track. Berlusconi is being tried on four counts, only one for sexual misconduct, and that will go on and on.

We visit Tony and Pat for a short visit by their pool, and still have not taken a dip; tomorrow the water will be "limpid" as Pat tells us, so we know where they'll be then.

Back home, Dino waters plants on the terrace while I try to figure out if there is a way to make a rolled hem with a sewing machine. There is an attachment, so perhaps tomorrow, or early next week, we'll take the sewing machine to Viterbo to see if we can buy the proper part. After reading everything, I'm tempted to do it myself without the machine. No matter than I'm an old...there's still so much to learn and I'm ready...

Still no update on my citizenship status...More later, dear friends....

July 16
Dino has another appointment at the hospital in Orvieto regarding tests for possible glaucoma. This is the second of three visits and all is well at this point.

Back at home, I'm anxious to begin work on Marissa's painted silk scarf. I've stretched the silk and pinned it to the frame, but need to finish drawing the design on top and then drawing the lines over with gutta and let them dry before beginning to paint.

There's pranzo to have, and while Dino grills burgers, I fix a salad with zucchini flowers buffala mozzarella and anchovies over lettuce and a vinaigrette dressing. Burgers are very juicy, and isn't that the way they're supposed to taste? Dino tells me that is because they are chianina beef!

Dino posted the journal before he went to bed, and we're already receiving comments from readers who want to be notified as soon as we post. The numbers are growing, and I suppose it's a way of living one's life in dreams while pursuing other interests. Come no? (Why not?)

This afternoon I do the drawing for Marissa's piece freehand with a gray pencil, then use the lines to draw the gutta over it. Dino's already napping, so I might as well rest while it dries completely. I won't begin to paint until tomorrow, for the opening night of Jazz in Soriano is tonight.

We don't attend the jazz festival tonight; instead we relax at home...well, Dino waters the garden while I paint. I'm somewhat disappointed, for it appears the piece of fabric does not react as it should to the paint. The design of eight fish swimming at the bottom of the sea is fine, but in places the fabric clouds up. Tomorrow I'll paint in Marissa's name, and perhaps it will be a fun scarf for her to wear.

July 17
There is Mass this morning, and we walk to church. In the church is the new family from France, and Paul, the husband and father, becomes my new best friend. I stand next to him on the front row of Coro: he has brought his portable organ, and plays some beautiful music before the start of the mass. He also has a wonderful voice, and is able to pick up the songs although we have no sheet music. After the mass, we meet the whole family.

One of the sons, Wolf, is the altar server, and when it comes time to shake hands, he shakes the hands of every person in the church! What a fine young boy! We look forward to getting to know them all, and since they will be here for most of the remainder of the summer, except the husband who has to work in Paris for a couple of more weeks, we will do just that.

Back home, we fix pranzo, although I'd love to paint. After pranzo, I draw in Marissa's name to the painted silk and when the gutta is dry, I'll paint it. Then I'll paint a border around the design and will take it off the stretcher to replace it with the piece for Nicole, which will have an owl and a forest scene as its design.

After a short rest, I'm able to take the silk off the stretcher, and reduce the stretcher to put on Nicole's piece. Before we leave for the borgo, to collect more names for the Albero Geneologico, I draw in three owls.

We put up the gazebo in the borgo, but conditions are just too windy. After a few false starts, we take it down and Carlo gives Dino quite a bit of family information. In an hour, we stop for the day, for Mauro wants to show Dino a house in Bomarzo he wants us to help him sell. They drop us off at home before leaving to drive up the hill in Mauro's car.

Later, we pick up Nils and Ane and drive to the Tuscia in Jazz festival in Soriano. It's a lot of fun, although after 11PM I'm really tired and we walk back to the car with the sounds of live jazz serenading us. We're glad to be back listening to live jazz in the piazza.

July 18
This morning, we take Ane and Nils to the train in Orte; where they'll catch a train to Rome. We loved their company and look forward to their next visit.

Although it's Monday morning, a morning when most places are closed, we drive to Viterbo. The art store, Klimt, IS closed; we shop at one store that is open and return home for pranzo.

I do want to return to painting, and do a bit, but need a dark brown or black for dramatic contrast, so we'll have to return to Viterbo...soon.

Here's some of what's up around the country:

(ANSA) - Milan, July 18 -
A court in Milan on Monday ruled a sex trial involving Premier Silvio Berlusconi should stay in the northern Italian city, rejecting a defense plea to move it to a special tribunal for ministers in Rome.

In the trial, the 74-year-old Berlusconi is accused of paying an underage Moroccan-born runaway and belly dancer known as Ruby for sex.

He is also charged with abusing his office by allegedly pressuring police to get her out of custody after a friend claimed she stole money from her.

Berlusconi and Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, deny having sex and he says he phoned police to avoid a diplomatic incident, having been told she was the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The Italian parliament has backed the premier's argument that he was carrying out his official duties in making the phone call and so the trial should go to the tribunal.

The Constitutional Court has been asked to rule on the matter and a decision is expected late this year.

The Ruby case was adjourned Monday until October 3.

Paying for sex with a minor carries a jail term of three years and abuse of office 12 years.

Court dissolves Rome governing body in women's quota row
Mayor responds by naming former Roma soccer club president

(ANSA) - Rome, July 15 -
A court on Friday dissolved the city government of Rome in a row about women's quotas.

The regional court upheld a complaint from leftist and Green city councilors arguing Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno had not appointed a "sufficient" number of women to the executive board.

In a snap response, Alemanno appointed the former president of AS Roma soccer club, Rosella Sensi, as a "special official with a brief for sport and promoting the city". Premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, of which Alemanno is a key member, went into a huddle to weigh a response to the ruling.

A PdL Senator, Andrea Augello, said he "expected the matter to be resolved in a few days with the appointment of a new board with more women on it".

He said "50% of Italy's municipal boards would be in trouble if this ruling were to be applied at a national level"

Police arrest 40 in anti-mafia drug crackdown -
(ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, July 14 -
Forty people have been arrested in Italy, the US, Spain and the Netherlands in a major international crackdown on drug trafficking by the Calabrian mafia,'Ndrangheta.

Italian police also seized hundreds of kilos of cocaine allegedly destined for Calabrian mafia cells to be sold in Italy and abroad.

Prosecutors in Reggio Calabria, Italy's anti-drugs agency and customs officials identified links between 'Ndrangheta and the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels that distribute drugs to the US and Europe.

Arrest warrants were issued in the southern regions of Calabria and Sicily, as well as Lazio and Lombardy in Italy's north in the operation dubbed Crime 3 (Crimine 3).

Among the international arrests were five alleged drug traffickers detained in Spain and the Netherlands while another three were arrested in Colombia, Venezuela and the US.

The operation followed a lengthy investigation by local police and elite anti-mafia police and previous anti-mafia operations in September 2008 and July 2010. Police allege various branches of the Calabrian mafia reached an agreement for control of the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro to facilitate drug importation.

Investigators said they had identified the channels and the way in which the drugs were imported as well as money laundering activities associated with drugs sale and distribution.

ANSA English News
Cat mourned in national newspaper -
'He was my inspiration' says artist owner -

(ANSA) - Milan, July 13 -
A bereaved owner of a deceased cat took out a full-page ad in Italy's leading newspaper Wednesday to mourn the death of her feline companion.

"My profound feelings are beyond financial measure," said Luciana Matalon, 77, reflecting on the death of Sky, her 15-year-old cat, and her decision to publish a lavish obituary in Corriere della Sera.

Matalon, a well-known artist in Milan, explained that Sky had filled a void left by the passing of her husband some years ago.

"I don't even know how I continued to work after his death," she said. "Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and find an artwork completed that I didn't even remember doing".

Sky changed that, giving the artist a zest for life she describes as "catitude", the feline version of gratitude.

Matalon originally wished to transport Sky's remains in a helicopter to her home in Sardinia but encountered "obstacles".

Nothing, however, could stop her from publishing a solemn epitaph in the paper.

"I will soon be with you," it concludes.

"And we'll never leave each other ever again".

Nearly stolen Caligula statue unveiled -
Thieves led police to archaeological site

(ANSA) - Rome, July 12 -
Officials revealed a monumental statue believed to be of Roman Emperor Caligula Tuesday, announcing that an illegal dig pointed them to the major archaeological find.

Police stumbled upon the site near Lake Nemi, just south of Rome, after monitoring the area for suspicious activity, finding a truck "hidden by rubble and intended for a foreign destination, probably Switzerland," said Massimo Rossi, head of the Archeological Heritage Protection Group.

The seizure, which led to the arrest of two antiquities thieves, had the fortuitous effect of leading authorities to the previously unknown site where Caligula is believed to have had an imperial residence.

The marble statue, which was broken into pieces, shows parts of a robed man sitting on an ornate throne with detailed pillow fringes, a Nike vase, a flower girl, rich drapery, a globe and a scepter.

"It's the only one (work) that represents Caligula as Zeus," said Maria Sapelli Ragni of the protection group.

The figure in the 2,000-year-old statue wears a "caliga," the travelling sandals of Roman legionnaires and the trademark fashion statement of Caligula, from which his nickname was derived.

His actual name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.

Caligula, who ruled from the years 37 to 41, has gone down in history as a sex-crazed, power-hungry tyrant who publicly called himself a god, a fact which lends credibility to the claim that the Zeus statue is in his likeness.

Archeologists have identified 250 artifacts at the site, of which 100 are fragments of the massive statue.

Once restored, the statue will be housed in the Museum of Roman Ships in Nemi.

ANSA English News -
Woody Allen starts Rome shoot Bop Decameron in production

(ANSA) - Rome, July 11 -
Iconic filmmaker Woody Allen began shooting scenes in Rome Monday for his new film The Bop Decameron.

Traffic near the Piazza Augusto Imperatore went into a tailspin as onlookers stopped to catch a glimpse of Hollywood star Penelope Cruz along with Italian actors Antonio Albanese and Alessandra Mastronardi on the set.

The star-studded cast also features Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni and Woody Allen himself, appearing on screen for the first time since his 2006 film Scoop.

"There just happened to be a part that I could play," said Allen, 75. "I can't play the love interest anymore, which is tremendously frustrating".

Allen's film is alleged to be a 21st-century take on Giovanni Boccaccio's medieval collection of bawdy tales called The Decameron, scandalous in their time for placing revered public figures and clergy in compromising situations.

Allen's version, slated to premiere in 2012, will consist of "various tales interwoven", he said, one of which involves his own character who travels to Rome with his wife "because our daughter is going to marry an Italian boy that she met there, and we go over to meet him and meet his family, and what ensues".

The cult US director, whose most critically acclaimed work has been based in his native New York, has not worked in Italy since 1996's Everyone Says I Love You, part of which was shot in Venice.

The Bop Decameron will be Allen's first film set in the Eternal City.

"Rome is a very romantic and beautiful city, like Barcelona, Paris, London and New York," said Allen.

"But much more so. I can't wait to get started here".

July 19
Today is pedicure day at Giusy's, and she tells me I am her best client, for I've taken her advice and used a special cream on my feet to protect them from summer dryness. No matter, she gives the best pedicures ever!

We drive afterward to Viterbo with little Sofi, she gets her annual shot and we stop in at MacDonald's for a wrap and a burger.

We also pick up some black paint for silk, and back at home I continue a bit to work on one of Nicole's owls, the black paint just the touch we need to bring the animal to life, although the rest of the piece will take more than a week to complete. I've promised Dino not to spend too much time at any one sitting working. It's not good for my neck and shoulders and sometimes creates those darn headaches.

The best news is that the French family comes for a visit, minus Paul, who is back in Paris working for a couple of weeks. I just love each and every child, and here are a few photos to show you how delightful they are.

When they all first arrived, the two smallest girls were very frightened of Sofi, but in no time at all they fell in love with her and now the older girl tells her mother she is not frightened... "One bit!" We look forward to getting to know them, and to having them all back to do drawing and playing here. Perhaps we'll even pick up some French. Allons!< (let's go! not exactly right, but please work with me here:)

As they walk back up the hill, Dino reminds the mother, Marie, they look like a scene out of Make Way For Ducklings, which was one of my very favorite children's books. It will be fun to see them playing in the Mugnano borgo this summer in the midst of all the local children.

Looking up at the wisteria climbing around the balcony, I see a few pods hanging, and they are lovely. We love the change in the front of the house, as well as the shade that the plants bring, although these days have been mild in comparison to that of former July days and nights.

Tonight we return to Tuscia in Jazz in Soriano. Dino tells me to bring a scarf as well as wear a jacket. It will be cool.

Yes, it is cool...it also begins to mist...There are two tables under the awning of the nearby café, so we sit there, and Italo tells us they will move into the taverna if it does rain. In the meantime, men climb up on the scaffolding to protect the speakers and tarps cover the instruments on the stage. Things do not look promising outside.

Sofi behaves like a little brat next to me; she craves attention. So we decide to give up on tonight's jazz events and instead drive to Carlo's in Attigliano for our favorite boscaiola pizza. Since he's given Dino many pointers regarding our pizza oven, we do want to give him our business when we can.

If you are in the Attigliano area, his Pizzeria Girasole at the edge of the parking lot to Hotel Umbria, is worth visiting for a meal. Pizzas are very thin and crisp; the toppings quite good.

We return home and get into bed for a cool and breezy night.

July 20
We've agreed on a design and a fabric to recover the parcheggio structure, and this morning Dino returns to Viterbo to work out the exact specifications with the shop that will make it after Sofi and I help him confirm a few measurements and I agree with him about how it will sit atop the structure. It should be ready in about a week.

Over night, the silk painting of the owls has taken on new depth. I now need to draw in the trees with gutta and continue to work on the parts where the gutta is dry. I really should put this work away and begin to paint the grapes to take to Languedoc in September so that it will properly dry, but can't seem to take myself away from this latest adventure.

Sofi and I stay at home. Since she's my shadow, she follows me to the studio and sleeps while I paint three owls, a tree and leaves for Nicole's silk painting. Dino asks that I find a good place to put Nicole's name, and I'd like to weave it in somewhere.

Skies are cloudy, but we do not expect rain. They remain overcast during pranzo, and afterward Dino drives to the post office to mail an envelope. The time between l'ora di pranzo (lunch hour, or 1-2 PM) is the best time to do business at a post office in Italy. As much as people need to transact business at the post office, nothing gets in the way of their midday meal. Afterward, the post office closes for the day.

The painting dries some more, but I've promised Dino and myself that I won't spend more than a couple of hours at a time painting. As I catch up with you I look over and would love to return to paint more leaves and detail of the tree, but it's not a good idea.

Dino has returned with a blowup of a photo of grapes. I have promised a painting to a winery in Languedoc for September, so I'm ready to draw the basics in with carta carbone (tracing paper) and then return to painting with oils.

I will trace Nicole's name into the silk with a pale pencil and then trace the lines with gutta, before leaving it until tomorrow. Then I suppose I'll lie down and read from my kindle, a book by Anthony Trollope that must be quite long...although I have no idea how many pages there are, it will take quite a while to read it. Perhaps I'll check online to find out how many pages there are in book form, not that it matters.

Eight hundred pages! A good feature about reading a book on Kindle is that the format is small, and the book is not heavy. Why should everyone have a Kindle? For those who need the feel of a book to read, there is a cover available (mine is in blue) and it feels like holding a book. Dash that as a reason not to succumb to this new way of reading. (Now Dino has a Kindle app on his iPhone and loves it!).

The book, The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollop, is a satire, and although it was written in Victorian times, the subject is current as can be. I recommend it for a lazy summer read.

I read a little, rest a little, but after an hour I'm up painting again, and surprise myself by finishing Nicole's painting! Now I feel badly that Marissa's silk painting that will become a scarf for her is not as sophisticated as Nicole's, so perhaps I'll paint her a special fish scarf to wear. Perhaps that idea is a bit smelly, so perhaps something else as a subject. What do you think, Sofi?

While Nicole's painting dries, I'll take it off the new table and put it somewhere while I put the new attachment on the sewing machine to see if I can figure out how to use it to make a rolled hem on silk fabric.

All three paintings I've done need rolled hems, including the one with a painted cymbidium orchid that I might wear to Tiziano's wedding; it will sit on top of a yellow shift I've also made; one that will have yellow cord hand sewn on top of the side seams.

The ideas won't stop, nor will the projects; the more I do the more I dream and the more I dream the more I invent; the more I invent, the more I paint and sew...it's as if I'm on drugs, but I'm not really...I'm just having the time of my life! Grazie mille, dear Lord!

July 21
Plumbago in the morning sun! We wake up to mild temperatures again, and I can't resist taking a few photos to show you how lovely these flowers continue to bloom throughout summertime.

Notice the little stone fellow in a planter in the foreground of one? He originally held court in the back yard of the San Francisco house where Dino spent his childhood. We love having him here with us.

Birdsong abounds; is it a good example of perception versus reality? We think the sounds are glorious; do the birds sing to guard their turfs? I'm not sure.

Dino drives off to the next town to pick up lettuce plugs and mozzarella di bufala to have with the first giganti pomodori from our orto at lunch, along with a risotto made with what's left from yesterday's pollo arrosto (roast chicken), purchased from IPERCOOP.

Oh. We did not buy pollo arrosto yesterday, but have plenty of sausage and grapes. Well, why not make my very favorite summer risotto alla limone (lemon risotto). It's fine to have this one with cheese and butter and there is plenty of it, along with lemon juice and lemon zest and chopped presemolo (parsley).

As good as that is by itself, we'll also have an insalata caprese with fresh mozzarella di bufala, our first tomatoes from the garden and plenty of fresh basil, smelling so fragrant in a pot right outside the front door.

Before l'ora di pranzo, Joan and Patrick, our Irish friends who are here part time, living outside Montecchio, arrive on their way up from the airport with another couple Bernadette and Kevin. There's time for café and sweet biscuits, and before they arrive I walk up the street to meet Giovanna to give her copies of the Coro music I've been asked to reproduce. Are we the only folks in town with a copier?

After pranzo, Nicole's painted owls are dry; instead of removing the fabric from the frame yesterday, I let them rest a bit. The gutta (a clear substance painted as a resist, keeping colors from spreading over each other) should dissolve in a warm water bath; I'm somewhat nervous about plunging the silk into warm water in the event any of it bleeds and thereby ruins the image. Let's not worry about it now...

Instead, we're going to take out the sewing machine and insert the attachment to roll the edge of the silk to make a kind of handkerchief edge. Hold your breath...as I will.

I ask Joan if she knows how to make a rolled hem on a sewing machine, and she does not but counsels me to do it by hand with an iron and pins.

After they leave, I do take the silk off the stretcher and make it smaller, for there is a remnant of silk that I can use to make a nicer fish painted scarf for Marissa. I'm feeling that the one I painted for her does not measure up to the owls I painted for Nicole, so let's see what I can design for this dear one.

I decide to paint her as a mermaid, floating on top of the water with fish swimming underneath and bubbles here and there. The design is fine, I mark it off with gray pencil, and tomorrow I'll squeeze on the gutta to keep the paint of the design from running. In the meantime, I can do the hand hemming of the silk for my dress.

Let's slow down...and do nothing, instead. Dino waters in the garden, and I don't even feed the roses. All of it will have to wait for another day...

July 22
How sad. While we were enjoying our visit to France a couple of months ago, local farmers there were experiencing a drought of epic proportions. Unable to feed their cattle with grass, the cattle were sold early, the prices were not good, and so the cycle continued with many farmers facing the end of decades of this livelihood.

This affects us all. With no meat from local farmers, we'll all be forced to purchase South American beef, costing more, and so the cycle for us continues as well. Today we'll probably eat a salatone (large salad) for pranzo, but one of the good things about living here is that we're more aware of the world around us.

Dino drives off for spesa (shopping), and I finish the design of Marissa's latest scarf, with her as a mermaid floating on top of the sea and fish swimming about below the surface.

Drawing the gutta on the silk first in unbroken lines is important, for it is called a "resist", as it keeps colors from bleeding, either onto other colors or onto the silk surface in general. I remember this time to separate the silk from the wooden backing that I use to do the drawing, before it sticks.

In an hour or so, I'll be able to paint, but in the meantime there is a story on CNN's Backstory about the Pantheon in Rome, and we tape it so that Tiziano can see it later. I call him to tell him we need to get together to plan how one of us will contact CNN online to spread the word about the local bricks being used to construct the Pantheon two thousand years ago.

I call them "his bricks" because he uncovered the kilns where they were made two thousand years ago; as an archaeologist he needs to raise money to build a roof over the area. Now the site is covered over with soil; with no money, his work cannot continue.

Dear readers, step up! Contact me and I will put you in touch with our dear friend to help him. We'll be talking together later about putting special archaeological tours together that he will give in English about places and sites in this area an hour North of Rome that the regular tourist will never see. Perhaps donations of a certain amount will allow you to take these tours with him. Will they be tax deductible? You'll have to ask your accountant or commercialista. We're just the messengers...

Why were the bricks made in Mugnano in Teverina for construction projects in Rome? Well, they were loaded onto barges and floated down the Tiber River to Rome, making their transport logical. Come no? It's a bit cooler today, and I'm looking forward to painting Marissa's scarf as soon as the gutta is dry. Working only for two hours at a time on any one project, I'm feeling better, and there are so many types of projects that I will: paint on silk a bit, sew the rolled hem by hand of the silk for the yellow dress, catch up with you, fix pranzo, garden a bit, return to painting...perhaps lie down and read and take a nap...

...and so fills my days. Dino. on the other hand, has taken the top cover off the parcheggio, donned his painting clothes and painted the structure in an almost black color as we wait for the new cover to be fabricated.

This afternoon he'll be working with Paolo, who will install new doors to the cucina estaté; doors that have screens to keep out the cats and hopefully also the flies and mosquitoes. We no longer find the cats here, but it's still a good idea.

Some readers tell us they are breathless after reading our journal; do we ever slow down? I suppose after we die there'll be plenty of time...for now, it keeps us young and happy.

If only Terence and his family were closer...but it's not a perfect world. In the meantime, Dino is his son's webmaster, keeping the car inventory updated, when not working on the albero geneologico di Mugnano and I continue to make things for the girls, including dear Angie, to wear and to enjoy, as well as to paint on canvas, with the grapes to be painted in the next couple of weeks. So we're filled with love as we do what we do and love best...

Don should have arrived in Tenaglie yesterday; hence the sciopero (strike) of the trains in Rome for today and tomorrow will not affect him. He'll be here with his brother and his brother's children, and next week there'll be a pizza night for them all. Yesterday we told Patrick and Joan they'll have to wait until they return in September for their pizza night, for two sets of folks have lined up before them. Va bene.

Pizza nights here are for eight people, including us. That means that we'll serve one pizza at a time, each pie sliced in eight pieces. Each person will have a slice of each pizza, and will be able to judge each pie as a bit of fun with his/her own scoring sheet. We find that five pizzas an evening plus a dessert is the right amount to serve. For more than eight people, it will be too unwieldy for us to handle, and less fun. As it is, it takes a day's preparation to pull this off well...

I continue to come up with new toppings, and sausage and grapes, a la Artusi, will be one to use soon. Come no? Dino returns home from shopping with beef fillets and we'll have them with caprese for a simple pranzo.

Why do we write and publish our journal? Friends asked us when we moved here what we'd find to do all day. One great friend, Bob Kalsey, gave us a web site as a going away gift (was he happy to be rid of us?). We're people who are happy to share, and as we grow older, forget things we've done.

We think that documenting the days will be fun reading later. Whenever I tell you we won't publish the journal anymore, we hear from people, including those we would not expect, how much they enjoy living vicariously through the journal. And so it continues...

Tiziano arrives mid afternoon, as does Paolo to install the new screen doors in the summer kitchen, so work continues upstairs in the studio as well as outside in the summer kitchen. Who thinks our lives are always mellow?

Tiziano confirms that he and Alessia will have their luna di miele (honeymoon) here at our house when we are in Languedoc in September, so the house will not be left unoccupied.

On Monday Dino and I hope to visit Tiziano at a special archeological dig near Sipicciano and he and I will write the story about its find for Italian Notebook. Stay tuned, unless you are a subscriber to italiannotebook.com, and which point you will receive a copy of it yourself some day.

After he and Paolo leave, I return to the studio and finish most of Marissa's painting. I can finish it tomorrow, then move on to the painting of grapes.

We stay at home tonight, for I'm really tired, planning to return to the festival on Sunday with Candace and Frank and then have a pizza night on Monday with Don and his relatives and also Candace and Frank.

How we love our new doors and screens for the summer kitchen! Little Sofi soon learns that we need to let her in and out of them now, so she does not bound up the stairs thinking the space remains open.

July 23
Last night a terrible bombing and shooting occurred in Oslo and on a nearby island; it has us worried about our friends, and about the people who have endured this nightmare. We await news from them, as skies here are full of rain, bursting overnight and continuing throughout the morning as a reminder that the world, even in the most peaceful places, is vulnerable to terrorist acts.

Dino drives off as I finish Marissa's silk scarf painting and set it aside to dry. It's a good day to hand roll the hems of the three silk scarfs I've painted so far, and we'll see how far I get before I switch to figure out how to do it on the machine. Sewing the borders by hand gives more of a personal touch, and since I love our grand daughters so, this brings me joy as I sew.

Once the hems are finished, I will set each one separately into warm water to remove the gutta and then set them aside with other things to fly with us to San Francisco in November.

Meanwhile, all over the world there has been an outcry against mandatory celibacy for priests, their inability to marry, and the ordination of women into the priesthood. Here's a little of what CNN has to say:

Church scholars note that for the first time in years, groups of priests in several countries are standing with those who are challenging the church to rethink the all-male celibate priesthood.

The Vatican has declared that the issue of women's ordination is not open for discussion. But priests are on the front line of the clergy shortage - stretched thin and serving multiple parishes - and in part, this is what is driving some of them to speak.

All I can say is, "Hooray!" See this story in the NYT to read more about it yourselves.

With the terrorist acts in Norway and this news, are you wondering what balance is shifting all over the world? I continue to think positively; that basic rights of people who do believe in spirituality can do a lot to rid the world of hate. Let's think positively and try not to judge our fellow man/woman. Thanks.

We email our Norwegian pals, and those in Oslo are fine, watching the tv and the island from a high vantage point. Keep them in your prayers.

Here skies are furious, pouring down in such force that we're imagining heaven is angry as a result of the attacks in Norway, deaths now surpassing ninety. The perpetrator appears to be a right wing Christian extremist, angry with the mounting multi-cultural changes in the country.

Rain ends, and wonderfully complex clouds overhead seem to breathe in and out with the sounds of the cicadas outside the window of the studio. Inside I begin to hand sew the hem of the painted silk for my yellow dress. When I finish this, I'll attach the top of it to the neck of the dress and see if I should wear it to Tiziano and Alessia's wedding.

This is a Formula-1 weekend, in Germany this weekend, and Sofi and I spend time in the studio while Dino watches the trials in the kitchen to learn who will be in pole position and in what order the first ten drivers will be positioned tomorrow...zzzzzzzzzz

While Dino takes a nap, I finish hand sewing the rolled edges of the silk panel that will form a collar and overlay over the yellow dress. I want to move on to something else, so it is set aside for tomorrow, when I'll pick it up again and hopefully finish the entire dress.

Monday night is a pizza night here for Don and his brother and two youngsters, but I think it is also a Coro wedding singing rehearsal, so if it is, I'll have someone drive me up there a bit late...

Wanting to slow down, I let the cicadas scratch outside the window, while lying down to read...

Soon I'm up again; this time hand sewing the rolled edge of Marissa's scarf; I finish about half of it and then give in to watching tv for the evening, with snacks for us of Norwegian salmon and cream cheese and dill in honor of everyone in Norway right now.

July 24
Happy Birthday to Terence!

On this day of clouds and blue sky, we walk up to mass, where we come upon Don Angelo. I ask him if he will say a prayer for those in Norway, and tell him that one retired Lutheran priest and another woman are both residents of Mugnano. He agrees, and does so. We are thankful for him, and for his prayers.

After mass, Dino does his giro (walk) with Enzo to do the monthly collection as part of his job as a member of the Festaroli committee.

I walk home by myself, feeling so full of love for my place in this life, and for the blessings bringing me to this village, a village I adore. Yes, as I walk down the hill and look out to the undulating Tiber, I am at peace. In his way, Dino feels about the same. We have been truly blessed.

At home, I watch the mass in the cathedral in Oslo, a mass of grief and hope. The Gospel according to John is read, and its words are profound. In God's house there are many rooms...

It's also a good day to share the words of the hymn we sung earlier this morning;

Chi berrà la mia acqua non avrà piu sete in eterno
e quest'acqua sarà per lui fonte di vita per l'eternità.
Affannati e stanchi, voi oppressi e poveri venite,
attingete con goia a Lui alla sorgente di felicità.
Fiumi di acqua viva sgorgheranno in colui che crederà
nel Signore che dona a noi l'acqua di vita e di verità.
Percuotendo una roccia dissetasti il popolo in cammino;
Fa' che sempre noi camminiam nel tuo timore nella fedeltà.
Fonte inesauribile, pace eterna, carità perfetta,
noi a mensa con Te sediam, dolce, immensa, santa Trinità
. Amen.

Who will drink my water will never thirst for ever and this water will be for him a source of life for eternity. Breathless and tired, poor, oppressed: come, Draw them with joy to Him, the source of happiness. Rivers of living water will flow in one who believes in the Lord; He who gives us the water of life and truth. Refreshing the people on the way; We will always walk in thy fear in fidelity. Inexhaustible, eternal peace, and perfect charity, We eat with you sediam sweet, great, holy Trinity. Amen.

Today's mass in Norway is one of sadness and of hope; it is not a memorial, for four persons are still missing.

If one person can show so much hate, imagine how much love all of us can show together.

What does this mean to the people of Norway? The Prime Minister said that it is not a time for revenge, to talk about what went wrong, but to build on its democracy and show strength in what it truly believes.

Candles are lit everywhere, and although it rained quite a bit last night, people have returned and relit the candles. Dino returns, and life continues here; for us, an undercurrent of sadness; outside clouds both dark and light cover a blue sky. He tells us that he thinks that Don Angelo did not know of the tragedy in Norway when we asked him to say a prayer for them.

July 25
Dark clouds cover all but a small area here and there of blue sky when we drive off to visit Tiziano at his archeological dig near Sipicciano. We have trouble finding it, so call him; only to find out that he is not even there. We'll return some other day, but today there is much to find in the stores for tonight's pizza festa at our house.

We do find enough time to pick up the wedding present for Tiziano and Alessia, and they're listed at a shop in Attigliano, Capriccio Casa; one that has a French flair, so of course I like it. I speak with the owner about my hand painting silk, and will bring it by, but don't imagine I'll turn it into a business.

In the meantime, the Pulcinella painting is going to be shown at an exhibition in Umbria beginning in August. We'll take it to our friend on Wednesday.

Back home, I need to figure out what pizzas we'll serve tonight, for there are two vegetarians. How about:

  • shaved asparagus with goat cheese and walnuts;
  • boscaiola with sausage meat, sliced fresh mushrooms, mozzarella di bufala;
  • sausage and grapes a la Artusi
  • potatoes and rosemarino
  • hotdogs and Parmesan cheese (for the kids)
  • pizza Bianca with sea salt and olive oil
  • carmelized onions, artichoke hearts and salvia
  • grilled zucchini, feta and mint
  • Although I'd like to sew and paint, the rest of the afternoon is spent getting the ingredients ready for tonight. Later this afternoon, Dino will grill the zucchini and fire up the pizza oven. At around the same time I will take the dough out of the refrigerator to get to room temperature and form it into balls to rise a bit.

    Now he is working on a big piece of marble we've kept in the summer kitchen. We'll use it tonight to prep the pizza and roll it out. He's sanding it down with a machine to make sure it is smooth. We have a large wooden board in the event it does not suit our purposes.

    I am a bit tired, but look forward to the afternoon's happenings and to welcoming our guests this evening.

    Of course there are challenges, just as things seem to moving along. I'm about ready to wash the last dishes for prep, after cutting up all but the last minute cheeses, one red pepper, setting out the seven balls of dough to rise at room temperature under kitchen towels, cleaning the bathroom....

    I dip my right hand into soapy water and forget that our sharpest knife lies underneath the suds like a shark. The middle finger of my right hand slides up against it and you know what happens. The slice is not too bad, and after Dino arrives to put a bandaid on it, he sends me away to rest, telling me that the pulsing of it is not helping. How does he know that I feel a pulsing all over?

    I return to the studio to catch up with you, and then lie down and read for an hour. It looks as though it might rain tonight. If it does rain, no matter... We'll put up an umbrella in front of the oven over the prep table and rearrange the summer kitchen, where we'll all sit. It will be fine.

    The weather clears, I return to the kitchen and finish prepping while Dino stokes the fire and helps set things up. Thanks to dear Dino, the dishes have been washed and put away. By the time the guests arrive, weather has cooperated and we're ready to begin.

    Frank and Candace soon arrive with a wonderful base for lemon meringue pie, as well as what Candace will need to finish the dessert later. It looks great.


    We love the two young members from England, Louie and Amy, who run around with Sofi and, except for one not liking cheese and neither of them liking vegetables on the pizzas, they're happy to be here. Here's what Louie draws as his take of the evening and the surroundings:

    He seems to name his drawing, !!!NOM NOM!!!, which I think means, "Yum, Yum...", aka delicious. Here they are in the conch shell....

    After the pizzas have been cooked and eaten, I'm told the crust is my best yet by Frank, who is a good critic. What's different? Well, in addition to hand stretching each mound of dough, I then put it on the marble pad, use lots of flour, roll it as thin as I can and then stretch it a bit more.

    With Dino's new long pala, and plenty of flour used until each pie can move around on the marble by itself to make sure it will not stick, we are more successful, but still not satisfied. We'll continue to practice, but are very happy with the dough for its consistency and crispness and flavor.

    In the kitchen, Candace uses a whisk to turn the egg whites into magical white merengue, and we put it in the oven for a bit so that the top will turn brown. It's a fabulous end to a great evening, and I wish Amy and Louie could stay, as do they.

    Guests gone, I move everything into the kitchen or back in the cabinets where they are stored, while Dino does the dishes that won't be put in the dishwasher. He sends me upstairs to nurse my finger. My hand has fared well, in a thin plastic glove that I use for painting projects to protect it.

    Sofi and I are in bed just after midnight, with Dino a bit later.

    July 26
    We're up early for Gianfranco's atto (property transfer) in Viterbo, but Sofi rests at home. The notaio's name is Annibaldi (Hannibal), and the building on one of Viterbo's main pedestrian only streets has clearly seen better days. Once let in the main door, the lobby is quite dark. Italians know that electricity costs are high, so don't use it unless it's essential. We find our way to the elevator, where the best light of the building looks down upon us.

    Gianfranco and Marie and Roberto Pangrazi, the geometra are already seated in the waiting room. Our friend, Grazia, joins us and helps us through the translation, and Signor Annibaldi joins us at the conference table, where he reads the document, verifies who we are, and asks us to sign. We sign, he looks up and says to Gianfranco: Millequatrocentro! (1400.00) as his fee.

    Did I ever tell you that notaios make the most money of any business people in Italy, followed by the farmaciste (pharmacists)? It is such a funny country, and since I don't judge anyone these days, I see a story in every image and every action. I'm imagining a couple right this minute...are you?

    Of course we all must celebrate, so agree to prende un'caffé (take a coffee) at a local bar, after which we leave our neighbors and walk back to the car. Did I tell you that Dino found his typical parking space right nearby?

    We drive to Unieuro to replace the electric mixer that burned up last night, but don't like the choices, so we drive to another shop, which has a Braun model that looks good at not too much money. We'll give it a try.

    Instead of shopping across the street at IPERCOOP, we're really tired, so drive home, feed Sofi and lie down for a couple of hours. We're really exhausted.

    Once we're awake, we have a brunch of sausage, eggs, sliced mushrooms, chopped chives, etc. since most of the fixings were left over from last night, for we did not make a pizza boscaiolo. It's very tasty and we're somewhat feeling as if we've just come off a long plane flight...better stay up or we won't sleep tonight.

    In the studio, I realize that the gutta has stuck to Nicole's owl painting, so although I've already hemmed it, I need to heat it again in a bin of hot water, remove the remaining pieces of gutta that remain, hang it out to dry and then take the hem out, remove any residual gutta from inside the hem, and restretch it, repaint it where it needs it, leave it to dry, then hem it again. I'll see if I can paint without using the gutta, keeping the brush quite dry.

    There's still no word about my citizenship status, but Dino wants to wait another week before calling our friend at the Prefettura again.

    I'm too tired to do much work, but realize the gutta still remains on the silk. So I wash it twice in hot water and will let it dry before taking the hem out.

    Serena and MarieAdelaide stand at the gate to speak with me. Evidently my absence from last night's Coro practice for the wedding was a real problem. There will be a practice tonight in Mugnano, and at least one other this week. If we do not sound perfectly before Friday, the Coro will not sing at the wedding. The women are nervous. I tell Serena I will be there tonight, and of course I'll do all I can to help the group sing perfectly. We can do this!

    There's time to work on the dress for the wedding, and the rest of it might be finished by hand. Luckily I had no problem with the gutta on the silk upon which I painted the orchids.

    We have taped music to follow for Coro, and for the next two nights we'll continue to practice. There is a lot to sing, and I'm hopeful with Angela to guide us that we'll all sing on the beat. I would like to bring the metronome back to practice, but think it's better to leave things as they are.

    Skies are clear as we walk down the hill, with Vincenza and Rosina walking me to the gate. How dear they are!

    July 28
    There's pranzo today at Robert and Angela's in Umbria, for he's arranging an art exhibit to benefit their local circolo (club), and we're going to include "Pranzo for Pulcinelli". There is plenty of rain as we drive over the hills to Acqualoreto, and as we witness the sad end of hundreds of droopy sunflowers, we wonder how the flowers are turned in to girasole (sunflower) oil. After a lovely visit, while Sofi waits outside in the car, we return home for a couple of hours before Coro practice in the borgo.

    I witness the dark side of one of my pals at this practice, but somehow we concentrate and spend an hour or so learning the pieces we'll sing for the wedding on Saturday. It is a sad but good exercise for me, as I spend the hour telling myself that I will not judge others for their words or their actions.

    July 29
    Dino drives me to Attigliano for my hair adventure. Surprisingly, it only takes about three hours...not the usual four or five. But then, I arrive at about 8 AM, and there is just one person before me. Soon after I begin, dear Vincenza arrives, and I'm finished before she's ready.

    My dear friend always looks beautiful, and has another wedding tomorrow in Rome, so will not attend the command performance of Coro practice tonight...I will surely cover for her, although she does not ask me to, nor does not seem concerned.

    I'm really tired and have pains in my chest, but perhaps being very tired has something to do with it. So this afternoon Sofi and I sleep for about three hours, and I feel better enough afterward to watch some of our favorite TV programs before attending Coro practice.

    Rafaele arrives with his keyboard and Angela, and stands outside the main church in our village as I walk up. Serena is right behind me and we walk together under my umbrella laughing with our arms around each other. It's just impossible not to love this woman, and I do.

    Angela is a taskmaster, and takes control in a wonderful way, encouraging us but demanding the very best from us. She makes a strange decision that three or four women from the Attigliano coro will sing with us and gives them the best seats, right in front of our little group. Since I'm short, I'm sure I will be hidden behind those from the next town.

    After we finish almost two hours later, and it is agreed that we sound wonderful, I ask Angela that since Vincenza and I are so short, and since this will be a Mugnano wedding, can we sit on the front row? To my surprise, she responds that she will change the seating, and yes we can. Vincenza and I will be sure to be at the church early, just in case.

    Tiziano is a very good friend, and we care very much about him, so wanting to sing to the bride and groom directly is important to me. What I realize is that even though the service will take place at 6 PM on Saturday, it will be very hot and humid in the church. Tonight is rainy and cool, and still it's uncomfortable in the church at 10 PM. Fa niente. We will be at our best for them, and will surely give them a great sendoff...

    I'm amazed to realize that we'll be singing ten pieces, although several of them are quite short. During the next days, I'll continue to practice on my own, as I am sure my Coro pals will as well.

    As we walk to the piazza, I see Dino's car and call out for Sofi. She bounds out of the car and finds me right away. What a great doggie!

    July 29
    With nothing special to have to do today, thank goodness, I help Dino with a little project on the terrace and then sew a bit while he drives to Guardea and Tenaglie on errands. Our parcheggio cover is not ready, and that disappoints him, but he picks up a preventivo (estimate) for a friend and perhaps that project will begin next week. What about our own projects? There is still no sign of Stefano. Sigh.

    Weather looks good, and the rain has left, so the next days should be sunny and not too hot. So I return to the studio to finish the yellow dress, and make some changes. Perhaps I will wear it tomorrow evening after all.

    We have plenty of ripe tomatoes on the vine, and one of the plants looks like an heirloom Black from Tula, so although Dino wants to eat a salatone (big salad) for pranzo, caprese will be worked into it for my sake; it's my favorite summer food.

    After pranzo I return to sewing the yellow dress and painted silk overlay, and it takes the rest of the afternoon, for I keep adding and changing things, including a bit of braid and a standup collar. But then, that's me...

    Skies have cleared, and good weather has come our way, I am sure.

    July 30
    On this day of the "wedding of the year" in little Mugnano, skies are clear and the temperature is lovely. Outside, calabrone (giant hornets) feast on flower nectar on the terrace and the cicadas seem to have descended on the middle garden, clicking and rubbing against themselves as if they're made of sandpaper.

    There is a joyousness about the summer's day, as I put some finishing touches on the silly dress I've made and do a bit of laundry; that is, when I'm not reading and "working on my tan" on the terrace. Sofi is content to be always nearby, and as Dino leaves to see if the cover for the parcheggio is ready in Viterbo and to do some shopping, Sofi and I meander about.

    Our giganti tomatoes are gorgeous and I'd like to have panzanella (bread salad) for pranzo, even though Dino will probably pick up a pollo arrosto (roast chicken). Thank you again, dearest Iolanda, for nurturing this hobby of Dino's. I don't know whether it's shopping that he loves to do, or whether he feels a need to keep busy. Either way, it's wonderful, for I'd rather be home working on creative projects and admit I'm a bit of a hermit at heart.

    Later this afternoon, dressed all in black, I'll accompany Dino in his summer suit to the church. (Dino remarks that this is the first time since we have lived in Italy that he has had to wear a necktie!) I don't know if the women from Attigliano are good friends of Alessia and that is why they'll be seated on the front row of Coro in the church. If I'm to sit behind them on the second row, I'll be like a little mouse, not able to see much of the goings on, but whatever is best for the couple is all right with me. I promise not to judge Angela's decision, whatever it may be.

    What's that noise? It's a really heavy rain, and lots of it. The other night Tiziano told me that if it rains on the day of the wedding, it will portend good luck, and you know how superstitious Italian people are in general. Either way, they'll be happy; so we'll be happy.

    Rain turns to include thunder, and its 4 PM and the wedding starts at 6 PM! Different weather forecasts indicate clouds, or thunderstorms, or clear weather. What looks like a messy weather evening, and tons of humidity in the church, the room turning into a steam bath, has changed my idea of wearing my yellow dress. No matter.

    Dino is wearing a suit and dress shoes, and looks great. Sorry we can't have Sofi along, but she'll guard the house. Oh, earlier a cat ran into the house while she and I were upstairs and Dino yelled and shoed it out. How weird. When I told Sofi about it, she did not seem to mind. Perhaps that is because she destroyed most of our large peony plant on the terrace, when trying to capture a lucertole earlier. Life goes on...

    We arrive at the church early, although other Coro members are already there. Dino is allowed in early, because he is going to be taking photographs in addition to the formal wedding photographer.

    Since Angela had agreed that Vincenza and I could sit on the front row, I stand in front, but Vincenza stays in the second row, wanting to wait for Angela's guidance.

    It seems to work out at the time, with Cristina and Angela and Rafaele's daughter on my right, Serena and Laura on my left. Vincenza stays where she is. But MarieAdelaide is moved to the opposite side of us, behind Serena. She's not happy, but Serena and Laura spend time with her and it's time to begin to practice a bit, with Angela leading us.

    It is only later that I realize that I have made a mistake. This is a good example of what can happen when one does not fully understand a language well. It appears that my sitting on the front row may have caused MarieAdelaide to be told to move to another seat on the far side of the Coro. She is not happy. I have no idea why.

    It does not make sense to me, but then there are nuances in any community, in any language, which bear noting. Tiziano is a close friend, and we want to do anything we can to help him; perhaps I have been blinded by this.

    We're given scarves to wear that are all the same design over our black, and put them on and then sing a few of the pieces that we sometimes have trouble singing just right.

    Tiziano arrives with his mother, Rosita, and with his grandmother, who sits on a cushion right on the aisle on the front row. When I move from the bench to greet his grandmother a few minutes later, she tells me how wonderful her grandson is, and that he's always wonderful. She is very happy.

    The church looks lovely, don't you think? It's quite a photogenic church for such a little village.

    Here are some shots of the wedding ceremony:

    ..and don't forget the Coro!

    We rush home afterward to greet Sofi and to print and frame a photo of the ceremony for the couple to have when they are at the reception. Dino likes doing that, and it's wonderful for the couple to have something right away that documents the wedding itself.

    The couple agrees, moving it right in front of them on their separate little table facing all of us during the cena.

    There are about 140 of us, including a gaggle of kids, who sometimes play about with each other, also visit their parents and sometimes cry. A teenager is given the job to keep them all happy and in line, and mostly succeeds.

    The photographer does a fine job, and captures Tiziano and Alessia at each table. Sorry we don't have a copy of ours yet. Oh. The photographer compliments Dino at the excellent photo he took and reproduced, sitting at the couple's table. It will be fun to see all the photos when they're all in a book later.

    Here are a couple of shots at the reception.

    In one, dear Tiziano could not figure out how to lock arms with Alessia and drink from his glass with the same arm. So here he is locking arms but moving the glass to his left hand to drink!

    We leave after the cake is cut and we have a slice, but before most of the guests leave. The reception is not more than twenty minutes from our house, yet we do not arrive home until 2 AM! We'll surely sleep in tomorrow...

    July 31
    Yes, it's almost 11 AM before we wake up to lots of sun and mostly clear skies. An hour later I walk a basket of tomatoes and a freshly picked rose to my sorella grande (big sister), Rosina on the street above us, as she's getting ready to fix pranzo for her son, Fabrizio and grandson, Federico. After a big hug, I walk back home, stopping below the ancient tower to look up at it and tell myself how much we love this place; these people.

    It's another Formula 1 race day, so after burgers cooked on the grill in the cucina estate Sofi and I move up to the studio to edit the journal a bit for the second half of July and begin to paint the grapes for our friends in Languedoc.

    Dino remains fixed to the screen for the next couple of hours, and then we all drive to Duccio and Giovanna's to visit with them in Bomarzo before they leave for their month in the mountains.

    I spend time cutting back roses on the planters above the parcheggio as neighbors walk down the hill on their way to the Gasperoni's reception for villagers who did not attend the wedding reception. As Serena walks by, she gives me a somewhat cool reception, and I can't figure out why. She is usually so warm toward me.

    But then, little Cesar walks by with a whole backpack of girasole (sunflowers) hanging out of it for his mother, and I can't resist having Dino show you how handsome he is.

    Tonight is a major night at the Tuscia in Jazz festival, so we think Frank and his houseguest will meet us there early, but he decides his guest is too tired. We drive there anyway, and after a bit of Sofi's anxiousness at the lights and the noise, Dino takes her down the street to guard the car while we listen a bit to the music and each quaff an Irish Coffee, as another month draws to a close.

    ...We go to bed after midnight as I continue to wonder what I can do to apologize to my Coro members from the bottom of my heart. I had no idea that I made a mistake in asking Angela if I could sit on the front row for the wedding ceremony.

    Stay tuned as our l'avventura italia continues...

    August 1
    The month begins at just after midnight: we've just arrived home from Tuscia in Jazz's last night in nearby Soriano nel Cimino, and I have yet another idea of something to create.

    You see, I had a lovely grandmother whom I called Nana, and she and I were best pals. Her maiden name was MacFarlane, and I've been thinking about designing and painting a plaid silk fabric for the nipotini (grand daughters) with their names painted into the design. I'd then make some outfits out of the plaid silk.

    Wouldn't you love to have a plaid designed with just you in mind?

    I've picked out colors that I know they love, and using a variation of the MacFarlane plaid I've found on Al Gore's internet (ha!), I'll use gutta to help me to draw lines in one direction, and then when I've painted in those lines, dried the gutta, ironed it and washed it out, I'll turn the fabric on its side and do the same in the other direction, using more of one color than another to have the design work...or at least that's what I think I'll do.

    What fun to add another thing to my list of quasi-accomplishments! Not that it matters; it just gives me something more to give away to those I/we love that I/we think they'll cherish.

    What a way to begin the month! It's past 1 AM and I'm still full of life. Perhaps that Irish Coffee we drank a couple of hours ago at the jazz festival had something to do with it.

    Some hours earlier I had a dizzy spell, and thinking I'd soon have a migraine headache, took what I call a medicine cocktail.

    August 2
    We sleep in late, and under sunny skies do a bit of work around the house, including painting and weeding. I begin to paint the leaves and grapes on a board to take on our France trip this fall, and then want to meet with Rosina, so walk outside with Sofi and weed around while I call up to her.

    She invites me to come up and I ask for her advice. What should I do about the mistake I made in thinking it was fine for me to sit on the front row of Coro at Tiziano's wedding? I'm a bit nervous.

    On the way up the street I see dear Vincenza waving to me, and walk up to her first. As we talk, I show her the letter I wrote and translated as an explanation and an apology for misunderstanding.

    After I leave her to visit Rosina for her counsel, Vincenza phones everyone in Coro to come by for a visit at her house this afternoon to set things straight. Rosina tells me to keep my apology short and sweet and to destroy the letter. She even offers to take it from me, but I fold the letter and put it in my pocket.

    I make a chocolate cake for the get together, and in my nervous state forget to add the butter, for I've left it in the microwave to soften. No matter, I make a buttery mint frosting and add flowers on top.

    Almost everyone is there when I arrive, and I do apologize, then ask my friends to guide me if I do something wrong in the future. If I do, I tell them that it will be unintentional. Everything works out, and I'm teased about not inviting them for pizza yet and asked why I did not wear my yellow dress. Yes, lots of people, even in Mugnano, read the journal. I really don't have much to hide, and that's fine with me.

    At home, Dino tells me he is proud of me for dealing with the snafu right away. A bit later there's Coro practice with Paul and Marie, our new French part time residents, and he is just amazing, playing the music we sing by ear, with no music before him. He also teaches us a piece, and it is grand:Lau da te, Dominum...We all love it and can't wait to sing it soon...perhaps even on Sunday.

    All is well...for now.

    August 3
    Dino treks to Viterbo, but the parcheggio cover is still not ready. We need to renew our medical permits, so that will happen tomorrow. It's not too difficult, just showing current information and signing before a clerk, we think, then dropping the documents at the doctor's office.

    I have finally begun the painting of grapes, but set it aside just before pranzo to clean up the studio. Don Francis will be here for two nights, beginning at noon on Thursday. It will be good to see him but no, we are not doing any pizza cenas while he is here this time.

    I'm stanca morta (dead tired); the stress and worry of the past few days tells me I'm not as strong as I used to be. This afternoon I'll hang out, as will Dino, with nothing on the schedule tonight. Although...I'd love to paint.

    The Attigliano Coro practice will be on Thursday night, so unless Don Francis would rather sing with us, instead the three of us will attend the last evening of the sagra in Cerretto, followed by the jazz festival, now in Bagnoregio for a few days. When she came by to tell me about Thursday, I alerted sorella picola (my little sister), Anna, that I won't attend that night.

    Just before we leave for cena at Frank and Candace's house, we take several music pieces that I've downloaded from Al Gore's internet to Paul, and he tells me I've downloaded them perfectly. Actually it was not so easy, and what I wound up doing was downloading pieces to play on an accordion. Somehow it all seemed to work out.

    We eat under the stars with Frank and Carol and Rich and dear Bryan and a friend of Frank's from Toronto, Rosemarie, but are missing Candace, who is in Wisconsin visiting with her mother. We raise a glass to Candace, and she calls while we are there, so we have a chance to speak with her.

    I'm very mindful of life's stories, and remind our dear friend to ask her mother to tell her stories about her life. My parents are both in heaven, and I regret not asking what their lives were like and how they felt as different milestones occurred in their lives.

    If you take nothing else from this journal, take the realization that stories are so important to document in your memory bank. Don't let your parents and grandparents pass on without knowing more about how they felt when they passed through critical points in their lives. It might help you to understand more about yourselves as you pass through different stages of your lives.

    Those feelings pass on, and later generations take from those genes, so it's very helpful in learning about oneself to learn about the inner lives of those who have gone before us. You'll be happy later that we reminded you...

    We're happy to be back home, and since Frank has served us lots of great wine, a medicine cocktail is what I take before turning in. As always, Sofi stayed by my side, and had a wonderful time with us, as Frank is her godfather, and dearly loves her.

    August 3
    Today is the anniversary of my parents wedding, probably seventy or so years ago. I wonder if they are in contact with each other, but there is so little, if anything, that we know about heaven and life after death; I send them my love just the same, and feel them smiling down upon me as I look up at a painting my mother did of a scene on a high hill overlooking a beach at Provincetown, Massachusetts, perhaps during the 1940's or early 1950's. I wonder what her life was like when she painted it.

    We drive to Viterbo without Sofi, for it is too hot to leave her in the car. This morning, we renew our medical coverage with the AUSL government system, and Dino calls our friend at the Prefettura to see if he can learn why my citizenship application has not been approved, while Dino's has. There's no answer...

    Speaking of Dino, he calls the folks in Guardea to reserve a table for Saturday night's Guardea Gnocchi Festival. We've been invited by Giuseppe and Steven and look forward to being with them.

    We run into a friend at KLIMT, the art supply store, and have coffee with her. She was a great friend of Lisa Finnerty's, who died last week of cancer. We encourage her to bless each day and live life with her glass at least half full. Some things take time, and we enjoy our visits together, short though they may be. She may be putting together a watercolor painting group next Spring, but since I am a solitary painter, probably won't join them.

    Yes, I think I'm somewhat of a hermit at heart, so her complaints about the bureaucracy here fly off like feathers in the wind. We take each one on as though it is an adventure, and that makes life easier.

    We've also picked up the parcheggio cover, so when back at home I help Dino to hoist it on top of the black frame and he is able to do the rest. It's quite attractive, and if we can keep it relatively clean by hosing it off now and then, it will be a good addition to our property, both in summer and winter.

    Dino's looking for new restoration and management projects, so if you're in Central Italy, or thinking of settling her, let us know.

    With Don Francis staying for two days beginning tomorrow, we'll clean up the studio and make it comfortable for him to stay here. That means, no more art projects for the next few days. Better slow down, Evanne!

    In the meantime, our ADSL (internet) line is down (first time in 3 years), so we've called and are waiting to hear back. Let's hope that is soon...

    The ADSL news is not good...we will not have access to the internet until probably Saturday. Might as well have fun while we wait...

    August 4
    Don Francis arrives for pranzo, and today it's risotto limone. Risotto (?) you may be thinking...isn't it too hot to serve risotto? Well, I think this risotto is quite light and fragrant; accompanied by a rose or white wine, it will be very tasty. Everyone agrees as we chow down while sitting inside; it's too hot to eat on the terrace today.

    There's a chocolate cake with minty butter frosting for dessert, so afterward we all want to take naps. Lulling the afternoon away with a book until we nod off...what could be better?

    When we do get up, there's lots to talk about, but Don Francis wants to go to Orvieto to check out the famous Cattedrale for an upcoming tour with his parish. Since we don't have internet access, we need to pay a few bills online, so Frank is home and we stop at his house for a bit to accomplish both.

    He's off to a sagra with more friends, but recommends the sagra in Cerretto for us, since we have not attended this year. But when we arrive, the line is so long that we decide to have pizza somewhere else. It's also overcast, so agree that's a better plan.

    Earlier we drove to Bagnoregio to check out the scene for tonight's jazz festival, but the venue was a dud. Plastic chairs and a stage and no café tables...no thanks. There were even a few drops of rain. With hardly anyone around, we ran in to Phil, who is a jazz aficionado, and two friends. He had an umbrella, so they'll probably stay for the music.

    Driving back through Montecchio, we eat at one of our favorite haunts, I Gelsi, where we are welcomed back by the sister and brother owners and sit outside under umbrellas and enjoy the cooling air. Sofi sits waiting for bits of my pizza, which I am happy to share.

    It's fun to share our home with dear friends, and Sofi loves Don Francis. He's brought his clarinet, so tomorrow he'll serenade us.

    August 5
    Our wisteria continues to bloom in a few places on the newest plants; otherwise it's lush and green everywhere. No longer does our property feel like the Arabian Desert during the hottest days of the year. Instead, our wisteria grows joyously, reaching out in all directions until Dino clips it back here and there to keep it in line.

    Don Francis and Dino drive together to Viterbo this morning, so that our dear friend can do some hardware shopping; shopping in Isernia is not as full of the American-type big stores as those in Viterbo. They arrive back loaded with goodies for him to take back home tomorrow.

    While they are gone, I pick some of the very ripe tomatoes, but see that many will not ripen, or have ripened too soon. Prolific rains have also ruined a fair amount of the crop. So I pick and cut back what I can while Sofi scampers about.

    There are about fifteen mostly giganties in a wicker basket. I wash them off in the summer kitchen and use those that need immediate action for a simple tomato pasta sauce. Yes, I've learned to use soffrito (sautéed chopped carrots, onion, celery) as a base, and have all of those. We'll have pasta tonight.

    After a pranzo of roast chicken and caprese, there is more resting and hanging out; afterward we are serenaded by Don Francis as the notes of his wonderful cornetta (cornet), waft out the front window onto our terrace. He plays jazz standards, and I love singing to them.

    Cesar's mother walks up the hill, and when we see her and say hello, she tells us that her father played the trumpet and loves the sound of Don Francis' cornet. We tell her about the photo we took of her son carrying the girasole (sunflowers) in his backpack, and you can see the photo yourself at the end of last month's journal. I'll surely paint it one day, for it's a lovely composition and he's a fine young boy.

    It's mellow around here, and yes, we have pasta for cena, along with grilled sausages purchased from Pino in Attigliano. A couple of hours earlier, I took the casing off two of the sausages, sautéed the meat and added it to the sauce with some pepperoncino. It's still a bit bland, but abastanza buona (good enough, in Italian terms, which could mean great...) I later learn that these giganti tomatoes have a high water content, so are only good for slicing and having in salads.

    August 6
    After breakfast, Don Francis packs up and leaves, and it's been a good visit. We've all enjoyed having him here.

    Dino asks me if I've talked with my mentor in the Catholic Church about Confession, and I have not. The subject did not come up, so it seemed irrelevant. He's a very learned and kind man, but quite conservative, so I know it would not make him happy.

    I think it's better that I have my moments with God on my own, as I see it, and unless I seek counsel, think that meditating and spending quality time formulating thoughts and praying by myself when not in church is a better idea. Yes, some of you will think I'm a bit crazy. The rest of you will know for sure.

    The day passes gently, albeit very warm. Shutters closed; we nap after a cool pranzo. When Dino begins to water the front terrace, water pressure drops and then there is none. He walks up the street to find out if other folks have the same problem.

    Pressure is low, but water returns. Someone must be fiddling with the local water pipes. I hear from good friend Karen, from high school, who was here recently with her daughter. I tell her about a Pissarro painting exhibit near her home in MA, and she tells me his painting style is like...mine(?)!!!! Magari! (If only that were so...)

    Tonight we meet Giuseppe, Steven and their friends in Lugnano to attend the Guardea Gnocchi Sagra together. Malcolm and David are friends of theirs from England, and the six of us have a grand time in Guardea at Dino's reserved table. We feast on:Gnocchi castrato (yes, the poor cow had been castrated) and suppli (fried rice ovals with mozzarella inside) and grilled lamb and cocomero (watermelon) and plenty of wine and bottled water and beer.

    On the way home, we all drive to Alviano, where Bartolomeo the mercenary general built a huge stone fortress; one that remains beautifully maintained.

    Outside, we eat gelato artigianale (artisan ice cream), sitting outside on a stone bench under the trees. It's quite lovely here, with cobble stone streets and neighbors sitting on benches nearby. Such is the life of a formerly medieval village, although life in this borgo was probably far from tranquil in Bartolomeo's day.

    How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy the wonders of centuries past; it helps us to be happy living a simple life in the countryside, surrounded by history and attempting to live the lives of happy contadinos (farmers).

    August 7
    We attend church and then drive to Vitorchiano for shopping; it's surely summertime...the parking lot is full!

    Back at home, a happy Sofi greets us and we spend several hours closeted behind closed shutters before leaving for Aqualoreto, to witness a ceremony in the square for the 150th anniversary of the Reunification of Italy and awards for the day's art contest, and then join friends for a reception for the opening of the more formal art gallery, where my painting Pranzo for Pulchinelli is hung along with many other artworks.

    They're all for sale, including mine, and will remain on exhibition for a couple of weeks. Since many excellent artists live in this town and in nearby Todi, I don't imagine mine will sell, for there are more artists here than visitors! No matter. Soon my painting may return home to join the others.

    August 8
    On this typical summer's day, with plenty of blue sky and clouds floating above here and there, there is a breeze and it's early, so let's put a cloth hammock under the peach tree to catch any fruit that falls before it's ready to pick, and cut back dead leaves on the pomodori, so that the remaining fruit can flourish until they are ripe.

    We have learned by watching others, and it is my memory of dear Felice cutting back the center shoot from a joint on the pomodori (tomato) plants, that reminds me we've pretty much ignored his advice. I blame myself for not getting right out in the garden and working on the plants, leaving it all to dear Dino to take on practically everything.

    He's a solid hardworking guy, and I don't find out until we're almost ready to post that Dino does know after all that all the leaves that do not grow flowers should be cut back to allow more sun to grow on those flowers that turn into fruit.

    Dino tells me now that he chooses to ignore them, because of the strain on his back. That's another reason why when there are so many things to do when he's outside that this is the last thing Dino's thinking of when he's watering each evening. We should probably bring Cristina back more often or find a local who'll come for a short while every few days during summer months to do these things.

    This morning I move slowly from giganti (type of very large slicing tomatoes) to giganti, opening up the rubber ties and cutting away at leaves. This has been a difficult summer with not a lot of heat but a lot of rain.

    I'm happy Dino is wearing a hat, for these days are surprisingly full of the sun's rays. When I stop, I see that I'm darker and a bit redder in the face. It feels good.

    Today's raccolta (harvest) has resulted in a couple of fallen but un-bruised peaches that need more sun to ripen and a number of pomodori (tomatoes), some with real evidence that we have not done all we should as they grew...or was it the fault of the unseasonal rains? We're still kids at heart, learning and not stressing when we can help it. The orto is not perfect. So be it.

    What we have learned, and agree to do next year, is that we will only grow the gigantis and will grow them right next to the summer kitchen. They'll be easy to grow, and easy to maintain. Of course there'll be basilico (basil) planted in between.

    I don't know if you know this, but planting basil between tomato plants is supposed to make the fruit sweeter. Is it a superstition, or is it real? You tell me!

    Either way, we have lots of it this year, and will make some pesto for sure.

    A bit more than two hours in the sun are enough for Sofi and me; she conks out in her bed next to me while I catch up with you; the floor fan doing its work to cool the room; a room with closed shutters and full of art projects in various stages of completion. Let's not worry about it...

    Funny, but Dino wants a storage piece made to sit on top of the car for trips, and finds one on ebay from a nearby town! What's even funnier is that we know the guy! He's, Dario, Prue's next-door neighbor! Tomorrow when he returns to town, Dino will drive up there and probably return with it on top of the car. That's my Dino...

    How strange that in all the world of ebay that we've found what we want right in a nearby town in Italia!

    It's a Mugnano summer, sensa acqua (without water)! In August Mugnano swells from 80 residents to about 120 or so and everyone uses water! At 6 PM, people are evidently either taking showers or watering their ortos, now that the hottest part of the day has past. There's no water, even to brush one's teeth, so we're thankful we keep bottled water nearby.

    Since Sofi does not seem to like crocante these days, it's a good idea that she slims down a bit, eating her main meal at noon and perhaps just licking the remains of a little yoghourt container if that's what I eat at night. It's certainly mellow here.

    I've been studying the paintings of Camille Pissarro, since I'm told my paintings have a bit of his influence. I see myself as more of a realist painter than that of an impressionist, but we'll have to see...

    I'm also studying the albero geneologico (family tree) project for our village, since the end of the summer means we'll no longer gather more names for the painting that I'll begin soon afterward. First, I'll put together the family information, including the marriages of one family merging with another through marriage, and there are many of those. Then I'll design the huge painting, which will probably be on three panels and cover an entire wall of the ex-scuola.

    What I don't know is how the information will be integrated with a software program on a kiosk, so that people can trace their individual families back through time, hopefully at least to the year 1900.

    Yes, it's been an ambitious project, but we're happy to do this for the people of the village. I'm really happy to paint it, since I have an idea of what the final landscape will look like.

    Well, let's see how mellow it is later tonight when I walk up to Coro practice in the borgo...

    I am early on my walk to the borgo, stopping at Giovanna's and then Vincenza's houses so that we can all walk up together. Already the rest of the Coro sits on benches waiting for us, I guess. The little church is open, so we enter, followed by Paul with his portable organ. Federica arrives soon after, and it is good to see her after a long respite.

    We sing our pieces for Ferragosto (the iron days of August), although each of us is suffering from the heat and lack of air. Conditions heat up even further after we finish, and as Paul packs up his instruments, I tell him it's a good thing he's leaving. "Why, are they talking about me?" he asks and I assure him that they will not. Note the word, "they"...

    The church door closes, anger erupts, and it seems I have been out of the loop, since I did not attend Coro practice on Thursday in Attligliano. Let's just say that emerging are two camps of this little group, and no one is happy.

    I really don't understand. Each of us loves to sing; that's why I think we're in the Coro. Why can't everyone just attend to sing and be happy? There are some things about village life that are better left unsaid, I suppose. I am happy to not understand the harsh words and disagreements; they're not important to me, but I am sad just the same. Let's hope things will settle down soon.

    Vincenza and Rosina and Giovanna walk me to the end of the driveway as I bid them sogni d'oro (golden dreams), after which Giovanna tells me that she will not, for she has too many big problems. I wish you a good night, just the same, neighbors...Sigh.

    With a squeal from Sofi at the gate, and a happy Dino inside in the kitchen, it's so good to be home and at peace with the world and our neighbors.

    Don Francis tells me that the bad news is that I've surely been accepted as part of village life. That's also the good news!

    August 9
    Tractors and neighbors with weed wackers are already at work in the fields below when we awake. Dino tells me it rained a bit last night, so the weeds must be happy. Wonder if someone will invent a soundless weed wacker? Wouldn't that be a money maker!

    Dino's last appointment in the Orvieto hospital for possible glaucoma takes place at around noon. I think it will be too warm for Sofi to wait in the car, so she'll stay at home, where it's cool.

    Today we plan our menus for cena here on both Wednesday and Thursday...I think the ragazzi tomorrow night will like the pizza with sausage and grapes. Paul tells me they like everything and are already talking about it. Sofi is the big hit, with pizza taking second place. I'm sorry Paul is allergic to her, although when they see her the children swarm around Sofi like bees around a hive. Sofi loves them, too. It will be a night of fun.

    Thursday will also be fun, in a different way, with dear Giuseppe and Steven and their guests David and Malcolm. We can fix more exotic pizzas that night.

    This morning it's wonderful to paint in the studio, accompanied by classical music and little Sofi lying in her little wicker bed beside me, the joints above her paws upward, her beard pointed skyward. Her little paws drop downward, as if she's just had a manicure and is patiently waiting for her nails to dry. What a sweet dog!

    It's too warm to take Sofi in the car for this morning's medical appointment for Dino, so she guards the house from her little cage while we drive North to Orvieto.

    All is well with Dino, and he's told to visit an eye doctor to see if he's a candidate for laser surgery. We'll ask our good doctor the next time we visit for his recommendation. Yes, this country is all about whom you know as well as the game of maneuvering within the law. We'd like the medical system in Italy to take care of it. We'll see.

    We're finished with the appointment too late to really shop, except at LIDL, which remains open continuously. After a stop there, we stop at Autogrill on the A-1 for panini to take home, also known as porta via, or take-away, depending on where you live.

    Dino takes a nap, while I return to painting the grapes. Tonight I'll make two batches of pizza dough, which will sit in the frigo overnight and then be kneaded and go through the rising process tomorrow afternoon. I intend to make pizza pie faces on the pizzas for the children, so hope we can buy some funny vegetables to use.

    The weather is steamy, and while Dino drives off to shop and pick up the top storage unit for the car...

    ...I tackle the pomodori plants growing next to the summer kitchen. They're a bit of a mess, for they've been tied up, but not had their mid shoots pulled out. I bring a wicker basket and clip off what fruit I can, then go to town on any branch that does not have fruit or flowers, so that the existing fruit and flowers will have plenty of sun to ripen.

    We have both the pachini (tiny red variety) which Dino hates and a larger more orange variety. Tomorrow night the little ones will feast on the little tomatoes atop pizza. I intend to make faces on the pizzas before Dino puts them in the oven. Fun is what I hope the cena will be about, and I'm not sure Sofi know what havoc will be created when all the kids run around after her and holler.

    I'll wait to mix the dough for the two batches of pizza until Dino returns; tomorrow afternoon I'll do the same for the following evening, when we have adult guests from Amelia (Giuseppe and Steven) and their two friends. That should be fun, too.

    Dino counsels me to "take it easy" (Stein's favorite saying) and not go overboard with the work for either one. Va bene. These two times there won't be score sheets. Perhaps I'm done with that. I can take the information down when/if anyone comments.

    I'm not ready to take it easy yet, for there are plenty of red grapes to half and remove seeds. While Dino watches tv and I listen, I fix all the older grapes, leaving the new ones for tomorrow. The sausage and grape pizzas are really good, and this time we might even use goat cheese with them.

    A domani (Until tomorrow...)

    August 10
    Here's the latest news from Italia:

    ANSA English > News
    Govt, unions and employers to meet on crisis - Austerity measures may include pension reform, wealth tax

    (ANSA) - Rome, August 9 -
    The government meets this week with unions to illustrate its austerity budget plan and already battle lines are being drawn over expected pension reform.

    A 'wealth tax' is also expected to come up for discussion and, although Italy's billionaire Premier Silvio Berlusconi has always been against, the possibility of taxing assets and-or earnings over one million euros has been raised by party members of the premier's key ally, the Northern League.

    Berlusconi is expected to return to Rome from holiday in Sardinia on Wednesday to take part in a meeting which, aside from unions will also include representatives from leading employers' associations, first among them Confindustria.

    At a similar meeting last week unions and employers presented an unusual joint six-point plan to boost growth and revenue and stressed the importance of wasting no more time on structural reforms.

    Initially the government, which presented its own eight-point plan to tackle the budget crisis, postponed until next month the presentation of a revised plan but this changed after Italy on Friday bowed to pressure from markets, the European Central Bank and the European Union to move forward its target of balancing the budget from 2014 to 2013.

    Although the details of the revised budget plan have not been confirmed, there is a general consensus that it may involve pension reform, including moving forward an increase in the retirement age for women, limiting the possibility of retiring solely on the basis of years worked - as opposed to age - and cutting benefits for those who have inherited a pension. Italy in recent years revised its generous pensions system and unions say that the changes made were as far as they were ready to go.

    In an interview published Tuesday by the Turin daily La Stampa, Raffaele Bonanni, the leader of the CISL union, said that while he was ready to work to eliminate abuse of the pension system, changing the requisites to receive a pension or its limits on pension benefits were out of the question.

    According to the union leader, savings first of all had to come from the political system which had to put its own house in order by cutting waste and excessive benefits.

    ''A profound reform of the State is needed on a central and local level to reduce the cost of government. On pensions everything possible and imaginable has already been done and the sustainability of our system has been recognized throughout Europe,'' he said.

    After stating that in no other country in Europe were institutions so ''complicated, costly and inflated,'' Bonanni broadsided the municipal-run services and utility companies which he defined as ''a true Soviet dinosaur in Italy. It is a waste bin for failed politicians with 27,000 administrators hired with no market logic whatsoever''.

    In order to raise state revenue, the CISL leader suggested raising taxes on financial market gains from 12.5% to 20% and a tax on assets worth over one million euros ''excluding one's primary home''.

    ''If these things are done the state could rake in a load of cash and there would be no need to take away from pensions,'' Bonanni said.

    Privatizing or deregulating municipal-run enterprises is also a Confindustria demand and appears to be an option the government is ready to adopt.

    In an interview in Tuesday's economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Regional Affairs Minister Raffaele Fitto said ''we are ready to deregulate local municipal services, obviously in full respect of the recent referendum.

    Fitto penned a law to deregulate or privatize municipal companies which was partially overturned by a referendum earlier this year which focused on water utilities.

    Speaking out in favor of a 'wealth tax' was the Northern League mayor of Verona, Flavio Tosi, who told a TV news magazine show on Monday night that ''we should probably start thinking about a wealth tax or one on major financial-market gains.

    ''At a time when we need to find (revenue) resources it is important that we think carefully where we are going to find them. And if we also want economic growth then we have to protect household income because if you cut household spending the economy retreats,'' Tosi said.

    ANSA English > News -
    Tax pressure to rise with budget reform, says body - Artisans association sounds alarm

    (ANSA) - Rome, August 8 -
    The government's decision to bring forward its austerity budget plan will mean Italians will soon be paying significantly higher taxes, national artisans association Confartiginato (CGIA) said on Monday.

    The government last month drafted a series of reforms to balance its budget by 2014 to avoid any risk of defaulting on Italy's sovereign debt. However, markets rejected the hypothesis of not balancing the budget until 2014 and, when faced with a loss of investor confidence and what was the equivalent of a dictate from the European Union, as well as Germany and France, Rome was forced to move up its target to 2013.

    ''It doesn't take much to realize that these measures are going to drive taxes up with tax pressure near or perhaps above record highs'', said Giuseppe Bortolussi, the secretary general of CGIA, which represents many of Italy's small businesses.

    ''Before these reforms were adopted tax pressure in 2013 was expected to be 42.6%. However, in order to balance the budget by 2013, tax pressure will have to rise to at least 44.3% and this 1.7-point hike is really scary,'' he added. Tax pressure in Italy reached a record high of 43.7% in 1997 when the country was forced to raise revenue to meet the conditions necessary to join the European single currency. Aside from raising taxes and cutting spending, the government's budget plan includes a privatization program and deregulating areas of the economy, including much-coveted job security laws with all these reforms aimed at promoting growth.

    The EU, Germany and France want Italy to be well on the road to reform already by the end of September. The government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi had originally hoped to impose the lion's share of the budget cuts and tax increase after the next scheduled elections in 2013.

    Based on the government's 2011 three-year budget calculations, CGIA said the government in 2012 will need to come up with an additional four billion euros more from spending cuts, in addition to the 6.081 billion euros it had hoped raise, while the increase in tax revenue alone in 2013 will have to more than double, from 12.774 billion euros to 28.284 billion euros.

    In a related development, Italy's tax revenue agency on Monday said that it expected to collect some 11 billion euros in previously undeclared taxes thanks to spot auditing checks which last year netted just over 10 billion euros.

    The announcement was made at the start of the summer campaign by tax police who will make surprise audits on bathing establishments, yachts and celebrities.

    If you mostly slept through this last news report, you surely woke up at the last sentence. Imagine being a "fly on the wall" as police raid beach resorts in trendy locales, with visitors trying to cover up more than their bathing suits...

    Here at home I do take a difmetrè tablet to ward off an impending headache. While Dino is off shopping and doing errands in Viterbo, I keep myself busy.

    There is a chocolate cake to make; check! There is a cabbage to get ready to make coleslaw by cutting it in half, putting it in the frigo, draining it and making a boiled dressing: check! I'll soon mix the dressing with a shredded cabbage, but there is no room for it in the frigo until later this afternoon. We don't need it for guests for the next couple of days but have it, so why not make it and try to find a place for it somewhere? We could even eat it for pranzo! Come no?

    Sofi cried last night and I think was in some kind of pain. I put her on the bed and she still cried a bit, then relaxed and slept on the bed for the rest of the night. I hope it's temporary. She seems better this morning; just a bit quiet.

    I make time to catch up with you a bit. Oh...about that slowing down.

    I finish the coleslaw and we have it for pranzo along with the roast chicken Dino picked up in Viterbo. Afterward it's time for a nap, before taking the dough out of the frigo a couple of hours before we use it to get it ready.

    I so love these five children and their marvelous parents. Each child is a treasure; each child has a distinct personality. What I loved most at the end of the evening was that each one showed a personal friendship toward me/us. It will be wonderful to spend time with them whenever they are here, and next summer I look forward to making a cape for Leon and costumes for the girls and Wolf, who is quite a comedian.

    Before the meal, the entire family sings a hymn in three part harmony; it almost makes me weep, it is so joyous and beautiful.

    Buon appetito! Let's eat!

    Five pizzas tonight:

  • Pomodori, buffala mozzarella, fresh basilica;
  • Zucchini, feta cheese, fresh mint;
  • Boscaiolo: sliced mushrooms, sausage, buffala mozzarella;
  • Carmelized onions, goat cheese, pacchino tomatoes
  • Salsiche and grapes and buffala mozzarella...probably my favorite.
  • We end the evening with chocolate cake covered with a frosting of cream cheese, mint syrup, and butter and decorated with sweet pea flowers.

    I hate to see them leave.

    We're ready, well, almost ready, for tomorrow night's pizza night, with some things left from tonight and the dough in a double recipe resting in the frigo.

    Note: They are star gazing with the help of Dino's iPhone app "SkyView".

    August 11
    Last night in bed I had awareness in my chest as if I was somewhere else, looking inside me at the arteries and veins moving across my chest cavity and feeling a pumping of sorts. I ask Dino to call to make an appointment with our good doctor Stefano, although it's difficult to get through on the phone. We'll feel better after I have an EKG.

    I take a difmetrè pill and don't go outside in the sun, although ask Dino to open the steel grate on the kitchen window; the view framed by wisteria leaves toward the valley is so lovely. Sofi loves to hang out in her little bed in the studio, and rushes upstairs to wait while I catch up with you. This morning her front paws delicately hang over the front of the bed; she is truly a dear little friend.

    Enzo arrives for his annual testing of the water heater and is paid €80 for his effort. He's a lovely man, difficult to understand but as kind as can be, always smiling when he sees us.

    There was not much water this morning, although Talete, the water company, was here, and a bit later I was able to take a shower. I can't seem to get the effort to iron or to paint; perhaps it's a day to read. Oh. I have not seeded more grapes for tonight's pizza, nor have I made a dessert...

    Giuseppe, you are favoloso! Calling to ask if you can bring dessert tonight is a treat, especially for me, who now won't have to make one. Although you won't read this post for a couple of days, I want to thank you for being you. We so enjoy your company, and I especially look forward to seeing you all tonight. What fun we will have!

    We have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and for that I am also grateful. I'm not feeling well, and hopefully our good doctor Stefano will have some answers. In the meantime, let's party hearty tonight! Come no?

    Dino walked down to see the Talete folks working on the street this morning from the private water company, and when he asked what was wrong with the water pressure, he was told that the reason is that the village is full of people! That means all the summer guests are here, and are using lots more water than usual. Oh.

    I've finished all the prep work for our cena, and with more than an hour until guests arrive, wonder if I'm missing something. While we stand on the terrace, Dino shows me that even more flowers are blooming on the newest wisteria plants!

    Giuseppe and Stephen arrive, but without their house guests, and we have a wonderful evening under the stars. It is a night without complaints from anyone, although we prepared for more guests that chose not to come at the last minute.

    I recall seeing signs (some even framed) in at least a couple of friends' houses, in guests' bedrooms, containing suggestions, as house rules, for temporary occupants. Is this funny? In some cases, it is, although always posted with utter seriousness. It appears that all of us with homes in special locations around the world have stories to tell about guests from hell. Sorry if this offends you, but whether it does or not, do know that it's often the truth.

    I'm somewhat dismayed that people with particular and specific tastes, combined with a sense that their will is the rule of law (wherever and whenever they visit,) should be the rules that are followed on their visit/s. That means that homeowners are sometimes held hostage in their own homes by those they considered as friends.

    The world is full of self-absorbed folk; if you fit into this category, it's best to stay at a hotel or place where you pay for services when visiting others. Otherwise, roll with the punches and aim to be the very best guests your host has ever entertained. It may even save a friendship or two.

    August 12
    With high season upon us, we drive to Viterbo to our good doctor and see fewer people on the roads; all Italians love the spiagga (beach), and unless they spend their weekends and summer holidays with family members, you'll find them at the beach.

    Our fears about my health are for naught, for my chest pains have been diagnosed as muscle pains, and I'm told to take it easy. I've often wondered what we should do if we ever do have a real emergency, and this morning we learn about what is termed guardia medica in this country.

    If someone has a medical problem here in Italy, the first line of defense is their medical doctor. However, on weekends and at night, when the practice is closed, the best option is the practice's guardia medica, a person or persons who are on call during the night and on weekends and are paid for just such a service. A call to the doctor's office should provide this on a message, but it's good to call in advance and have it on hand. We recall knowing someone who practiced just such a skill in nearby Soriano and would come to the house if we needed help.

    Now if we have a serious emergency, we are to call the telephone number: 118, and an emergency team will arrive with an ambulance to take us to the hospital; in the meantime they will take whatever necessary steps are needed to keep us stable until we reach the hospital.

    One can also drive to the Pronto Soccorso (Emergency Room) of any hospital, which we have done on occasion at night when we were ambulatory.

    Thank you, Dottore Bevilacqua, for your emergency guidance. Thank you also for your emergency phone number. We hope to never have to use it.

    This afternoon is full of...nothing, except for a nap. This is how we're hoping the next days will follow. Dino picks up a new salve for his skin heat rashes and we're hoping it will make him more comfortable.

    Here are some recent photos, taken late afternoon.

    August 13
    After breakfast, there are still a few items for Dino to buy at a ferramenta (hardware store) to finish his hoist for the car unit. He finds what he needs here, so stays, and soon I leave for Coro practice, armed with the five remaining Mugnano t-shirts, all for children, to go to the French family that lives part time next to the main church. I arrive there while the whole family is gathered around an enormous table; drawing, playing, eating...and Marie hands me a piece of brioche and tells me she'll give me the recipe if I like it. It's very tasty, although I want to pass on buying a bread machine.

    All the shirts fit; Wolf even puts his on right away; the others waiting till later. Tonight we'll all sit outside in the new area behind the ex-scuola building for a village Cena di Pizza, and that will surely be fun.

    Coro is better than usual, with Paul and a friend, Emanuele, of his from home here to sing with us; their voices marvelous. On the way in, I apologize to Angela, who tells me I did nothing wrong before the wedding. A few minutes later Serena arrives and sticks her tongue out at me as a joke. All is well as far as my relationship with my Coro buddies are concerned. Phew!

    We sing well; Rafaele and the men sing marvelously. On Monday night we'll sing our hearts out; there will be a procession to include Dino dressed in his Confraternità garb and afterward a reception to honor Angela and Rafaele.

    Things are mellow at home, and later we'll walk up to have a cena with all our neighbors and sit with the French folks. Right now, Dino watches a macho movie, Brooklyn's Finest, while Sofi and I catch up with you and take a nap. After the movie Dino comes upstairs and tells me that the film should have been titled Last Man Standing, as the only star that wasn't killed in the film was Richard Gere. Yes, we can receive many American made movies here, even if they are available here later than in the US.

    I paint a bit, adding more layers to the canvas of a bunch of grapes and leaves. What direction does the light emanate from? I determine the light shines full on the front of the grapes, which has an effect on the light and dark of the leaves as well as the grapes themselves. Tomorrow I'll make some changes to the depth of the leaves. Painting is all about light, I've learned, and it's a very interesting process.

    We dress and leave for the cena, with dear Sofi guarding the house. There will be too much activity going on in closely spaced tables for her to maneuver easily, and she'll be happier here, although I love having her by my side. If she were content to just lie by my side, we'd take her. But she is not, nor do I have much luck training her.

    It's another wonderful evening event in Mugnano - Pizza under the stars:

    Emanuela emails us to remind us that a honeymoon in Italy is called a "Luna di miele" (moon of honey), not the opposite as I had written. Thanks. Wonder if we'll see the newlyweds tonight. Italians probably have a phrase for that as well, and Emanuela will surely tell us.

    Here are a few more wedding related words and phrases: A wedding is a matrimonio, an anniversary is an anniversario di matrimonio. A wedding day is a giorno del matrimonio or giorno delle nozze; a wedding dress is an abito nuziale, a wedding ring a fede (isn't an anello a ring?)

    Yes, it is. So let's see what rings of various types are all about...
    A ring of people or of objects is a cerchio; a ring of spies is a giro (!), a ring of smoke is a spirale. The sound of a bell is a scampanio. The sound of a bell or telephone that a person hears is a suonare; to ring out risuonare and last but not least, ringing in one's ears is fischiare, which also is the verb "to whistle". Remember that all these words ending in aré, are verbs...

    I take a medicine cocktail before we leave the house, and wish I did not have to, but the chest pains continue, as do a mild headache that doesn't seem to quit. Perhaps it's the humidity.

    The cena is lots of fun, with two long tables pushed together and about fifteen of us sharing pizzas and beer, but strangely, no wine is available tonight. If the neighbors only knew, they'd bootleg their own wine.

    Do you remember some years ago bringing your own was not allowed, and instead the organizers festaroli, I think, purchased wine for everyone. That night, a few folk hid their wine under the table, but not tonight, as there has been no warning.

    Paul takes some grand photos, so if we don't have them from him by tomorrow, when we hope to post, we'll show you next time. Dino and I leave at around 11 PM while the party is going strong, with dancing and moving lights and lots of singing karaoke style, the words displayed ten meters high on the side of the building.

    Two hours later we can still hear singing from inside the borgo, although happily we cannot hear the music and are able to sleep. We live just far enough away that things remain peaceful at home, although for the people close to the action, it's no wonder they stay up late at night. Sounds reverberate off the sides of the ancient stone buildings there as if the residents and visitors are swishing around in a washing machine.

    August 14
    Of course there is no water pressure for showers when we awake, so that will happen later for us. Fa niente. (No matter.) We expect to see very tired faces in church; that is, for those who are able to roll out of bed, or wherever they are sleeping, on this holiday morning.

    Plenty of folks are at church when we walk up; we are actually late, arriving as the first hymn is being sung. I find myself on the first row, near Paul. We sing, led by Federica, who asks me to bring my music stand tomorrow night. She leads us with a straight face, until I smile with my eyes lit with joy, and a smile breaks out on her lovely face, infusing all of us with joy. Or at least that is what I am hoping.

    Lore and Alberto stand on the church steps when we depart, and it is time for hugs. We hope to be together with them soon, both in Guardea in what will be the sagra di cinghiale and at our home for pizza.

    On this drive to Il Pallone to shop after a stop at Nando's Bar, we see friends from Mugnano and wave. But once inside the Superconti, we find ourselves in the midst of a frenzy of activity. Summer visitors are all here, shopping for family meals. One woman actually purchases ten kilos of flour, for after doing all her shopping earlier, she realized this is what she wanted in the first place.

    In Italy, strangers are happy to tell you about their lives, and they do so today when we're all waiting in line to check out. In some ways, the Italians are all self absorbed, the women wanting to be sure they have purchased all the very best food for their families; the men are mostly just self absorbed, a la bella figura (to look good; to make a good physical impression).

    A young man much taller than me walks across right in front of me as if he does not even see me, so interested in what he is doing at the moment. It's not as if he's pushing me; he acts as if I'm not even there, so there's no need. Dressed all in red with soccer shorts, a matching polo shirt and a baseball cap over his black very curly and somewhat long hair, he is probably nineteen or so. If you have spent any time in Italy, you'll know just what he looks like.

    Soon we're navigating out of the parking lot and on our way home, where Dino grills burgers in the cucina estate (summer kitchen) to have with caprese and big pieces of cocomero (watermelon) for dessert.

    We're cool inside the darkened rooms, and there is plenty of time for a nap before Dino waters on the terrace and I paint a bit.

    Tonight we all walk up to the borgo at 10 PM for a festa starring the gara di dolce (dessert contest), and not being a fan of competitions, I feel no need these days to be involved as a contestant.

    Worth noting is Ivo Filiberti, Mugnano's answer to George Clooney. Here he is watching the judging.

    Friends we know all win: Iolanda, Serena and Antonella Cozzi. Well, Serena entered in her mother Renata's name, but Renata was too shy to collect her loot. Not to worry. All entries are cut as the hoard descends upon the long table for treats.

    If you recall, Italians don't believe in forming lines unless they are forced to. Sofi and I sit on the steps of the little church across the piazza from all the action, with Sofi shaking and hiding between my legs. Dino brings over a plate of sweets to share, and they are quite good, as is the glass of prosecco to finish the evening as if its bubbles create a little spark to celebrate the special getting together of friends and neighbors.

    Happily, Sofi leads us down the hill toward home, as the party continues on into the night.

    August 15
    This is it: Ferragosto, the height of the "iron days of summer". With no church service to attend this morning, folks sleep in late, and no work is done in the fields; nor are there tractor or weed whacking sounds to disrupt anyone's sleep.

    I pick up a dozen or more nocciole (hazelnuts) from the two trees on the way to the secret garden. This is the season; the trees remain from the time before we purchased this property. Let's use them this year!

    I paint a bit today; I've finally realized the very hue the grapes will need to be; and so hope that this week the painting will be finished. That is a good idea, for after this weekend it will be time for me to begin to put the design together for the albero geneologico, a project that will take most of the winter, off and on. I plan to have it completed for next May's Festa di San Liberato . There it is: me putting my mark in the sand...

    I've been doing a great deal of thinking lately about judging others, about aggression, about who I am. I look in the mirror and see the same little girl sitting on her knees in the sand at Dennis Beach and looking up at the person who takes the photo; love and respect means everything to me.

    Hate and anger and finger pointing now begin to frighten me. The other night I said to Serena, "Meglio, meno agressiva" (it's better to be less aggressive) and she nodded, but I am not sure she agreed. She does believe in love and shows plenty of that, teasing me when she silently sticks out her tongue.

    Tonight at 8:40 we arrive at church in our costumes; Dino holding his red and blue Confraternity garb to change with his brothers inside the sacristy and me wearing a white blouse and black pants and a black and white polka dot scarf for my neck. It's our usual Coro dress-up garb.

    After we sing about a dozen pieces, the somewhat solemn procession finds its way throughout the streets of the village with the Madonna held aloft on her platform, all the people of the village participating, except those who have trouble walking, who stand or sit and watch, remembering the days when they joined their friends and neighbors on this very celebration.

    One of the pieces we will sing tonight is the Lord's Prayer, known here as Padre Nostro. Here's the Italian translation of it:

    Padre nostro che sei nei cieli,
    sia santificato il tuo nome;
    Venga il tuo regno,
    sia fatta la tua volontà,
    come in cielo così in terra.
    Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano;
    Rimetti a noi i nostri debiti,
    Come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori.
    E non ci indurre in tentazione,
    Ma liberaci dal male.

    Afterward, there is a Coro reception in the little piazza outside the church, and there are plenty of cakes and soft drinks. Paul and Marie and two friends who are visiting them, Emanuele and Christine, sing a French chorale, and then the rest of us sing a couple of Italian folk tunes. Dino and I are asked to sing something from America but can't think of anything worth singing. That's my memory butterfly again, without a care in the world. I want to sing Tu Fa L'Americana (You want to be an American) but don't know all the words. I do know the dance movements, and will look them up for the next get together, which we find out will be tomorrow in the same place. We'll be ready!

    Strangely, most everyone, including Francesco, knows the words and music to the Marsellaise, and we all sing, joined in the midst of it by Paul and his friends.

    August 16
    We slip another day into the post for the first half of August, because it's fun.

    Dino does his giro (walk around the village) with Enzo in the morning. They're two members of this year's festaroli team, and this is a good time to ask for contributions for the parties that take place all year.

    I do some research on American songs and yes, God Bless America and The Star Spangled Banner are at the top, but I also want to be able to singTu Voi Fa L'Americano, because it's quite catchy and yes, everyone here seems to want to live like an American. You can look up the lyrics online, both in Italian and in English. Is it strange that instead, we want to live like Italians?

    I paint all afternoon while Dino takes a snooze, and tonight we attend a festa in the piazza outside Anna Cozzi's house, which is also near the church and also near Paul and Marie's house. Thirty or more folks appear about an hour after we arrive. I work inside the cucina estate, (summer kitchen, which is under the house and cool; that is, until the frying pans heat up.) My task is to roll the freshly made fritelle(doughnuts made of dough fried in girasole oil), in sugar on both sides and stack them in aluminum dishes. People take paper napkins and pick them right up with the napkin, eating them on their laps as they sit around the table.

    A bit later, the men congregate on the steps to the church. Yes, it's an Italian man thing, with every man except Alberto Cozzi leaving the women to sit around the corner of the piazza on those ubiquitous plastic chairs.

    Dino has his binder with him, and adds some names and dates to our albero geneologico. He's near the end of his part of the massive project.

    On the way home, it is the night of the gara di giochi (contest of games), and Dino captures the sack race, the spoon race and the tug of war. Some games never go out of style. We leave while things are just heating up, but you'll get the idea from these photos:

    Hope you enjoy reading about our summertime fun, and that you have plenty of yours. See you later...

    August 17
    It's a pedicure morning, and at least there is water pressure in the shower. This morning Dino will call Enzo the idraulico (plumber), and we're expecting a nightmare to erupt when he opens the wall behind the toilet. At least it's on a short wall facing the stairway, and easy to get to.

    But then, Enzo is on vacation, along with the rest of Italy. We've waited this long; hopefully there won't be a torrent of water before he returns and is able to come to see the damage.

    The wisteria on the terrace continues to amaze me. Two blossoms are happily growing, just as other leaves on other wisteria plants begin to yellow and fall to earth.

    As we get ready to post, we look forward to tonight's cena at Sasso Quadro, on a high hill facing Mugnano and directly opposite our house, but not close by. Perhaps Paul's camera can capture the house; what fun it is to see it from a distant hill! Dino tells me he does not have a telephoto lens. Fa niente.

    Dino has an idea of how he wants Lorenzo to make a holder/shelf for the Jetbag box above the car that will sit on the back wall of the parcheggio. Tomorrow he'll do all his errands in Lower Umbria and include a trip to Guardea to Lorenzo's.

    Dino tells me he'll take his binder to Sasso Quadro tonight, and I'm hoping he's about done taking down information. This afternoon he will update what he has written in the last days, so that all the new information is printed family by family. Don't forget to ask Vincenza for those dates that are missing in the Cozzi family tree. Oh. He can do that here on Monday when we have a pizza night for their family.

    The painting of grapes improves and I continue to paint more of it; perhaps it will be finished this week after all. The "Pranzo for Pulchinelle" painting in the exposition did not sell; Dino will pick it up tomorrow, so it will be back at home until someone can't live without it and buys it.

    We pick Leon up and take him to Sasso Quadro, showing him the marvelous view of Mugnano from there. He's "over the moon" happy with the setting,

    and as the evening progresses, we're all "over the moon" with joy. It's a great evening, sharing great food with family and friends in this special place. Next year we vow to bring camp tables and chairs, but we're fine on benches, just the same.

    By the time we leave, at about 11 PM, we're in the dark, as troubadours descend to little Mugnano while singing songs and finding their way back with little flashlights. We're not far ahead of them, and Claire pushes Leon back home in his wheelchair while he holds a sausage in his hand for Maman (his mother), who missed the entire event. Next year, they'll all attend, for sure.

    With a medicine cocktail, I drop into bed as the night turns to a new day.

    August 18
    There's a song to practice for the bride, and at 10 AM I walk up to Paul and Marie's for Claire and I and the father of the bride to all practice singing "Maria" from West Side story, altering the name just a bit to fit the bride's name, Marie-Laure. Later on Friday we'll surely serenade her at the cocktail party in Bomarzo.

    Dino drives off to meet people and do projects, while Sofi huddles in the house. Paul is allergic to her, so although the children love her, it's not fair to bring her to the house. I'm sorry, dear one.

    I recall seeing little Lisa last night as we picked up Leon, wearing an outfit right out of Louis XVI. A whitish skirt, billowing in two layers down to her shins, covered on top by another skirt worn as a top that had an elasticized waist, pulled up under her arms. This little one has a strong character and decides what she will wear and when. Oh, how I want to make the same outfits for the girls!

    But then, my artistic sensibility is very French. I'm enamored by French style. It's at once graceful and "right on the mark". Perhaps that is why the French people have been thought of as being too particular, too snobby.

    Now that Europe is becoming more homogenized, France and the French are being forced to relax a little, which makes the mix of French and Italian design so interesting. It's so easy to drive from country to country within the Euro zone; and that is the good and the bad news. France and Germany seem to be the big brother and big sister, at least financially, with Spain, Portugal, Italy, among others, behaving like their poorer siblings.

    We practice the song "Maria" from West Side Story this morning, adapting it to Marie-Laure, the bride-to-be. Tomorrow at the reception in Bomarzo, a number of us will sing it to her. We view it on U-Tube, as Paul tells Beatrice that he wants her to accompany us on the flute. She is not very happy about that, but it seems no one disagrees with Papa, especially when he coaches them.

    I walk back home with Beatrice and her girlfriend from Paris, and Sofi greets them with hugs and kisses while I hand over our mixer, so that the family can make tiramisu (pull me up!) for a big cena for their extended family tonight.

    Meanwhile, up in Bomarzo, the mother of the bride continues to refit the dress she has made for the bride. At the wedding, I learn that there will also be eight little bridesmaids (daughters of each of the bride's sisters), so we'll surely take photos for you. The grandmother has made dresses for each one! I look forward to meeting her and to be inspired by her designs.

    Once alone again, Sofi and I catch up with you in the studio as the floor fan cools us, and I'm serenaded by SKY's classical music in the background. Right now I'm swooning to "Sketches of Spain", which puts me over the moon, and it's time to return to painting. Yes, I am a dreamer, and am so thankful to be able to live a life of dreams these days.

    I like the painting of grapes quite a bit, but am I willing to part with it, giving it to the owner of the winery? Will a few cases of my favorite wine from Languedoc convince me?

    Fa niente (It's not important.) I can always paint another.

    In the meantime, we have nothing specific planned for this afternoon or tonight, but plenty of projects nipping at our heels to complete. How do the Italians do it? They seem to have so much time to hang around, sitting on benches either at the bus stop near us or in the borgo and gabbing with each other or just enjoying the lovely views.

    Dino asks me if I'd like Cristina come by to work in the garden. Si, certo! There is so much work we have not done in the orto. It's one thing to plan vegetables and flowers to plant in the fall and winter; it's another thing to maintain them until they're ready to pick and then to use them when they are at their freshest.

    We're not good at the second, nor do we feel good giving the tomatoes away to people who maintain their ortos perfectly. I admit. It's brutta figura (makes a bad impression) on our part. I cannot seem to drag myself away from the studio, especially painting.

    You'll think we're nutty, and we are, for at the end of August we hope to purchase San Marzanos (prime bottling variety of tomatoes) in bulk and preserve them all at once for use all year. Perhaps before we post next time, you'll hear about that.

    It feels really hot, and yes, these days are truly Ferragosto (the iron days of summer), with temperatures climbing into the mid thirties (100 degrees F). We've been quite fortunate, for these are the first really hot days we've had this season.

    August 19
    On this hot, cloudless morning, Elizabetta arrives to see if we'll attend the cena in the village this Sabato. Si, certo! Dino leaves for work in Guardea and Tenaglie, where he'll repair a shutter and fix a drain for the rental units. He's a McGuiver kind of guy and knows how to do these things. Bravo, dear one.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, (I remember this as one of my mother's favorite sayings when I was a child, taken from an old Western cowboy movie and used whenever the mood struck her.) I wash and put away the few dishes and then return to the studio, behind shutters and in front of a fan, to catch up with you and to return to the painting. Sofi stretches out on her wicker bed, her snout facing a lining of smiling teddy bears, while she sails off to dreamland.

    A bit of advice from Dino for those in the US calling or using their cell phones in Italy:

    It's always best to program your cell phone with +1 for the US numbers, +39 for Italy numbers, etc.... the electronics in the cell phones recognize the "+" as "00" for international calling - even if you are calling US to US or Italy to Italy, etc. So for US numbers, the prefix would be +1, Italy +39, France +33, UK +44 etc....

    Here's some Italy news:

    ANSA English > News -
    Massive pension and benefit fraud uncovered -
    Abuse of system reduced thanks to new anti-fraud unit

    (ANSA) - Rome, August 18 -
    Around 3,000 cases of pension and benefit fraud costing the state over 48 million euros a year were uncovered in the first seven months of 2011, a report by the finance police said on Thursday.

    The probes led to 4,400 people being reported to prosecutors, police said.

    Although the numbers were high, the findings represented a sharp drop from a similar report a year ago, when over 100 million euros in fraud was uncovered during the same period, with 5,245 people placed under investigation. Antonio Mastropasqua, the president of national pension agency INPS, said the reduction was thanks to collaboration between the finance police and the new internal anti-fraud squad INPS set up last September.

    This collaboration, he explained, resulted in over 11,000 checks on people drawing disability pensions and income support benefits.

    ''Much still has to be done and our anti-fraud unit is working in unison not only with law enforcement agencies but also with the banks that pay pensions, local governments and welfare offices,'' Mastropasqua said.

    The INPS chief said that in 40% of the cases where fraud was discovered, those receiving the pensions or benefits paid back the sums without protest.

    While last year's report showed how the majority of fraud cases involved alleged disabilities, this year the majority of causes centered on economic hardship claims to obtain food coupons, rent assistance and other benefits.

    Some 270 cases were said to involve foreigners who had their elderly parents come to Italy to qualify for financial assistance and then, once the aid was approved, sent them home again. This fraud was said to amount to 6.2 million euros.

    Other common cases of fraud, aside for disabilities and mental illness, involved drawing pensions of the deceased and employers drawing up contracts with fictitious employees.

    In early 2010 a massive pension scam was uncovered in Naples with hundreds of cases of people claiming to be disabled or mentally ill - 55% of them lived on the same two city streets.

    Further examination of public health records by investigators led to the discovery of up to 400 cases of disability pensions for mental illness in one central neighborhood alone, 10 times the number of other city districts.

    Investigators at the time calculated that cases involving people falsely claiming to be blind cost the state some one million euros over a three-year period.

    Officials responsible for authorising the disability pensions put the blame on the bureaucracy for creating this situation, given that the paper work had to be processed by three separate offices: the local national health agency, the city and national INPS offices.

    Italian police seize 300-mln-euro cocaine shipment -
    Five people arrested in La Spezia

    (ANSA) - La Spezia, August 18 -
    Italian police have seized a cocaine shipment believed to be worth 300 million euros.

    Police said the cocaine was hidden behind a false wall in a container ship which was travelling from Colombia via the southern Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro en route to Genoa in northern Italy.

    The shipment allegedly contained a tonne of pure cocaine and was intercepted by police and custom officials in the port of La Spezia.

    Three Italians, a Spaniard and a Colombian were arrested in relation to the shipment.

    Police said they had also seized five new cars on the ship and found 10 kilos of hashish inside one of the vehicles.

    And now my very favorite...

    Police nab transvestite bank robbers -
    Crooks disguised as women left bank empty-handed
    ANSA) - Messina, August 18 -
    Police in Sicily have arrested two men suspected of dressing as women when they tried to rob a bank.

    According to authorities, Carmelo Abbate, 20, and Filippo Parisi, 21, opted to wear pantsuits and wigs instead of bandannas or ski masks during their failed July 29 heist of the Banca di Carige in the town of Barcellona Pozzo Di Gotto, which is west of Messina.

    Surveillance cameras recorded the two young cross-dressers as they entered the bank arm in arm as if all were normal until Parisi allegedly tried to force his way over the glass between him and the teller.

    Yet his weight on the counter triggered an automatic barrier that slammed down and prevented him and Abbate from accessing the cash, police said.

    One of them turned over a desk and broke a computer to scare employees and customers.

    In frustration, one of the two allegedly knocked down and beat a disabled employee who had asked to be let go.

    The wigged culprits escaped empty-handed on a motor scooter.

    However finger-print analysis and witness testimonies led police to their whereabouts.

    So is this next story real, or part of the script? You tell me.

    ANSA English -
    Roberto Benigni caught with pants down in Rome street -
    Oscar-winner performs for Woody Allen's Bop Decameron

    ANSA) - Rome, August 17 -
    Roberto Benigni has been spotted in his underwear in Rome's fanciest boulevard.

    The Oscar-winning actor was in Via Veneto Tuesday performing on the set of Woody Allen's The Bop Decameron, a film based on Giovanni Bocaccio's 14th century work The Decameron, when the scene called for Benigni to bare his white boxers.

    The Florentine actor plays the part of Leopoldo Pisanello, an otherwise average citizen who becomes famous by chance and is hounded by the media.

    In the scene, Beningni is accompanied by his on-camera wife, played by Monica Nappo Kelly, as he approaches the entrance of a deluxe hotel.

    He begins yelling his name at the passersby but no one recognizes him anymore.

    Wearing a grey suit, necktie and white shirt, Benigni drops his drawers to attract more attention.

    He also tries to lift his wife's dress, but she has none of it.

    Italian scientists 'show how we remember dreams'-'Theta waves' key to recollection -

    (ANSA) - Rome - Italian scientists have found out how we remember dreams.

    A team from Rome, L'Aquila and Bologna universities discovered that people will recall their dreams only if they experience a certain sort of electrical oscillation during the well-known phase of sleep associated with rapid eye movements (REM).

    "Only if the cerebral cortex is flooded with slow oscillations called theta waves will the person have any recollection of his dreams when he wakes up," said the coordinator of the study, Luigi De Gennaro of Rome's La Sapienza University.

    According to the experts, whose work has been published in the US Journal of Neuroscience, the same phenomenon is at work when, while awake, we form solid memories of events that are "more real" to us than others.

    This mechanism is called 'episodic memory'.

    "When you ask someone to remember important facts or situations," De Gennaro said, "the presence of electrical oscillations in the frontal cortex makes the recollection possible.

    "If that does not happen, the memory of the event will apparently be lost forever".

    The study also demonstrates something that was hitherto not thought possible, that dreams are formed outside the phase of REM sleep.

    "But here the mechanism is different," De Gennaro said.

    "In short, we don't really know why we recall or forget dreams, but we have finally identified how we recall or forget them". The discovery came a few months after another breakthrough on dreams by the same group.

    In October De Gennaro's team said they had 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," De Gennaro told the journal Human Brain Mapping.

    In that study, 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".

    ANSA English > News -
    Counterfeit mint busted in Naples -
    Facility made perfect one-euro coins, police say

    (ANSA) - Naples, August 17 -
    Police in Naples raided a counterfeit mint that produced fake one-euro coins Wednesday.

    The facility, which was inside a nondescript storefront just off Piazza Garibaldi in the city center, had enough raw material to produce 10,000 euros in small change, according to police.

    Additionally, police seized 107 counterfeit one-euro coins, which experts said were perfect replicas ready for circulation in Italy and elsewhere in the European Union.

    The minting machinery was very advanced, capable of producing a huge amount of coinage with both the heads and tails sides, the lateral grooves on the side of the coin and the magnetic stamp which is specifically intended "to make the coins difficult to counterfeit," according to the European Central Bank, the organ that oversees legitimate minting of the euro.

    A 30-year-old ex-convict was in custody for allegedly operating the mint.

    Police are investigating the extent of the criminal organization.

    Call to 'legalize prostitution' to counter crisis -
    'Up to 100,000 working illegally' says mayor

    (ANSA) - Altopascio, August 16 -
    The mayor of the small Tuscan town of Altopascio has found a unique solution to counter the Italy's economic crisis - the legalisation of prostitution.

    Maurizio Marchetti, from Premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, said while debate continues over the government's proposed cutbacks, it is time to say "enough hypocrisy" and legalise prostitution. In a statement Marchetti has proposed "the creation of red light districts with greater restrictions, with health and financial controls and public management of the proceeds".

    "Today this is a totally illegal industry where you see employment of between 70,000 and 100,000 people, according to estimates," he said.

    "I can already imagine the criticism, but I am asking everyone - is it moral for a person to work illegally earning 10,000 euros a month and feeding a criminal underworld, while there are people who are working honestly and cannot get to the end of the month?" he said.

    "In every case, if you believe it cannot be legalized, then we should make prostitution a crime. I do not see any other way". Prostitution is not illegal in Italy but profiting from the sex trade is against the law.

    On Friday the government announced a new round of austerity measures totaling around 45 billion euros in a bid to balance the budget by 2013.

    Measures include the abolition of 29 of Italy's 110 provincial governments and the merger of thousands of councils in towns that have fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, as well as a new wealth tax on incomes higher than 90,000 euros. Berlusconi explained that due to instability created by recent market speculation on Italian bonds, it was imperative to move forward Italy's goal of balancing the budget from 2014 to 2013.

    Yes, in Italy anything is possible...

    It's time to write that prostitution makes me so sad. On the back roads to the Superstrada, there are sometimes as many as four or five black women standing and often trying to flag down cars between Bomarzo and Orte. This prostitution as a disrespect of one's fellow man/woman continues, no matter what laws are approved to prevent it. Sigh.

    Cristina arrives and we walk through the garden to speak about the work she will do here. She also gives us a photo for Dino's Cinque-cento collection, and we'd love to share it with you. Che meraviglia! Dino has inserted it into the column of Cinque Centos at the left of this Journal. It's the yellow one with the flowers in it, 6th one from the top.

    She leaves with an enormous peach from the tree; one she tells us must weigh one kilo (2.2 lbs.)! Tomorrow we might give her the little tomatoes Dino does not like but are ready to pick and to eat. That is, if I do not pick them and roast them...

    Later this afternoon, after feeding Sofi and leaving her once more to guard the house, we drive to Bomarzo to a pre-wedding reception for Marie-Laure and to serenade her with the song "Maria" from West Side Story, adapted on this night for her name.

    We're off key, but it's fun just the same, with the dear bride to be beginning to weep. It's a great reception, with all of the neighbors in the borgo invited.

    Later, we walk to Gerald's house for cena on his terrace with Gerald and Anne and another very friendly couple who also live in the borgo and are Dutch and English. The remarkable terrace gives homage to the moon, which stands adjacent and behind an enormous peperino vaso . We're truly feeling transported for a minute back to the middle ages.

    Back at home it's after midnight, but time to give a call to Colleen, who will be married tomorrow in Northern California, on the banks of the Russian River. With conversations to the mother and father of the bride and of course the bride, Dino is quite moved, and sorry that we could not be in California to celebrate with them.

    If there is a less than perfect aspect of our lives here, it is that we cannot spend more time with our family in the United States. We'll see many of them in San Francisco for Thanksgiving, and surely do look forward to that.

    August 20
    Here is a photo of niece Colleen and Ben on their day!

    We wake early, waiting for the bell to ring to tell us that Cristina is at the gate, ready to work. Early morning and late evening are the only hours during which sane people can work; the heat is just too intense in the middle of the day to work outside.

    Dino cancels the alarm wakeup to rise and let Cristina in, and she works until noontime, when it's just too hot. She'll return on Monday morning, and then we may have her pick all the small tomatoes and take them home with her. If there is time, she can also pull up all the tomato plants; we're at the end of the road for them, although there is plenty of basilico to cut and make pesto and freeze the rest for winter use. Add that to the list...

    Today is very, very hot. Laundry dries very quickly, and we stay inside until it's time to drive up to the Borgo in Bomarzo for Marie-Laure's wedding and to take pictures to show you.

    Here I am late this afternoon at the Comune (city hall), standing in the room where we will hopefully receive our citizenships from the sindaco (mayor) soon.

    I'm somewhat dismayed that the delay continues on and on and on... The photo was taken earlier while we waited for Andrea and Marie-Laure's wedding to begin and the procession to arrive.

    We return home for an hour before the cena to celebrate the end of the summer holidays in Mugnano, and frost a cake that we will bring as one of tonight's desserts. I love making buttery mint frosting these days, with plenty of cream cheese, known here as Philadelphia(!), and tonight add plenty of coconut, saved from the package inside the mix box.

    I am not a fan of cake mixes, but Cameo's Tentazione (chocolate) is quite special, especially if it's not cooked as much as the box recommends, keeping it soft inside. Perhaps we'll bring a box or two back with us this November.

    The cena is mostly a lot of fun, with many friends enjoying their families and close friends. We're fortunate to be at a table with Federica and Enrico and darling Edoardo, the baby we affectionately call Eddie, and the food is quite good, augmented with dolci from many of us, cut and put on plates with a variety on each one.

    We love the singer tonight, Giacomo. He is related to the village through his grandmother, Bruna. There is some confusion with the music speakers too close to one of the tables and he's too loud for some; others can't hear him. A bit of a commotion erupts, but it settles down, quieting the group at around midnight, when we walk home.

    Dino took the cue when the confusion arose, using the lull in the music to walk around and sell lottery tickets for his festaroli committee. Antonio thanks him later for his timing. I took advantage of the time to try to be a mediator; surely we can find a way for the speakers to work for everyone, and we do want him to perform for us if that citizenship festa ever happens.

    August 21
    Thinking there'd be lots of us in the (Coro) in the church this morning, I find only MarieAdelaide, and she and I sit alone on the front pew, singing the old favorites.

    Afterward, we drive to Nando's for our customary prima colazione and then to nearby Superconti to pick up things for today and also tomorrow's pizza night. I'm happy to find zucchini flowers, which will be stuffed and put atop a pizza.

    We imagine that we will have a larger group than usual tomorrow night, possibly even as many as ten people, but will rearrange the table where everyone will sit and the pizzas will be larger to accommodate everyone.

    I make two batches of dough, and they sit in the frigo until late tomorrow afternoon, where they will sit out at room temperature until it is time to form them into pizzas. We're thinking there will be five pizzas, although we have enough dough for more.

    Dino waters after dark, for it has been very hot today, with us hiding behind closed shutters with the fan on in one room and the air conditioner in the other. Strangely, I do a bit of ironing, picking the worst possible time, while Dino works on the computer. I don't think there is a good time to do ironing, but it's good to have it done.

    At midnight the temperature is still high, and we're thankful we can sleep comfortably, even though Dino has a bit of scotch to drink and a few chocolates before he turns in. What? No wonder he can't sleep! Whatever...

    August 22
    There's zucchini to grill, onions to caramelize, peppers to peel and slice, flowers to stuff with buffala mozzarella and alice (anchovies) and on and on but no matter. Some of the little orange tomatoes will be sliced in half and used on a pizza as well. The rest may go to Cristina, who is here this morning to do more cleanup in the middle garden.

    By the time she leaves, the middle garden looks great, and she's a very good worker, so it's a good thing we have her expertise when we need her. She asks for the book she recommended to me some time ago, and it is in English, so I find it and give it to her.

    Bengal Nights is not a book I would expect to read, but enjoyed it. Do you remember that we purchased it online upon her recommendation; no realizing the language was Bengali? We all laughed, and then I ordered it in English, wanting to find out what the story was all about. Cristina does not speak Bengali, either...

    Today is achingly hot; it's difficult, but Dino blows the leaves on the terrace (plenty more fall before the guests arrive but so what) and I weed, as long as I can bear it, with Sofi wagging her tail and happily poking her nose into everything I do.

    We've done so much prep work that the afternoon is quite mellow; there are a bit of last minute prepping before guests arrive, so I begin that around 6 PM, having taken the dough out of the frigo at 5 PM, to form it into balls and let it return to room temperature. Oh, don't forget to put them in tins and put cling wrap and cloths over the top if you're making pizza dough from scratch.

    If you've spent any time in Italy, you know how terrible the cling wrap is. We're used to it, and there is a particular way to take it out of the container: open the top, pull out the entire width and only when you have enough length in your two hands do you cut it with scissors or fold the top back into the box and try to use the cutting edge. If this kind of thing gets you angry, Italy is probably not the place for you. We do our best to shrug off these things and even laugh. Come no? It's no wonder we call our place here lavventura (the adventure).

    TV tells us that Qadhafi is about at the end of his rule, and as his largest trading partner, Italy is glued to the TV. What's next, we wonder. It will take time, we are all sure.

    Guests arrive early, and we're happy about that. After glasses ofprosecco we move to a prova of pizza bianca and it's fine, so we move to our five pizzas of the night:

  • zucchini, feta and mint;
  • caramelized onions, red peppers and buffala mozzarella;
  • boscaiola: sausage and mushrooms and buffala;
  • garlic sauce, zucchini flowers stuffed with buffala and anchovies, topped with a bit of parmesan;
  • gorgonzola and walnuts
  • Vincenza has brought a torta, and it's beautiful, so we're all full and happy. There's lots to talk about, and it's a mellow evening, so at midnight the two of us are stanca morta (dead tired); cleaning up and thankful to have such wonderful friends, even if Ivo and Nadia and Andrea are not here full time.

    Since Andrea was not happy with his expression on the painting I did of him with Andrea Perini a few years ago, I offer to change his expression, and he'll sit with me next week so that I can change it. It's important to have a subject feel good about how they look in a painting, I think.

    But then, I realize I'm all about loving my fellow man and keeping anger away from our door. I'm the same girl I was sixty or more years ago, spreading love and good will and hoping my neighbors would do the same.

    August 23
    Hot weather continues, and we sleep in a bit, then get up to find that there is no water pressure. Fa niente. (No matter.) Water pressure returns after prima colazione, so an almost cold shower feels great. With nothing on the calendar, we can do a lot of nothing.

    Rebels' comments in Libya could have been premature, although news outlets determine a transition will be in place soon. We're hoping for stability for the country, but quello che sarà, sarà (what will be, will be).

    August 24
    Other than picking up dear friend Don from the train station and taking him to his house in Tenaglie, we've nothing planned. It's so hot (mid nineties F) that it's better closeted inside the house.

    I realize after all these years that the French parrot tulips I love can be ours by purchasing the bulbs when we are in France. I'm blinded by the obvious! Can you imagine them blooming in the house in glass vases, atop stones, opening in late winter when outside things are mostly dreary? Comé no?

    I scan an image and Dino puts it on his "shopping in France" list. Beside me, Sofi continues to hide her head in her wicker bed, lying below a floor fan. She surely needs to have a lot of her hair stripped to make her more comfortable. We'll call Silvia to have her come by soon.

    There has clearly been a mix-up, for when we arrive at the train station in Alviano, Don is not there! Dino calls his phone and sends him two sms messages, but we're now thinking he's flying into Pisa and taking the train from there...tomorrow. That's why his phone is not on. We drive home and wait to hear...while double checking his email.

    Hot, hot weather continues, with us hiding inside for most of the day, taking a long nap and puttering around inside the house. I paint just a tiny bit to frame a curling edge of a leaf on the painting of grapes and set it aside to dry. I'd like to return to Nicole's silk scarf to add more gutta and paint, so might as well bring out the big worktable again. It's too hot to spend time in the garden; so hot that Dino now rises very early in the morning to water these days...even in the evening it's not comfortable when temperatures are this high.

    I do a search for drought tolerant ground covers; the clover we planted is not hearty enough. I also make up a chart for them. When we are in France we will visit a few nurseries and see what we can learn about European drought conditions. There is always so much to learn, and it's important that we find things to plant here that don't take a lot of care but look good. Comé no?

    Off and on, I finished the Kierkegaard book, Fear and Trembling, with many references to Hegel, Kant and others, and it has me wanting to read more. So I walk down to the kitchen, and while Dino watches various programs on TV, I read the book, Tartine Bread, which is a must have if you love good bread and want to know how to make it yourself in your own oven. The bakery is in San Francisco, but the author interned in France as well as for famous bakers in the U.S.

    Dino waters a bit tonight, but although there is some wind, it is just too hot to do anything outside. I suppose that's just me. I am kind of a hermit, although love people and being around them. I just love our house and little piece of land more...

    August 25
    Dino takes Giallina to Viterbo for service, while I attempt to return to painting Nicole's silk scarf. First are a few final touches on the painting of grapes. I'd like to varnish it before we leave, but that won't be possible, as a painting takes months to dry completely before adding varnish. If by some chance we do not leave it at the winery, I'll varnish it when we return home. It's a sweet painting, nonetheless.

    Gutta is a kind of dissolving glue that keeps one color from bleeding into another on silk fabric. After remounting the material onto a moveable stretcher frame, I apply guttaaround the areas where I will paint next.

    I've done this once before; hence the blank lines and areas remaining from the first pass at the fabric. Originally, the colors were outlined, but inside the painted areas, clear lines formed where the gutta was drawn. No, nothing bled; that's the good news. The other news is that I have to apply the gutta again to outline the blank areas so that I can paint them, thereby filling in all the spaces.

    I'm also wondering if I'll paint a sky blue background. That depends upon how the rest of the design looks first. Little Nicole loves owls, and there are three of them here looking out at her. I'm finding this a very interesting craft, and applying special paint to silk fabric yet another way to paint figures and trees.

    The very hot weather continues, and I stay inside all day. Tonight I want to return to painting, but without a lot of light, it's not a good idea. A domani (until tomorrow).

    August 26
    Tonight will be the first time I can wear my hand painted dress, and am wondering if I will wear it, or a black one. We'll attend an event at an elegant castle in Umbria, so have not decided if it's the right time. Since the front overlay is white, it's about the last time this year I can properly wear it. We'll see.

    Good friend Don arrived finally a couple of days ago, taking a train to Orvieto and then a bus to Tenaglie. He forgot to turn on his phone so that we could connect with him! We'll see him soon, anyway, silly guy.

    If you have to wonder why we chose to leave the United States and live quietly far away in a tiny Italian village, look up today's New York Times Op-Ed by Cornel West: "Dr. King Weeps From His Grave". It's worth reading all the way through and thinking about it. I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts. Thanks.

    In my latest favorite book, Tartine Bread, I read the difference between French Brioche and Croissants. Interested?

    In my quest to understand why the breads in France are so wonderful, I now know that brioche contains butter (45% of the total weight of the flour(!) and eggs in it and a tiny bit of sugar.

    Croissants have a bit of sugar, and milk instead of water in the initial mix with the flour. "The butter is enveloped in the dough after the dough is mixed, using a lamination process that creates alternating layers of dough and butter...it results in the crisp, light, multilayered texture you expect in the classic croissant." Yum.

    Tonight's mode is for casual dress, although the setting is "Castello di Sismano" in Umbria, so the yellow dress will have to be put away until next year. I will try to find a way to wear those wonderful white leather flowered sandals anyway...also for the last possible time this season. It would be totally brutta figura (bad taste; to make a bad impression) to wear white after Labor Day in the U.S. In Italy, I'll have to ask what is de rigueur. The term translates to what is required , although it also means: essential, requisite, necessary, needed, mandatory, indispensable and also optional!

    How have I always thought the term translated? In my feeble brain, it was as if one did not want to stand out in a bad way, that person would follow the trend as it was stated...

    So what's de rigueur dress for tonight? It's "summer party casual", so look for my white French sandals, made of leather with lovely white leather flowers across the top of the instep fashioned in the shape of gardenias...They're possibly my favorite shoes ever!

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

    Paul and Marie and the girls drop off a brioche, so my latest understanding of the difference between the different types of French breads is timely. We slice a few pieces of it for toast; well, we grill the bread on top of a scored iron square made for that. Except for the slices not wanting to stay entirely in place, the taste is really wonderful. Yes, we want the recipe and yes, we'll make brioche this fall.

    Is there a taste more wonderful on toast than lemon honey? It's a shame the variety is not widely distributed. Oh. I forgot. We're not in the U.S. just now. It's probably available within a five-minute drive of wherever you live if you are in the U.S.

    Dino takes a quick nap, for he's due to meet with a plumber in Tenaglie at 4PM. I finish painting the blue background on Nicole's scarf, trying to paint in clouds here and there. I'm imagining I can continue to work on it even after I secure the paint on the fabric this time. We'll see.

    Thinking I'll paint this one in layers, I paint more using black paint in the eyes and beaks and hair here and there. When it dries, I'll do more. Time to do more research about painting in layers on silk. It's a bit difficult and time consuming, but so what?

    I love the blue sky background, but have no idea what the final color will look like. It's an interesting process, this teaching myself to do something entirely new. Would you believe I never have enough time? I thought all we'd have is time here. It's a good thing, because Dino gets grumpy when he's bored, so thankfully he's always busy.

    We're off to the castle! It's in Sismano, a tiny hamlet dwarfed by an enormous castle, built around 1200 for the Corsini family. This property has been in the hands of the Corsini family since it was constructed more than eight hundred years ago! We meet Marchesa Corsini, a lovely, vivacious and petite woman dressed in a striking red cocktail dress, who welcomes us a bit after we arrive, along with others, almost all from England and America.

    It's the tenth wedding anniversary for Matthew and Terri, and this Sunday will also be the christening for two of their three young children.

    Everything tonight is held under the stars, and we learn that Marchesa Corsini does live here. She is the last of the line of Corsinis, and although she has two sons, none of them are Corsinis. She must tell the story often, but we hear that the place has no heat, except for wood burning fireplaces. Can't remember how many hectares surround the castello, but there are many. I suppose she pays for the maintenance by renting out parts of the place for special events, of which this is one.

    We're honored that we know hardly any of the guests and are wondering why Matthew and Terri have included us, but are happy they have. When we return to their party on Sunday (we have chosen not to party with them tomorrow night), we'll learn more. It appears we are the only two couples still here from our stranieri group begun around the time we moved to Italy. Countless others found themselves sick of the bureaucracy, the attitudes of the people who care more about the way one feels that what one does. We tend to agree with them...but we are staying!!!

    Our host and hostess tonight are quite charming and gracious. We find ourselves at table "A", along with Matthew's parents and the minister who will officiate at Sunday's ceremonies. How special we feel!

    So what's the difference between a cake and a biscuit? Well, in England things are not so jolly these days, with a company fined millions of pounds for not paying VAT (Value Added Tax of 20%) on biscuit sales. What? There is no VAT in England on cakes, but if you're selling or buying biscuits, that's another matter.

    We meet Anthony, a long time partner of Matthew's, at the party, who tells us about the scores of tax lawyers in court over this very subject. People laugh, but it's an expensive mistake if you declare it wrongly in what was Jolly Old England.

    We leave for home under moonlight and seem to sail home as if we are on a cloud. What a lovely evening and fun people! Thanks Matthew and Terri, ever so much, for wanting to include us.

    August 27
    We're off to Viterbo without dear Sofi, for we need a birth gift for little Aspen, Matthew and Terri's latest child, born in June and to be christened tomorrow. We find an outfit that is so adorable that I want to use the style for inspiration for designing and making more little girls' clothes.

    We're back at home after stopping at KLIMT for more silk paint, and this afternoon I'll paint more. But this morning on the way out of the parcheggio, we see Maria Elina with her sister, Linda, dear Olaf and Linda's husband, Bjorn, walking toward us. How wonderful!

    We all decide to attend the Guardea Cinghiale (gnocchi with wild boar) Sagra tonight, and Dino makes reservations to include Kari and Lief and also Don, after checking in with them. All guests except Don are Norwegian, and none of them know each other...yet. Dino reserves a table, and it will surely be fun!

    Weather tells us it's not as hot tonight as it has been, although you could fool me with that info. While the U.S. battens down for Hurricane Irene, we're hiding inside this afternoon from the heat.

    After a long, delicious nap, Dino drives to Bomarzo to take a final photo or two of a special property we're getting ready to put on the site, and I return to painting. This time, it's white paint on the owls. After the paint dries, probably tomorrow morning, I'll iron and hand wash the silk and hang it up to dry, to see how the colors sit. Only then will I apply yet again more guttaand paint more colors.

    I so love having Sofi by my side. Now as I catch up with you, she's in her wicker bed, snout down as if she's nervously waiting for us to put her in her cage and leave her for a bit. If only noise would not bother her and she could sit quietly by my side, we'd take her to the sagra with us. At least for now she's listening to classical music and we're both enjoying that.

    Tonight's sagra is so much fun, with nine of us gathered around a table eating varieties of cinghiale (wild boar) and for quasi vegetariano Don, lots of fagioli (beans smothered in oil) and bruschetta and choices of beer and vino all around.

    The Norwegians laugh at me at my newly invented phrase, snorgen orgen snorgen (no translation!) of whatever they are saying to each other, as well as ayuuupp! as my word for yes. Come no? We have no idea what they're saying, so use these newly coined words of mine to dispel them from talking about us in their native tongue while we sit with them. It keeps them laughing, and of course we join in. It's lots of fun.

    Now these Norwegians are all friends, and although located about four hours from each other at home, Kari and May Elin will hopefully strike up a friendship.

    I have the strangest dream, in which I am made President of an organization of adults, only to find that I am too lenient with them, letting them voice their opinions without guiding them one way or another. The result is a disorganized mess, in which all but the most senior man walks out on me.

    He and I are left seated alone together on one side of a table, facing the door. He is older than I, acting a bit like a guiding hand as he tells me that although I failed miserably as a president, everyone loved me for my attention to them and my concern for their happiness.

    I suppose that's the real me. Dreams are funny, and somewhat perceptive, I suppose. Although I grew up through the ranks of management during my working years, I had no love for it, only a sincere concern for the dreams of our workers, and an ever-prevalent guiding hand toward the fulfillment of their dreams. I suppose that means I was not cut out for the work; I was a dreamer to think the bottom line of a company could take second fiddle to the dreams of the workers.

    August 28
    Happy birthday, dearest Nana in heaven! You'd be 113 today! I send you sweet kisses and know you are smiling down at me as I write these words.

    It's hot as we walk up to church, and there are six of us in the Coro with dear Don Angelo, who is a different kind of a priest, and an excellent one, I am sure. He guides us with his words, relating to us all at the beginning of the mass, asking us to sit as he explains what is really there when we look into the mirror.

    Later, in his homily, he continues to speak about how we see ourselves in the mirror, and I am understand a bit more of what he tells us each week. Thank you, dear Don Angelo, for your words and guidance.

    There are Lore and Alberto to greet outside the church, and a meeting between Enzo and Dino about festaroli collections while part time residents are still here. Earlier, Vincenza invited us to join them at an annual fish cena at a restaurant overlooking Lake Bolsena in a few days. We'll be like their extended family, and we're so pleased she asked. That will be fun! Si, certo!

    At home for a few hours, there is laundry to hang and I work with the owl fabric, ironing and then washing it by hand in warm water. I'm not sure, but will try it, ironing it between sheets of white cotton and then hand swishing it in the bathroom sink to remove the gutta. Although I read about steaming it, that's not practical. Let's see if this works. Miracles of miracles; it does!

    At about noon, we leave Sofi for Matthew and Terri's party in Umbria at one of the new houses in his development of upscale properties for sale. There's a barbecue and of course water sports for the children in the pool, and in mid afternoon, a baptism of the two younger children.

    It's all quite lovely and friendly. The food is decidedly downscale and the atmosphere casual. When we leave soon after the baptism of the two little ones, dessert has not been served, but we're ready to return home.

    Happily at home, I take out Nicole's scarf and prepare to re-stretch it and add more gutta. Once it's dry, I'll add what I hope will be a final coat of paint.

    What's next for me? Well, before moving on to design a plaid fabric for the girls, I want to sit with Maria Elina and design and paint something for her to wear. She is a very dear friend and I'd like her to have it. I'll finish it and send it to her in Norway for her birthday in November. If she'll sit with me here for a bit, we'll design it this week, and that makes me very happy.

    Sofi's been fed and lies blissfully by my side as I return to work on the silk scarf for Nicole. I'm hoping I'm getting the knack for how to work with silk, and think I'll enjoy working with it, even though the process is a bit complex.

    The rest of the evening is mellow, and that's fine with us! On the highways, cars are beginning their long treks home. It's a good thing we drove home early.

    August 29
    Dino leaves early for a meeting and work in Tenaglie, and Sofi and I are at home alone. Outside, neighbors call out to each other; their voices are loud but no matter. Marie always seems to be hanging out laundry in the morning, and when Luigina walks down Via Mameli below us to feed her chickens, they share comments about the day.

    Before returning to paint, Sofi and I meander through the middle garden. Sun and hot temperatures have taken their toll, and I am seeing the property in a new light. The place is maturing, and it's time to think about making the space less troublesome.

    I envision moving many of the roses to one area, even if they will grow in pots. The three newest rampicanti roses growing along the far fence should come out. They're difficult to manage and have not flowered successfully.

    Wisteria seems to want to reach the far fence from a vigorous plant above the large stone table, and why not? Let it have its way. Lavender and santolina and other greyish plants seem to thrive here, so among pale gravel we'll keep those, perhaps even add a few. We spend so little time there in the hottest months that it will still look good and take little care.

    Plumbago plants along the front fence will remain, bringing flowers all summer and fall until the first frost. Of course they will remain: they are blue! If you've been here, you'll know I love the color.

    The giant fig tree, although cut back substantially last winter, has plenty of fruit, although it's not ripe. It is a pain to deal with all the fruit that falls and the bees that swarm around them, but is it worth removing? The fruit that we do pick is really wonderful, even eaten right off the tree. We'll see what Dino thinks.

    Since it's very warm, we return to the studio to catch up with you and to paint until Dino returns for pranzo. Sofi lies contentedly in her little bed nearby, just waiting. In a while, I'll begin to hear her little snores and know she is content.

    As the afternoon turns into evening, I feel my neck sweat, and it's not that hot. A headache looms, and I'm feeling weary. With guests coming for a visit in the morning, better make a coffee cake tonight. Inspired by a couple of recipes on the site, I use both and Dino wants to try it warm. He likes it; I find it a bit dry. We'll heat it in the morning a bit. If you make either of the coffee cakes on the site, add more yoghourt or sour cream. Thanks.

    August 30
    Lief and Kari arrive for a lovely visit. It's too hot outside to eat under the wisteria even mid morning, but it's cool in the kitchen, especially with the small air conditioning unit that Lief recommended to us last year. Thanks, dear Lief!

    Sofi is happy to meet them, but seems frightened of Lief. I admit he's a very large man - can't find the photo, sorry.

    We want to talk about Norway and the Norwegian people and to find out more about how they were affected by the terrible shooting there earlier this summer. Yes, Norwegians are a strong and kind lot. That won't change.

    After they leave, I make a pasta sauce and enough pasta so that we can have it cold as a salad tomorrow for pranzo. This afternoon we pick up Stein and Helga at the Orte train station, and it will be so good to see them back here.

    Stein lacks his usual pep, but otherwise is the same kind and wonderful friend we've missed. Helga will be here until the middle of October, so he'll be well taken care of. We look forward to many days and evenings together. Sofi is over the moon, she loves them so, riding between them in the back of the car.

    Speaking of the car, the Jet Pack on top of the car is a wonder. I had no idea how much luggage can be fit inside. That's the good news. The bad news is that we were driving home as if we were on roller skates...all the weight sat on the top. So for trips, Dino wants to be sure that only light things are stored in it. Va bene.

    There's good news in that the hooks Dino purchased to hold the pack on a wall of the parcheggiowhen we're not using it are fine. With a few adjustments, we can lift it easily off the car.

    Sofi is more needy these days, and I'm not sure how to deal with that. Dino wants her to take tranquilizers, but I hope he's kidding. We will go to the vet if we have to, but she does not like to be away from me. We were hoping she'd become more mellow. No matter. We will find an answer. If you have any suggestions, do let us know. Thanks.

    We leave at 6PM in a kind of caravan of cars from Mugnano, to a fish dinner outside Montefiascone, looking over Lake Bolsena, with Augusto driving and Dino sitting in the back seat with me; he is not used to not being in the drivers seat...

    It's a great evening, but unfortunately I get carried away with too much white wine and try to show Giancarlo how to stand like John Travolta. He's quite a showman and really tries, but tells me he's had a hernia operation and can't really move his hips. Probably even John Travolta would have trouble reenacting his Saturday Night Fever stance these days.

    I don't know what got into me, but am not happy seeing the photos and that's the last time I'll get carried away like that. Sorry, dear neighbors. Hope you had fun, too. Here are some pictures of the evening:

    August 31
    Dino leaves early for appointments. Sofi meanders by my side as I pick all the small tomatoes that have ripened on the little orto beside the summer kitchen. I'm going to roast them on a low temperature all day with olive oil, garlic cloves, fresh rosemary and salt and pepper. Perhaps I can make something marvelous with them. It takes me almost all morning, but most of them are in the oven, with a few pans remaining to be roasted that won't fit.

    I wash Nicole's scarf to take off all the gutta after ironing it in between cotton cloths, and her name disappeared, so I repaint it later today after it dries, along with trying to fix a few other imperfections. The special blue paint from Terni is a different color than that from KLIMT in Viterbo, so we'll need to return there one of these days to finish any painting of the blue background on the silk fabric.

    Now I need to make something really special for Marissa. Perhaps fish scales embroidered on a silk scarf? Wouldn't that be wild! I'll be thinking...

    The pomodori roasted for several hours, and that's enough time to caramelize them. They're quite good popped in one's mouth just as they are, and earlier used the first batch mixed with the leftover pasta, the last bit of buffala mozzarella and a bit of grated cheese on top of the stove in a covered padella (frying pan) for pranzo. We've filled four jars with them and plan to use them in the next two weeks. They'll keep that long in the frigo and yes, they are really tasty.

    We missed putting up tomatoes for winter use this month, but hope to next week. We have done this each year since 2002 when we moved, so hope we'll do it again. Stay tuned.

    Summer 2011 is in the past as witnessed by this photo of sunflowers waiting to be cut and milled into Sunflower Oil! The farmers wait to cut them until the hot Italian sun has taken all of the water out of them, leaving the precious oil.

    Since it's the last day of the month, I hope you've enjoyed reading about life here and seeing the photos. We're looking forward to the weather changing a bit and to the smell of fall in the air. Aren't you?

    September 1
    It's as if a shade has been pulled down from the sky...As soon as we wake we feel a change in the air. It's a bit cooler; the light seeming a bit lower in the sky.

    Giuseppe (Peppi) arrives around 10 A.M. for a visit, and expresses the same feeling this morning about the color of the light and the temperatures. It's so good to see him again.

    We have a wonderful visit, but as he leaves he asks me if we are all right. He's a bit worried that something is wrong. Wrong? We're so mellow and relaxed that we don't have a care in the world. Yes, we're truly happy here, but then you know all that.

    After a bit more painting and work on the photos for the site, we're posting for the second half of August; that is, after an evening under the stars in Orvieto with Peppi and Frank and Don and a couple of friends of Frank's. Oh...and Sofi, who we can't hear because the live music is playing. Va bene.

    I love sitting at the end of the table with Peppi, who is so very wonderful to be around. Bravo dear Peppi, for driving by yourself at night. It's not so difficult after all, is it?

    Although the pizza is not very good, I love hearing the jazz music and picking out each piece after only a few notes. It's a game I played as a child, and still do. I especially love the old jazz standards.

    September 2
    We drive to Terni to pick up the paint I like the best to use on silk and related fabric. Perhaps we'll use a mixture of silk and other fibers to paint the plaid, as I'd like to purchase several meters of it. We'll do that the next time we're in Viterbo. That should be tomorrow or so...

    We stop first at Marcelloni, the big fabric store, where we're successful picking up a lot of material to use for the grand daughters at very good prices. The salesperson, Tamara, remembers me, and although she does not speak English, helps a great deal.

    I love the fabric, including one silk one in a rose pink that we will not have to paint pink before painting on the blue stripes to make the plaid. Dino will help me with this, as he's great at logistics and it's all straight lines.

    At the hardware store that Marco owns, we pick up more blue paint, and a canvas on which I'll paint Cesar holding the sunflowers in his backpack as he walks by our house up Via Mameli to take them to his mother. One day there will be a Mugnano exhibition that Dino calls "Yesterday, today and tomorrow" with people representing the past, present and future of the village.

    Oh, there is so much for me to do and I love every bit of it. Dino has lots of small projects to work on, and that makes him happy, too. He's quite a bit like his father, Leo, in that respect. Hi, dear Leo, up in heaven. I can hear you chuckle.

    There is an email from the U.S. Embassy regarding taxes for stranieri and it's a bit strange. There's a period in which the Italian government will not penalize us for past possible taxes due, but it's quite complicated, and of course we're stressed, but will figure it out. We've been told by our commercialista that we don't owe any, so is there a new wrinkle?

    While Dino tries to figure the possible tax situation, I return to the studio after pranzo. What will I do next? I'd like to fix Andrea's eyes, so we take the canvas down and I'd paint over them in white paint to at least block them out and begin again. We'll take a few photos, and match the original photo that the painting came from first. It should not take more than a sitting or so to figure it out. Speriamo.

    We've since viewed the photograph as well as the painting and the image is correct after all. Perhaps it's Andrea's expression he does not like; the boys were facing a bit of sun when they posed. We'll show him the two and see what he thinks before making any changes.

    It's another hot day, and I lie the pink fabric down and attach it to the wooden frame. There is plenty of fabric, so this process to make a plaid out of it will take some time, and I'll need Dino's help, since it's a geometrical design. What I also realize is that each color needs to be at least as dark as the pink below it. Va bene.

    I'm going to paint Cesar on the new canvas, and have arranged take a morning art lesson when we're in Languedoc regarding techniques. So I'll need to begin to paint the canvas. It will fit in the JetBag on top of the car, after Dino makes a kind of wooden case for it, to protect it while the paint is not quite dry. What a guy!

    September 3
    It's the worst day of the year to drive to Viterbo, but that is just what we do this morning, as we need to have a blowup of the photograph of Cesar for me to paint the image. Santa Rosa is Viterbo's patron saint, and the Macchina di Santa Rosa occurs tonight after dark, when she is transferred from one church to another, in a fabulously tall candle lit statue atop 100 facchini (men dressed all in white with red head scarfs) who transport her from one location to the next.


    No, grazie. Having witnessed the event once in a lifetime is enough for us, although witnessing the movement of the actual statue by the 100 men was enormously touching. I was going to say "moving" but "its moving was moving?" What's that all about?

    As if that were not enough, both shops that are capable of blowing up the image are closed. Oh. It's Viterbo's annual holiday today in honor of Santa Rosa, the city's patron saint. We return home and after pranzo, while Dino takes a nap, I design the Diner family plaid. When he rises, he'll map out the design for me in 8" repeats so that I can work it out on the fabric. I like it a lot, and think the family will, too. What do you think, Sofi? (Ha ha.)

    Since I can't paint Cesar yet, and want to have a fair amount of him already painted at an advanced stage before we leave for Languedoc, this is the next best thing to do. Or should I rework the painting of grapes before we travel to the winery that inspired it? No, I am not on drugs, although my mind is always full of ideas. Want to see what the plaid looks like? Here it is:

    It's not primarily a sissy pink, for there is plenty of black. The dark blue overlay I think will come out purple over the pink silk. We'll see. That's my intent. The girls love pink and Angie and the girls all love purple. Terence loves black and he is crazy about his girls, so think that's a good mix. We'll see what Dino has to say about it...

    He's more interested in laying out the design than debating with me about colors; so far so good!

    Oh. Oh. I feel like a deflated pincushion. The gutta won't come out of the tiny plastic applicator in a thin enough line, even though the opening is tiny. It's also impossible to make a thin straight line. Since I'm making a plaid, if I can't paint a straight line, I can't make a plaid. Sigh.

    I've designed a really nice plaid, but think I'll wind up ruining the silk fabric if I continue. A straight rule won't work, for the gutta will seep down under it. So if I can't make a plaid, what can I do? Oh. I know. I can make a flower or some other design that is not angular and use a stencil to draw and redraw it at certain intervals all over the pink silk fabric. Or I can draw a design freehand using gutta if I map out the coordinates in advance.

    September 4
    We're expecting lots of clouds today and showers tomorrow. Otherwise, the next week or so should be clear. Just a little bit of rain drops down before we leave for church, and afterward it's clear but humid when we drive to Il Pallone for groceries and a caffé. Artusi's salsiccia e uva (sausage and grapes) is what we eat for pranzo, and you can find the simple recipe on the site. What takes the time is splitting the grapes and taking the seeds out. No matter.


    I have decided upon a symbol for the painted silk. It's the symbol for eternity, twice together, to represent my eternal love for these two girls, who are twins. There's a tail for each one, so it looks a bit like a flower or a bow with two bits of ribbon descending.

    Putting the design at three inch intervals, I am able to draw the lines in with gutta for 72 of them inside the wooden frame for the first quadrant. After the gutta dries, I will use blue paint, which could turn the inside of each one lavender! Once the paint dries, I will iron the fabric inside two layers of white cotton, then soak it in warm water to remove the gutta. Once the fabric dries, I'll see what worked; what didn't work. Then I can move on.

    In the meantime, Dino thinks my painting of grapes does not show enough delineation, so I'll rework that. We can't get an enlargement of Cesar's painting until stores reopen tomorrow in Viterbo, so that will have to wait. This room is truly a studio these days, with several projects to work on at once. I love that.

    I think the grapes on that painting could be darker, so perhaps that will help to delineate one grape from another. I thought the problem was with the leaves, but Dino thinks otherwise. Since the day is overcast and cloudy, it's a good day to stay inside and play around.

    I've drawn and painted in 72 figures on the section of pink fabric and while it's drying for a day, I'm wondering how to gather material evenly and do it right, not sure that I'll gather this fabric, but I'm not sure. I research a bit on the internet, but have an idea. What if I take a piece of simple cotton string and pin it under each pin that I place across the fabric? Won't that make an even gather, since there are pins where I want to stitch eventually and I'll just pull the string? It's just a thought, and I'll try it. Why not?

    Dino and I talk about the painting of grapes, and yes, I'll paint it some more, perhaps tomorrow morning. We're not sure when Stefano will show up, but when he does he wants to put up the ceramic tiles in the summer kitchen that I painted last year. If so, I'll have to lay them out just as they should be put on the wall. That will take three tables or so, and everything else will stop until I have it mapped out. Even if Dino speaks with him in the morning, he'll not show up until the afternoon. I am sure of that.

    I don't like painting in the studio during late afternoon because of the natural light (the window I work near faces East); the other South. It's time to hang out and feed Sofi. Just as well. Hope you're having a fun weekend.

    Oh. There's hell to pay if you listen to Silvio Berlusconi, and whether or not he's holding up my citizenship because I share news stories about him, here's his latest silliness:

    Berlusconi under attack for demeaning Italy
    'I am staying to change the country', says PM
    (ANSA) - Rome, September 2 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi's description of Italy as a "s**t country" provoked a furious reaction from his political opponents on Friday.

    According to a telephone conversation recorded by Naples prosecutors in July, Berlusconi was disgusted by the way he was treated in Italy and threatened to leave.

    "In a few months I am leaving, I am leaving this s**t country which makes me sick, that's it, enough," Berlusconi said in a conversation allegedly recorded on July 13.

    Berlusconi late Thursday backed away from his taped comments saying he was not going anywhere.

    "I am here to change the country", he said, but that did not satisfy his rivals.

    "Evidently when he (Berlusconi) was looking at himself in the mirror, he was describing himself," said Antonio Di Pietro, leader of the center-left Italy of Values party, referring to the comment.

    "Having a prime minister who values his own country in such a mean-spirited way is like living in the Third World," Di Pietro said on Friday.

    Luigi Zanda, vice-president of Senators from the opposition Democratic Party, told the Italian daily, La Repubblica, that "it is the Italians who are sick of him". The prime minister was recorded speaking to Valter Lavitola, one of three people under investigation by Naples prosecutors for the extortion of Berlusconi over his alleged use of prostitutes.

    "Escorts, escort providers, organizing parties are activities that no democracy in the world would tolerate in a premier," Zanda said. "We have an international image as a country governed by a clown". On Thursday Italian police arrested Bari businessman Giampaolo Tarantini and his wife Angela Devenuto in Rome for alleged extortion of the prime minister. Berlusconi is alleged to have paid Tarantini more than 500,000 euros and Tarantini has previously admitted paying women to attend parties and spend the night at Berlusconi's official residence in Rome.

    Speaking in Paris after meeting European leaders to consider the future of Libya, Berlusconi dismissed the Naples investigation as "pure fantasy".

    "I gave a hand to a family with children and I do it as it happens with a number of people," Berlusconi said. "I do it because I can".

    The head of the UDC party, Pier Ferdinando Casini, expressed concern about the telephone taps and the fact that they had been widely leaked to daily newspapers.

    "The content of the intercepts is disturbing but a liberal democracy has laws that cannot be bent to suit the logic of convenience," Casini said. "It is uncivilized for the prime minister's telephone calls to be bandied about to all the newspapers in Italy. This is a symptom of a sick system that everyone pretends not to see".

    Meanwhile, prosecutors from the city of Lecce in the southern region of Puglia have begun an investigation into magistrates in the city of Bari, where Tarantini was sentenced to two years and two months jail after being found guilty of cocaine trafficking in June.

    Tarantini was also arrested for allegedly supplying women and drugs to center-left authorities in the southern region of Puglia in a sex-for-favors case in the health system.

    > ANSA English > News
    Italian helps find planet that could sustain life -
    HD 85512 B may have water given its position
    ANSA - 02 September, 17:22
    - A team that includes an Italian astronomer has found a new planet that may have water on its surface and be able to sustain life.

    ''It looks big compared to planets in our solar system, but it's small for a gaseous planet,'' said Italian scientist Francesco Pepe, who is part of the team that discovered the planet, named HD 85512 B.

    ''This leads us to believe that it may be rocky, like the Earth. ''We still don't know if it has an atmosphere, or an ocean, but its distance from its star, and therefore its surface temperature, makes it compatible with the presence of water''. Pepe is part of a University of Geneva team led by Swiss astronomer Stephane Udry. The extrasolar planet is three and a half times as big as Earth.

    It orbits the star HD 85512 approximately 36 light-years away, in the southern hemisphere constellation of Vela, whose Latin name means a ship's sail.

    HD 85512 B is four times closer to its parent star than we are to the sun, so a year there only lasts as long as 54 Earth days. But because its star is smaller and about half as warm as the sun, the planet might have a reasonably temperate climate. ''If HD 85512 B has more than 50% cloud cover, it could be habitable,'' the scientists told Astronomy and Astrophysics magazine, noting that the estimated surface temperature is similar to temperatures in the South of France.

    They used the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, a high-precision spectrograph installed on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile, to find the newcomer.

    It is one of the smallest exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, to be discovered in a habitable zone.

    In astronomy, the habitable zone is the distance from a star at which a planet can maintain water on its surface, and consequently be capable of bearing life.

    Clooney says campaign flick 'not political' -
    Ides of March makes world premiere at Venice Film Festival

    (ANSA) - Venice, August 31 - George Clooney's Ides of March goes beyond politics to explore morality, said the Hollywood heartthrob before the film's world premiere at the Venice Film Festival Wednesday.

    "I never thought of it as a political film," said Clooney following a press screening. "I think that you could literally put this in Wall Street, or you could pretty much put this anywhere, and it's all the same sort of issues. It's issues of morality, issues of whether or not you're willing to trade your soul for an outcome." The Ides of March, which Clooney co-wrote, directed and acted in, is the story of an aid to a Democratic presidential candidate who learns how expendable ideals can be during an election.

    The film, Clooney's fourth as a director, opens the 11-day cinema showcase, making for a star-studded red carpet in the lagoon city.

    Marisa Tomei, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood also star in the movie.

    Clooney called The Ides of March a personal film.

    "Many of the films I do are very personal," he said as he playfully referred to his 2001 movie Ocean's Eleven. "I spent years in Vegas studying to play Danny Ocean - literally years drinking and gambling".

    Meanwhile back at the ranch...

    Recently there was some discussion between a mule and a donkey, and it all became a bit confusing. Let's see if I can explain:

    A mule is a mulo, but a pianella is a slipper that is often referred to as a mule. But getting back to the point, a donkey is referred to as a somaro or an asino. Since a mule is a cross between a horse and a donkey.

    Emanuela writes to educate me a bit:

    It is correct to say "stanca morta" (feminine, singular) if you refer to yourself, Evanne, but if the two of you (Roy and Evanne) are very tired, you should say "stanchi morti" (pron.: stanki morti). IF we, Evanne and Emanuela, were tired, it would be "stanche morte" (feminine, plural).

    Thanks, Emanuela; there's always so much more to learn.

    Maria Elena and Olaf and Linda and Bjorn arrive to say goodbye. They leave tomorrow to return to Norway and are all pretty sad. They remind me of what we felt like after we purchased this property before we moved here and had to return to the U.S.

    They also present us with a very large package of Norwegian smoked salmon, and what a treat! We look forward to having some of it soon, and to freezing the rest to enjoy this winter. Thank you, dear friends. We'll miss you and look forward to your return.

    While they are back in Norway, I will paint a fabric for Maria Elena, as a gift because she is so dear. If they arrive for a weekend this winter, I'll quickly pin it on her and sew up something with it, or she can take it back to Norway. No matter that time fled while they were here and there was no dinner, no cooking lesson for the girls, nor a design of the fabric. They all had a marvelous time.

    This morning, while Dino makes the rounds of the ufficio postale(post office) to send a birthday card to niece Sarah and stops in Guardea, Montecchio and Tenaglie, he's going to include picking up what he needs to finish making the box for the painting that will go inside the Jetbag when we drive to France for our fall trip. That means that the painting does not have to be dry for us to transport it.

    I'm looking forward to working with the master painter at the workshop I will attend for one or two mornings while we are in Languedoc. What's even better is that he speaks English, which will help me to understand any subtle variations that will enhance the painting of Cesar and his girasole (sunflowers). The older I become, the more I want to learn.

    Sure, Dad, I'm finally "getting it". I can hear your gravelly laugh, wafting down from heaven.

    Sofi, of course, sleeps contentedly in her little basket just now, which lies below the fan, while classical music gently plays. She and I really love being in this room. What began as a family Tartan has become a sweet repeated design for the grand daughters, a cross between a bow and a flower; I move the fabric down and once I finish this piece will move the fabric over. There are four quasi-quadrants of the fabric, and it will be used either over another colored heavier fabric or with a fodera (lining). There is enough fabric to do both.

    The gutta dries while I'm catching up with you, but it's time to feed Sofi and make potato salad, which Dino loves. I'll return to painting right after pranzo...speriamo.

    Before we leave for Viterbo, I've finished painting half of the material. I'll give it a day to dry before beginning the second half tomorrow. If we're in luck, I'll be able to do it all in the next two days. I'm risking that there will be some major problems by doing it all at once before ironing and washing it to take out the gutta, but think that's better than doing each quadrant separately. We'll see...

    But wait! I can open up the wooden stretcher to almost 1 meter in each direction; that means I can fit in around 60 more little designs! Since Dino wants to sleep another hour, I'll have it pinned and applied the gutta before he's even awake. What do you think, Sofi?

    September 6
    I totally forgot about Labor Day in the U.S. Perhaps that has something to do with living a tranquil life here in Italy. Hope everyone there had a great holiday weekend.

    When listening to news in the U.S. about yesterday, all I can say is, "Yikes!" People there seem to be an angry lot; but then, we were probably that way, too, when we lived there for almost all our lives. I can't imagine going back for anything other than a visit, but imagine that news on this trip will be all about politics.

    For a moment, I wonder how Sarah Palin would act if she actually won the Presidency of the U.S. Although I can't imagine voting for her, wonder what she would do to get things going, other than to find someone to make fun of. Could she really convince members of Congress to do her bidding?

    This morning skies are clear and weather continues to be warm. Dino leaves for Tenaglie and Montecchio for meetings and projects, while Sofi and I are in the studio. I've painted in more blue and moved the fabric to ready it for more gutta, but ponder whether I should set it aside to begin the Cesar project. I need to rest my eyes, so stop, remembering that life here is tranquil; if I will let it be!

    Perhaps I'll draw in Cesar and his flowers this afternoon, and set this aside for a bit. There's more urgency to begin the Cesar project and work on the grapes some more this month. I say urgency, but it's self-imposed.

    After a nap, I move the pink fabric frame to another room to dry and copy the Cesar and his girasole (sunflowers) onto the canvas. It is a detailed process, and after two hours I decide to rest my eyes for a bit. Afraid to move the canvas because the design may slip, I don't return to painting the fabric. We'll see how things develop tomorrow.

    In the meantime, with strikes all over Italy, I'm somewhat amused. The government must slash its budget, and the regular working people think that's fine, as long as they're not affected. What? About taxing the rich, the cronyism in the government that was responsible in many ways for making certain people rich over the years made those people angry that they might have to pay more taxes to do their part to help slash the budget. So of course the Parliament is against that. Could you imagine ordinary workers actually a part of Parliament here? I wish they were.

    ANSA English > News
    Cabinet to consider new tax on 'super rich'
    High-income earners to pay 3%, VAT increase
    ANSA) - Rome, September 6
    The Italian cabinet was meeting in Rome late Tuesday to consider a new tax on high income earners and other changes to the government's 45-billion-euro austerity package.

    A statement released by Premier Silvio Berlusconi's office confirmed the meeting, which would look at a 3% tax on those who earn more than 500,000 euros and raising the country's VAT by 1% to 21% in a bid to balance the budget by 2013.

    The cabinet was also expected to consider the measures which also include raising the retirement age of women in the private sector from 2014. Cabinet was to endorse a parliamentary confidence vote on the government's austerity package which could face a vote in the Senate on Wednesday

    There I go again. No wonder I'm still waiting for my Italian Citizenship. Here's another bit of news:

    Cops disguised as street vendors nab extortionists -
    Mafiosi caught red-handed, demand money from undercover officers
    ANSA) - Naples, September 6
    Disguised as street merchants, Naples police have nabbed three mafia men for demanding extortion fees from them and neighborhood vendors.

    Police arrested three members of the Camorra, the Naples mafia, after they charged a bribe payment known as a 'pizzo' from vendors at a suburban flea market, including undercover police officers who had opened their own clothing stand.

    Vincenzo Simonetti, 47, Gennaro Castaldi, 18, and Enea De Luca, 24, are accused of extortion and involvement in the Sarno clan, a Camorra group known for a mass shooting in eastern Naples in 1989 in which six people including four not involved in the Neapolitan mafia were killed and three including a little girl were wounded.

    One mln euros in 'Ndrangheta assets seized -Businessman 'acted as front for top Calabrian clan'

    (ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, September 6
    Italian police on Tuesday seized one million euros in assets from a Calabrian businessman suspected of acting as a front man for the Calabria-based mafia syndicate 'Ndrangheta.

    Two gold-trading companies, a villa and several bank accounts were among the assets seized from Luigi Gandolfo, 39, said to be linked to the powerful Longo clan.

    Italy is increasingly targeting mafia assets as a way of reducing its strength and has set up a national agency to manage confiscated assets in Reggio Calabria as a mark of its determination to curb 'Ndrangheta in its southern Italian base.

    Over the past year anti-mafia police have taken more than 200 million euros from 'Ndrangheta, Italy's richest mafia because of its domination of the European cocaine trade.

    So what do you think the government does with the money that is confiscated??? On a very sad note...

    Tenor Licitra 'brain dead' after crash -
    'New Pavarotti' spent 9 days in coma
    (ANSA) - Catania, September 5
    Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra has been pronounced brain dead after suffering massive head and chest injuries in an August 27 scooter crash in Sicily, hospital sources said Monday.

    Licitra, 43, was one of the greatest singers of his generation.

    In the short time since his debut in 1998, he had been called the new (Luciano) Pavarotti.

    Doctors at Catania Hospital said Monday afternoon brain scans on Licitra were showing no activity, nine days after he crashed his scooter into a wall near Ragusa without a helmet and went into a coma.

    His family authorised the donation of his organs and said his body will be laid out for public viewing at Catania's Vincenzo Bellini opera house. Licitra made a big splash with a last-minute substitution for Pavarotti at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2002.

    He had emerged as a rising star in the late 1990s although some critics contended he had not fulfilled his early promise. Licitra was born in Switzerland to Sicilian parents and grew up in Milan.

    On the terrace, Dino bangs away on a project. With shade from the glycine (wisteria) making the front of the house more comfortable, the cover also makes it difficult to see what he is doing from the studio above. I hope he's enjoying himself.

    September 7
    The two Stefanos arrive, and we quickly figure out how the tiles are to be laid on the walls of the summer kitchen. These are tiles I've hand painted, and have caused me countless frustration. Each time they were dipped, before they were painted, I thought the dipping was successful. But it was only after the tiles came out of the oven that I knew which ones had a proper background, and which did not. This caused us to buy more tiles, and not all of them were exactly the same on their edges, although they were all 10cm x 10cm.

    We were able to work out the misfires and they installed quite a bit of the back wall and one sidewall before the workers finished for the day. Tomorrow they'll return early, and I'm hoping will finish the back wall, which is behind the barbecue and stove and below the wide fan and light. Afterward, we'll need to clean the floor before the furniture is moved back into the room.

    This means that we have the two Stefanos for one day plus an hour or two. Still to be completed are the cemetery casas, the lining of the circulating fountain, the roof over the wisteria in front of the summer kitchen, and the entryway between our property and Pepe's. Who knows when all that will be finished?

    While handing Stefano the tiles, one by one, I imagine Terence and Angie and the girls here enjoying the place, after we are gone. Does that sound maudlin? I don't mean it to. I'd love to be able to share the place with them now, but it's very difficult for them to come here these days, although we know they'd love to.

    I look at the tiles and imagine Marissa and Nicole looking at the tiles and knowing they were painted with love and with thoughts of them on my mind when I painted them. Will they ever live here? We will never know. It is truly a dream to have them enjoy this little piece of joy as much as we do.

    Sofi and I return upstairs when the Stefanos leave and I finish painting the blue bows as far as I can tonight. Tomorrow morning I will affix gutta on the last quadrant and paint that; after a day to dry, I'll wash the gutta off and we'll see what kind of design remains. If all goes well, I'll be able to fashion an outfit for each of them to wear using it as fabric.

    Cesar awaits: his image has been drawn on the canvas, Dino has made a box for him, and if all goes as planned tomorrow, I'll begin the actual painting with oils. My intention is to do as much of his face and at least a few of the girasole (sunflowers) before we drive to Languedoc in a couple of weeks.

    Now it's time to relax and enjoy the late afternoon and early evening with Dino and Sofi.

    September 8
    Is it Thursday already? The two Stefanos arrive and finish the tiling, but it needs to have more stucco in between the tiles. That is work that is done after the tiles have begun to dry, I think. They're gone mid morning and it's possible at least the older Stefano will return tomorrow, if not the younger to finish the stucco.

    The next project is the walkway between our property and Pepe's garden, and we agree that the pavers will be peperino. Dino has worked out the grade and the steps, and it should not take a lot of time...or money!

    That means the cemetery project will happen before the roof is finished for the front terrace. We're told it will take another month for the roof extension project to be approved. It's almost more than I can fathom that the work will actually get done before we leave for the U.S. to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family in San Francisco. Let's not get ahead of ourselves...

    While the workers were here this morning and Dino was out, I joked with Sofi about Larry the Lucertole (lizard). I found her sitting by the copper pot, having chewed off the last remaining peony stalk!

    Unhappily, I pull the plant out of the pot and see a large lizard. She sees it, too, and goes after it, pulling off a leg. I holler at her and she drops it, so it drags itself under the row of boxwood plants at the front of the terrace. She's now on to other things. But I am very disappointed with her.

    The good news is that there are plenty of small buds that have formed recently at the top level of the plant, so the plant will do well if we take good care of it. The bad news is that I am not happy with Sofi, and she lies sadly in the summer kitchen by the screen door while I watch the tile work being finished. We make amends when Dino returns and all is well.

    The workers leave; will we see them tomorrow? We don't know. I've had a headache, probably brought on by doing more painting of the fabric in the studio, so I take a medicine cocktail and lie down for a bit. The painting of the fabric is done, speriamo (we hope), and tomorrow I'll soak it in warm water and hang it out to dry. Only then will we know if the painting was successful.

    Outside, while I'm weeding, sorella grande (big sister, Rosina) calls out to me: "Piccola!" (little one, little sister). I ask her how she is and she has a headache. We both do. She tells me it is caused by the change in weather, and each fall when the hot temperatures fall, it's the same for me.

    Before I nod off to dreamland, Dino returns, and he's returned earlier than I expected. There is a problem with a shower door in Tenaglie, and he finds someone to repair it. He should hear tonight if it's fixed. In the meantime, Mario has been weed-wacking here and finishes, and Stefano does, too. Mario leaves but the two Stefanos stay for caffé before cleaning up and leaving to see Annika. She has something for them to do. Will we see Stefano tomorrow? I have no idea.

    Either way, this afternoon I'd love to move on to begin painting Cesar's image with oil paints. I'm really looking forward to it. That does not happen. Instead it's a dolce fa niente (sweet nothing, aka a nap) in our darkened room, hoping to chase the headache away.

    While Dino was away earlier, I finished painting the pink fabric for the girls, and it is to dry at least overnight. I have no energy for more painting, so that will have to wait for another day.

    September 9
    Our geometra, Roberto, is giving us a bad time. He now tells Stefano that he needs to see photos of what the space between our main gate and Pepe's garden looks like now and what it would look like after Stefano finishes paving it. What? He's known about the space for months and agreed that it was dangerous to use to get to either of our properties, to Pepe's garden or to the other two owners who have doors to their cantinas there, facing the street.

    When Dino calls and asks him why he told us before that everything was fine, he responds, "It was!" That's another lesson to learn in this silly and wonderful country regarding bureaucracy. Things may be fine one day, not the next. A shouting match ensues, and Dino returns home to take photos, print them out and take them to the geometra.

    Have we lost Stefano? Today he's working at Annika and Torbjörn's, so at least we know where to find him.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I soak the fabric to take out the gutta, and of course it takes out some of the paint as well. I thought that would be the case, so after drying it a bit on a rack inside the cucina estate (summer kitchen), I return to the studio after pranzo to put it once again on the stretcher.

    Working over it bit by bit, I gingerly place more gutta where it is needed, let it dry, and then will apply more blue paint. But since I don't need to use the fabric right away, there is ironing to do and Cesar's painting and the painting of grapes to concentrate upon.

    All is well here. Dino calls to tell me he has purchased 38.5 pounds (17.5 kilos) of San Marzano pomodori to process. So I'm wondering...was there a saint named San Marzano? I don't believe so, but they're the best sauce making pomodori.

    Here is the origin of this kind of tomatoes, as well as a copycat angle, thanks to Wikipedia:

    San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomatoes, are considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world.

    We're told that the first seeds of the San Marzano tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples. The seeds were planted in the area that corresponds to the present commune of San Marzano, near Naples, Italy, and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

    Compared to the Roma tomatoes with which most people are familiar, Marzano tomatoes are thinner and more pointed in shape. The flesh is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is much stronger, sweeter and less acidic. The taste has been described as bittersweet, somewhat similar to high-quality chocolate. Because of their high quality and origins near Naples, San Marzano tomatoes have been designated as the only tomatoes that can be used for Vera Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza).

    The name denotes both a point of origin and a variety of tomato. Canned San Marzanos, when grown in the Valle del Sarno (valley of the Sarno) in Italy in compliance with Italian law, can be classified as Pomodoro S. Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese-Nocerino and have the EU "DOP" emblem on the label.

    Though commercial production of the San Marzano variety is most closely associated with Italy, seeds for the variety are available worldwide, often labeled as an heirloom variety, frequently imported from Italy, and sold at a premium over more common varieties. The San Marzano vines are indeterminate and have a somewhat longer season than other paste tomato varieties, making them more suitable for warmer climates.

    As is typical of heirloom plants, San Marzano is an open-pollinated variety that breeds true from generation to generation, making seed saving practical for the home gardener or farmer. Most San Marzano tomatoes sold commercially are grown in Italy, though they are produced commercially in smaller quantities in other countries.

    Because of San Marzano's premium pricing, there is an ongoing battle against fraudulent product. On November 22, 2010, the Italian Carabinieri confiscated 1,470 tons of canned tomatoes worth €1.2 million of improperly labeled product.

    So what did the Carabinieri do with the stash? I'm imagining a huge dinner a la Alberto Sordi , who is a very funny Italian comic, now deceased, who was featured in a scene of a movie that has become iconic as a representation of a young Roman who wants to be an American, eating pasta in his undershirt in his family kitchen. Rent An American In Rome if you can. It's hilarious.

    Dino readies the cucina estate for a marathon round of processing San Marzano tomatoes early this evening while I catch up with you and Sofi softly snores nearby. I like seeing the glass jars displayed on the sidewall of the room in an old wooden storage piece, as if we're real contadinos (farmers). Before we really had the knack of processing them, too much water showed in the jars, which was totally brutta figura (made a bad impression) whenever locals came by to see what we had done.

    These days we have a machine to squeeze out the seeds and water and we're proud to display them. We have about five jars left from last year, and that's not bad. I did not know if we'd make it through the year without buying them from the supermarket. We'll let you know how many we actually process, although we have lemon juice, salt and the jars and new tops standing by.

    About two hours later, we have twenty-eight jars full of pulp that have also been processed in boiling water. That's from 38 1/2 pounds (17.5 kilos). I don't know if that's good or bad. With five jars remaining from last year's processing, we'll probably be fine. At about 55 cents a kilo of pomodori, it's far cheaper to buy them this way and process them at the end of the season than to grow them. I do miss the wonderful heirloom tomatoes we were able to buy and to grow in California. Here we can only find the giganti (huge) variety to plant, but after several years of buying the seeds in California, bringing them back, growing them from seed inside the house until the end of April, etc. don't know if we want to do that in any quantity again. I'd love to be able to buy some plants already started next spring, but don't know of anyplace in Central Italy that sells them. That's another thing to research for another time, another year.

    The best news of all about this processing, which we did quietly without a lot of yakking and stressing and running around the room, is that there is some left that is not enough to put into a jar and we'll salute the process tonight with Bloody Marys, using the fresh tomato pulp and juice. Oh, how tasty that will be!

    While catching up with you, I see that the pink material is ready to paint the second round of blue figures, but the light is not good enough to see the gutta lines, so that will happen tomorrow. Oh. We're going to have an outing with Duccio and Giovanna, so perhaps that will happen on Sunday, unless I get up early.

    We've purchased bulbs from the Netherlands, including my favorite French Parrot Tulips, and will have a variety of things to plant this fall to bloom in the Spring and Summer. I'm hoping many of them can just stay in the ground and re-bloom year after year. Is that sensible? Am I sensible? Who knows?

    What we do know is that we won't have to scurry around in France this trip to find Parrot Tulip bulbs. Note that I don't call them French Parrot Tulips, for Dino would say, "In France, they just call them Parrot Tulips!"

    September 10
    Before we leave to pick up Duccio and Giovanna for an adventure in Perugia, I paint a bit more and the design is definitely fatto a mano (done by hand). I've been thinking of making a French inspired dress for Marissa with puffed sleeves at the shoulders and dark blue satin or velvet ribbon.

    What I will make for Nicole with it is still a mystery, perhaps to be unlocked when I have the material right in front of me. There is more of it to repaint and take off the gutta and perhaps apply it a third time. Since this is a gift of love, it does not matter how much time I put into it. I can imagine the girls dancing around their living room, raising their arms as if they are floating and feeling dreamy. What joy this brings me!

    Dino checks online, and my citizenship status still has not changed. I am quite frustrated by this, so will Duccio know anyone who can help? Is the holdup in the American Consulate? There does not seem to be a way to find out what the problem is, but I'll ask Dino to visit Ivo with me in the Comune next week to see what he can determine.

    After we pick up our good friends and drive to Perugia, they both want to help. Duccio knows no one in the Prefettura, but Giovanna knows an important avvocato (attorney) who she is sure would go to the Prefettura with us to see what he can find out. But we know the problem is in Rome, but what is the problem? Is the information slow coming from the U.S. about me? We decline her offer, and next week will see what we can do with Signor Ivo.

    The underground caves beneath the Perugia cattedrale are a marvel. I'll see if I can fashion a story about them for Italian Notebook. Stones are from the Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval Periods. The place is enormous. Even though we keep descending into what feels like the bowels of the earth - we keep coming upon windows to the street. The caves are the foundation of the cathedral and they follow the contours of the hill that Perugia is built upon.

    Before the tour, we visit a friend nearby and have a wonderful pranzo, with Sofi playing in the garden outside and looking for the cat, who smartly hides upstairs. The youngest daughter, nicknamed Mari, is studying neurology, and tells us all bodily functions emanate from the brain, and it is a fascinating study, albeit a long one.

    September 11
    I did not sleep that much last night, and this morning, feel a blanket of sadness gently settle over me. I will definitely use today as a day of reflection about what happened in the U.S. ten years ago today. In church, Don Daniele mentions it, and I thank him when he greets us as we all leave.

    Sofi has been on my mind, too, and she is such a dear doggie that I want to find a way to ease her anxiety. We call Angie Good in Rome, who is the very best animal sitter in Italy. Although we don't need to use her these days, she remains a friend, and tells us of a compresse (tablet) that we can give her a few hours before we plan to leave her alone. We don't even need a prescription for it, so tomorrow Dino will pick it up at the pharmacia. We don't have to take her to Viterbo to the vet now, before our trip.

    We drive to Tenaglie to take photos for renters who we won't be able to meet later this month, and Dino will send detailed instructions to them that include photos. From there we drive to Orvieto Scalo to shop, and leave Sofi in the shade to wait. We're soon home, and have pranzo so that Dino can watch his Formula-1 race afterward.

    Sofi and I move to the studio, where I begin Cesar's painting, and it is a strange and wonderful experience, in which I teach myself how to paint his dark skin color. It looks more brown than black with lighter reflections, so I'll use the painting class in Languedoc to get pointers to make his skin look more real. I admit the brown is really a rich color, but I don't want to turn it gray, so I'd rather wait than ruin it. Now I'll move on to his shirt and the girasole (sunflowers) reaching out of his backpack, and I can work on these by myself, at least for now.

    Dino watches the race, comes up to give me the results and takes a nap. A nap is not in the cards for me. Today I'm so content working on this painting. I need to be sure not to overdo it, though, so I stop every hour or so to catch up with you or do painting research on the internet.

    The television is on, and I listen and watch the ceremonies from the U.S. about September 11, 2001. It's quite moving and tastefully portrayed on CNN, where the sounds of the water flowing from four fountains are prominent in the background, as if there's a kind of white noise around the space.

    Back to painting, I'm experimenting with Cesar's skin color and with the sunflowers, using a layer of ultramarine blue paint on the flowers themselves as a base. Wish there were blue sunflowers, but alas, plumbago is the only real blue flower that grows all summer and is that beautiful. If you know of any others, let me know. Thanks.

    September 12
    Yesterday ended without any attacks on the U.S.. Perhaps that old mantra has changed. It is so sad that people want to kill other people. Taking a life is such a huge endeavor and so terrible for many people other than the person directly affected.

    I thought of that yesterday while the names of the dead at Ground Zero were read. I'm not sure that I understand the waterfalls, for they look vulnerable. I thought they were going to be towers of water rising up in the air. I do love the sound. That reminds me. I'm hoping Stefano and Dino will install the recirculating pump and lining in the fountain this next week. There's nothing like the sound of water running to put one to sleep at night.

    Speaking of sleeping, I called Angie Good earlier to see if she knew what we could give Sofi to get her to relax. She gave me the name of the perfect pill, Zylkene which she recommends that Sofi take an hour or two before we leave her alone or when we drive off for the day with her. She has no trouble sleeping at night, or during the day in the studio while I paint or sew nearby, and we don't need a prescription for it. We'll give it a try. It's so sad to see her anxious.

    Here's more about the pill:

    Zylkene is a revolutionary new product used to help cats and dogs cope with stress. It is a food supplement made from a protein found in milk (the same molecule that helps babies relax after a milk feed). The active ingredient is a peptide (a protein molecule) that is able to bind temporarily to certain receptors in the brain. This has a calming influence similar in some ways to tranquilizer drugs, but without the side effects associated such as sedation or memory loss. It has been clinically proven to be effective in dogs and cats.

    It can be used for the following situations: environmental changes - e.g. new pet, new baby or house move, cat households, kennel stays, fireworks, when home alone or travel.

    Since there are no side effects, it sounds like a wonderful answer for our dear Sofi. If you have a dog or cat that exhibits signs of extreme stress, look it up online. It's worth considering.

    I ask Dino to check on the figs, although he tells me that a few days ago they were still too hard on the tree. Since he's gone awhile, I am sure there are plenty to pick. He comes back with three, for the rest, other than those he ate right from the tree, are still too unripe to pick.

    Meanwhile in the studio, I continue to paint the basics on Cesar's painting, including a layer of ultramarine blue for the base of the sunflowers themselves. Painting the first layer of green for the leaves provide yet another perspective, and I so enjoy this work.

    Next week I'm hoping to gain skills for painting the subtle nuances of each color. Painting is all about light and shadow, and to make a painting look real, those nuances are important. Otherwise, objects and people look flat. I'm not bad at it, but could use more guidance.

    Sofi looks so dear in her little bed, lying on her back with her front lets up, the paws gently facing downward as she looks up at me, or is she looking into space, with what she looks at upside down? But what's that? She jumps up and scurries outside, for she smells or hears something. That's my girl, the cacciatrice (huntress); and luckily she returns with nothing in her mouth to show me.

    I stop painting the canvas when all the sunflowers are painted in with a mixture of cadmium yellow and titanium white for the next layer, of course with liquin added to each mixture. The liquin helps to even out the paint, and it's worth using it. If I finish no more than this before we leave, that's fine. I also add a layer of red to indicate the backpack and the black straps. Black paint does not stay black when liquin is added, but it's worth the extra layer or two to help it come out in a more realistic fashion.

    This afternoon or tomorrow we'll drive to DeRuta to order Colleen and Ben's platter, so that we can take it back with us in November as their wedding present.

    Do dogs have built in alarm clocks? At exactly noon she leaves her bed and greets me, wondering if I'll take her down to feed her. When I don't jump at the chance, she returns to her bed, licks her snout and stares at me. She knows that after a while of concentrated staring, she will have put a spell on me (ha) and I will follow her downstairs to feed her.

    I have stopped painting, perhaps for today, unless I return to the fabric and see if I can finish that. If I can teach myself how to sew a rolled hem with fine fabric, I will make rows and rows and rows of this fabric to attach to a skirt for Nicole, or perhaps even a dress. Each girl will have at least one special outfit that I make here, although I'm more than willing to sew my heart out when we're at their house in November. Visiting places in San Francisco and shopping for better-valued items to bring back are not of much interest to me, unless it's fabric or paints.

    Dino wants to spend as much time as he can with Terence when we're there, so perhaps he'll be on the lot if you'd like to buy a previously owned car. Here's Terence's web site,


    one that Dino updates each time a car is ready for the lot or has been sold. Business is good, and the cars are not a lot of money. In this economy, we're hoping he'll do well. He also buys cars from interested private parties who want to sell their car. If you're not in San Francisco, perhaps he can buy it and arrange to drive it back there to sell.

    I'm looking forward to seeing a few movies with Dino and spending time with the girls, painting and sewing. I'm also looking forward to getting to know each of them as individuals. They are really sweet and kind little girls, and we can't do enough for them, especially when it comes to inspiring them to lead creative and purposeful lives. It's never too early or too late to begin to learn. So don't tell yourself you're too old to learn to do anything.

    The following is so sad, and I'm hoping that your sensitivity toward your fellow man/woman will encourage you to read this and then write to your local senator or congressman/woman to urge them to act on your behalf. Many thanks in advance:

    Justice for Women Veterans
    Published: September 11, 2011
    Women in the military who are sexually assaulted or harassed face obstacles not seen in the civilian workplace. They can't decide to take time off or quit, often have no way to avoid a predatory colleague or supervisor, and certainly in combat zones, no way to visit the human resources department. They often work in a culture that has long tolerated misogynistic behavior. And they can be further traumatized by the indifference or hostility of the bureaucracy that is supposed to help them.

    Servicewomen and veterans say they often struggle unsuccessfully to obtain health care and benefits related to sexual violence they endured while in uniform. The Service Women's Action Network, an advocacy group, last year sued the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act for documentation on their handling of sexual assaults. The group says the V.A.'s own data bears out the charge of unfair treatment. While the Veterans Benefits Administration approves 53 percent of all claims related to post-traumatic stress disorder, it accepts far fewer claims - only 32 percent - when the P.T.S.D. is related to sexual trauma.

    Other national veterans' groups are also urging the V.A. to make it easier for survivors of sexual trauma to qualify for benefits. Last year, the V.A. enacted this reform for veterans with P.T.S.D. related to combat: It lifted the difficult requirements for documenting specifically when and where a P.T.S.D.-linked trauma occurred, bending the benefit of the doubt in the veteran's favor.

    The V.A. could do the same for survivors of sexual trauma, shown in studies to be both grossly underreported and the leading cause of P.T.S.D. among servicewomen. Advocates say a medical professional's diagnosis and written determination, linking P.T.S.D. to sexual trauma, along with a survivor's testimony, should be enough to meet the requirement. The V.A. could change the rule itself, or be directed to do so by legislation introduced earlier this year in both the House and the Senate.

    Women's advocates have long argued that military sexual trauma is a hidden epidemic. The Pentagon and Veterans Affairs have made promises to address the problem. Both departments acknowledge that they have a long way to go to transform the culture and protect women. Making it easier for those suffering from sexual trauma to receive benefits is one step toward fairness.

    We drive this afternoon to pick up a wedding present for Colleen and Ben, and then pick up the prescription for little Sofi. From now on, I'm hoping she'll be a happier dog.

    After stopping at a couple of places we know in Deruta, we decide it's better that we return to Orvieto and purchase the present at Giacomini in the piazza, facing the Duomo. Of course we find just the right gift there, and since we've shopped there for years and recommend the place to friends, we are able to buy it a great price. These days, the dollar does not go far in Italy. For every euro we spend it costs us about $1.40!

    Now that we have the capsules for little Sofi, we'll hope that they help her. It's too late to paint when we return home, but as the paint sets into the canvas, each time I take a look the image looks more real. I so love to paint!

    September 13
    We decide to visit Signor Ivo at the Comune (city hall) in Bomarzo this morning. There are a few people waiting before us, and while we wait Dino runs into the sindaco (mayor), who tells him he'll check into the inventory, and perhaps we won't have to pay for a new pala e specchio (pole and mirror) to alert us that someone is coming up the road or down the road toward us as we drive out the gate.

    Since Francesco is the fastest driver in the village and also is the local vigili urbani (policeman) for our village, located in Bomarzo, we're not sure what, if anything, will happen next. Dino has given the sindaco (mayor) photos of the location, so at least people will be more aware that we're asking, now for the second time.

    We're finally ushered into Signor Ivo's office. Our intention today is to make an appointment for the giuramento (oath for citizenship). After a little folderol, Ivo finds the documents in his computer, fills them out, also on the computer, prints them out and proceeds to read them out loud to Dino as both men stand facing each other and each reads from a paper before him. Dino reads one sentence in Italian, agreeing to remain faithful to the Italian Constitution and it's all over! Dino is an Italian citizen - or will be tomorrow when the signed oath is filed.

    Here they are, as Ivo presents Dino with a box containing the Italian Flag, a copy of the Italian Constitution and a type of medallion for him to wear in the tricolori of red, white and green. Oh. There is also a ballpoint pen. Signor Ivo has no news about my pending citizenship but no matter. This is Dino's day. Va bene.

    As you can see, they both dressed for the occasion!

    We take the outdoor elevator down two stories to the spot where Sofi awaits in the car and drive on to Attigliano, to a goldsmith, who will fix the post on a pair of silver earrings purchased so long ago from the J Peterman website. These earrings remain my favorites, but one is missing a post, broken a few days ago. It will take him a week, but no matter.

    At home, we drink a bottle of rose to celebrate Dino's citizenship, which will actually be in effect tomorrow, and eat delicious pasta with salmon and peas in a cream sauce. Yes, there is Parmigiano on top, but no matter. It's a sort of red, white and green (Italian tricolors) in Dino's honor as a new Italian citizen. We finish with tiramasu (pull me up), a delicious cool dessert, and then take a nap. We're all feeling quite mellow, including Sofi, who frankly looks exhausted.

    Yes, Dino is still a U.S. citizen. Many years ago, in order to obtain citizenship in another country, you had to denounce your birth citizenship. The law in the U.S. was changed in 1964 allowing dual citizenship.

    Cesar's painting is a challenge, for his skin is dark with lights reflecting from it, meaning that the tones are a challenge to get just right. I do not have one particular color that I think I need, Burnt Sienna, which is to be mixed with Cadmium yellow and white. I look up substitutes for it, and find a remarkable document; one you can find at www.handprint.com .

    It shows how different manufacturers produce colors that are particular to them. So Burnt Sienna is close to both Venetian Red and Burnt Umber, with a bit of quinacridone maroon. Do I mix a couple of colors that I have? I have mixes by a couple of manufacturers. Now Cesare looks very dark. Do I use the darkness as a base, and begin all over again with mixed colors? I'm just not sure, but after an hour or two, everything looks dark and muddy.

    Let's move onto the flowers and leaves, and in the session on Monday I'll see if we should begin again. But his color looks just too dark, so I think I should white it all out and be ready to mix the colors correctly on Monday morning. This afternoon I paint in the first coat of some of the leaves, and when it dries a bit, we will be able to tell more.

    It's time for a nap after we polish off a bottle of rose wine, and since Sofi looks practically passed out, this is the way we all spend most of the afternoon. We're so happy we have air conditioning in the bedroom. It may not appear classically Italian, but is so comodo (comfortable).

    When we get up, it's time to process another batch of pomodori. We bought less than before, but make almost the same number of jars (20 vs. 22). I ask Dino if he enjoys doing it, and he tells me that he does. I like the quiet dance of it that we do, each taking on different aspects while we work side by side, almost without a word.

    Yes, there's a bit left for Bloody Marys, and it's yet another celebration in honor of Dino's citizenship. I'm relieved that at least one of us has completed the bureaucratic process successfully, but can't imagine living in another country. Let's continue to move on with our lives...

    September 14
    Dino's citizenship is final today, and in October we'll file for an Italian Passport for him. We're hopeful we'll be able to file for each of us then...

    Not satisfied with the way Cesar's face looks color-wise on the canvas, I'm painting it out white, so that I can remix the colors to make them look more realistic when it dries. He looks like a clown with face paint, but I'm hoping that will change.

    There's just enough time to concentrate on the grape painting for the winery and the color of the girasole (sunflowers) behind Cesar while Dino drives to Viterbo to pick up some things, including a tube of burnt sienna paint to mix the proper color for Cesar's face.

    Sofi is quiet this morning, more than usual; we do not give her any medicine today. Perhaps the dose we gave her yesterday was too strong, although Angie assured us that it was not.

    We're leaving for France on Saturday, but will not post until the end of the month, since we don't want the journal's posting of our plans to make our house more vulnerable. Tiziano and Alessia are staying here, just in case, and told us that they are going to celebrate their luna di miele (honeymoon) here then, since they did not go on a real honeymoon after their wedding.

    I am very unhappy with the way Cesar's face looks now, and since I will attend a painting workshop in Languedoc on Monday morning, want to make at least another attempt to repaint his face color before we leave. The canvas will be inserted into a wooden box that Dino has constructed for it to protect it, and the whole thing will fit in the JetBag that will sit on top of the car for the drive.

    Sofi is not acting well. She does not exhibit nervousness, but will not eat. After pranzo while we're watching tv on the couch, she climbs up and puts her head on my hand to rest. Not willing to leave me, she follows me upstairs to the studio, then lies down. We'll call Angie to see what she thinks.

    I worked on the grapes painting this morning and think it looks better, but it is not a great painting. We'll take it with us, and perhaps see if the winery wants it in trade for some wine. We'll purchase some wine from them, anyway, as we love their wine.

    I now have the proper paint to remix for Cesar's face, but will wait until tomorrow to try to paint it. I'd like to finish the painting of grapes, which will not travel with us in the same box. Meanwhile, Dino takes a nap. Or is he reading the Italian Constitution? Ha!

    As you may be aware - in Italy there are general butcher shops and also specialty shops that specialize in particular animal meats: i.e. pork and horsemeat. Dino took this shot today....could it be?

    September 15
    Do we give Sofi the new medicine? She'll be in the car for a few hours, but we'll leave soon... Here's what some think of Italy's mounting debt, thanks to the NYT:

    Austere Italy? Check the Traffic
    Italy is contending with a public debt, built up under a succession of Christian Democratic governments, that helped the country emerge from dire poverty after World War II to become Europe's third-largest industrial economy.

    Especially in the poorer Italian south, the Christian Democrats put millions of people on the state payroll in a jobs-for-votes system that many say has persisted under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The quid pro quo worked so long as the economy was expanding, but now is seen as one of the major threats to Italy's solvency.

    In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, an estimated 3.5 million Italians were on the state payroll out of a work force of 23 million, according to the Ministry for the Public Administration and Innovation. On Mr. Berlusconi's watch, government expenditures - including the cost of public administration and defense - rose to more than $1 trillion in 2010 from $753 billion in 2000.

    Analysts attribute some of the rise to the introduction of the euro in 2001 and the rising cost of pension spending in a nation that will soon have more retirees than workers, as well as to soaring health care costs.

  • "I have great doubts about whether they're sufficient," Stefano Micossi, an economist and the director of Assonime, an Italian business research group, said of the austerity package. "The mechanisms that led to such spending haven't changed."
  • The sticking point, he added, was the public sector. "The big problem is the public administration," he said. "It's inefficient and corrupt. But corruption is born in politics and politicians don't want to change."
  • But they say it also stems from deals Mr. Berlusconi has made with powerful politicians from both the north and the south to get the votes needed to hold together his government. Those votes mean the government is loath to stop the flow of money. Even with the new austerity measures, "They haven't closed the taps," Mr. Micossi said. Some say the jobs-for-votes mentality derives from Italy's feudal heritage. Italy was a patchwork of warring fiefs before unification 150 years ago, and personal networks are often still seen as more powerful than institutions.

    Even today, the concept is: "I understand the state if it gives a benefit to my person, family, business," said Luigi Musella, a historian at the University of Naples and the author of "Clientelism," about Italy's quid pro quo politics.

    Some residents are concerned that the new austerity measures mean that money for local employees might dry up. But Mr. Contino said he was not worried. "I don't think that's a risk. Here, there's a culture of maintaining jobs," he said. "Political will here is relative," he added.

    Yet the cuts to regional spending in the austerity measures are real, even if changes to local government will likely take years to apply. "We can't touch salaries," Raffaele Lombardo, the president of the Region of Sicily, said in a telephone interview, "But now it's certain that hiring will be blocked for many years."

    Back in Comitini, residents began to gather in the main piazza. A city council member was getting married in the church. Cars stopped and parked beneath a "no parking" sign while their drivers hopped out for a coffee in the bar.

    Inside, Ms. Valenti and her colleagues said they were not much inclined to give parking tickets. "We try to avoid giving fines," she said. "It's a small town, we all know one another."

    We're back home after a mini pedicure with dear Giusy, and I'm able to finish the painting of grapes and make Sofi's pranzo before Dino returns from another trip to Tenaglie to welcome new renters.

    This afternoon, I aim to finish the repainting of the first coat of Cesar's face, now that I have the proper shade of brown to mix. My own mixing was good, but came out quite dark, and Cesar's skin is not that dark. I'll also paint a few more girasole and leaves. All that's left is for me to take all the paint tubes downstairs to the summer kitchen and clean each one. It's about time. I really must clean each paint tube after each session. I do with the brushes faithfully, but now must remind myself to add this easy task to each session.

    We're both anxious to leave for France, and speaking of anxious, Sofi has had more medicine in a spoonful of yoghourt, and just lies in her bed hoping I'll stop writing and fix her pranzo. Va bene.

    After pranzo, I sign the grapes painting, and each time I look at it I want to do more. Not for this trip. I repaint Cesar's face, just the first coat, and it is not easy. We have the box all ready for it, and I'll pose the challenge of making his skin look real on Monday to the man who is leading the painting workshop.

    We'll bring all my paints, so organize them on an excel chart and sort it to bring with me. I've cleaned up all the black and brown paints, and tomorrow I'll clean up all the rest. Yes, it is much easier to clean up each tube of paint each time I paint, and from now on I will.

    We put the JetBag on top of the car, and I can tell Dino is itching to get going. There's another day and a half to go, so at least he won't be stressed at the last minute. A friend told us a wonderful thing some years ago: "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff!" Now if I could only get Dino to follow that...

    Sorry we won't post today. I don't know who reads this journal, but the numbers are growing based on requests all over the world for some strange reason, and I'd not like to have someone stake out the house while we are gone, although Tiziano and Alessia will be staying here. I hope it is fun for them. It surely is for us. Days can go by without me leaving the property, and that's fine with me. There's so much to do that is fun, right here at home.

    September 16
    We're up early, putting things together, cleaning as if an inspector is due to arrive. One of the good things about going on vacation and having someone stay at your house is that it gives you a deadline to clean and put away things you've had on your "to do" list for longer than you care to admit. The place looks great.

    A project that is difficult and dirty is the cleaning up of all paint tubes. From now on I pledge to clean each tube up every time I have a session of painting, just as I clean up the brushes and leave them out to dry. Va bene! Tiziano comes by to go over a few things with us, but since he's stayed here before, it's not difficult. He'll probably have a family pizza night while we're gone and that's fine with us!

    The big news is that they are expecting twin girls later this winter, copia (not identical), and yes, there are twins somewhere in Alessia's family background. All of a sudden, Tiziano is like a family man to us, although he tells us he still feels like a findanzato (fiancé). They're moving to his grandfather's house, which is much larger than theirs. It's on Via Mameli, right across from the bus stop, and is the place where Enzo, Tiziano's father, grew up. I remember old Tito living there during his last years, leaning over his balcony during processions and smiling his toothless grin, a smile as wide as Mugnano. He was a dear man.

    We're ready to go, and with just a bit of packing left, have nothing much more to do. See you on the trail!

    September 17
    We leave Mugnano early, driving to Ventimiglia and checking into the hotel. We're tired, so eat in the hotel's restaurant, but the food seems better fare for a nursing home. No matter.

    September 18 to 27
    We're on vacation, so don't check in with you often. The first time I sit down to write, it is September 24th, and it's Saturday evening and Dino is packing the car, so I don't have much to do. I have set aside clothes for the next two days we'll spend in Lucca, Italia; that is, after we drive for eight hours or so through Southern Languedoc and Provence, across the Italian border to Ventimiglia to pick up a pillow we left at the hotel and down through Cinque Terra to the town of Dino's ancestors on his mother's side. We're to meet with a cousin in Lucca tomorrow night to glean more about the family tree.

    Yesterday, we dropped off the painting of grapes for Jacques at Moulin de Lene winery, where we picked up a couple of cases of our favorite reserve. He gave us three special bottles of wine after taking us around to show us this year's vendange (vendemmia or grape harvest) and we notice that the color of the grapes after they have been crushed and rush through specialized channels to their waiting giant white oak barrels look just like the painting I've just presented to them.

    They love it; his wife takes it gently from my arms, as it's a bit wet, and I'm hoping they'll enjoy it. Their reaction was better than I expected. Va bene!

    Have you ever seen one of these huge grape harvesting machines? Jacques tells us that they use it only for the table wine grapes, but still hand pick the premium grapes.

    What were the other highs of the trip? Well, painting with David on Monday morning in his studio in Lodeve was a very good exercise; he showed me how to insure that an image transfers correctly to the canvas. He also gives me a copy of his paint palate; he uses the same colors for every painting he does, and tells me I have too many paints. I'm still missing a few of his, so pick up two and will pick up the remaining two after we return home. He recommends that I buy a projector that will work in concert with images on our computer. The image projects directly onto the canvas, where the artist can draw in the lines or paint right from the image projected upon it. I love the idea, but don't know if the expense is worth it for now.

    We drove to Marseillan a few days ago and sat on a banquette facing boats in the water while we sipped rose wine and ate mussels and oysters with a broth of fresh salty sea water. The meal was divine.

    Today, we drove to Bouzigues for more mussels and oysters, which were also wonderful. This morning we spent several hours in nearby Pezenas at their weekly market and picked up a few duds. It's amazing how inexpensive clothes can be at a market, although one outfit that I loved until I was told what it cost (no kidding) was €200! Of course we did not buy it...

    The little house we are renting is a former chapel and is quite cute. I admit it is growing on me, although at first I had my doubts; the first night there were no real sheets, and we had to buy them the next day. The woman who booked the house was not around, and seemed a bit embarrassed when we called her on the phone. No iron here, either. It all worked out, especially for Sofi, who could ramble around the land and trees each day.

    We're happy to be going home; happy to be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary on Monday in Lucca. The drive to Lucca is long, but no matter. We are together and life is good.

    The dearest memory of our trip, especially for Dino, was reconnecting with Armando, his wife Letizia and their daughter, Carlotta. Side by side, the two men search the local cemetery and Comune for gravesites of family members, and the dates of their births and deaths. Here in Italy, people are accustomed to photos of the dead on top or on front of their gravesites. Often, the names here are sopranomes (nicknames), and we find several family members of Armando.

    His mother was Maria, the woman who hosted us for the huge pranzo in this same house in 1995 when, with Kevin and Christine and Patrick and dear Margaret, lots of folks ate in the room adjacent to the kitchen. Well, we remember most vividly trying to tell Patrick not to accept second portions of lasagna, for the kitchen was full of food, and we must have eaten for several hours. We all groaned and could hardly walk to the car later, but the food was certainly delicious.

    Now, we always thought that Dino's mom, Iolanda, owned a piece of property right nearby that she was given when her parents passed away.... Well, we thought it was the piece of property right where the house was later built where we ate pranzo. Originally, we were told that Iolanda was asked if she wanted to donate her piece of land so that a school could be built upon it and she agreed. What we now think is that Dino's grandfather lost the plot of land to one of his brothers while gambling, and if anything we should be a bit squeamish. Was Iolanda trying to keep the memory of her father bella figura (to make a good impression) for us? We'll never know, or at least not in this lifetime.

    In the Comune , we learned another ancestor's name, but it appeared that Armando and Dino are not direct relatives. We'll have to trace farther back, where we're almost sure there will be a blood relative in common. Armando will help us from Lucca, and we feel positive that we will find one.

    Armando won't say arrividerci! (good bye), only a la prossima volta (next time), and the look on his face is almost one of despair. Family means so much to him, and to lose a family member, even for a while, is very sad for him. It is sad for us, too, for we're becoming more Italian all the time, and having family here takes on new meaning for us. Yes, we're terribly sad about not seeing our San Francisco family often, but the help of the telephone and especially SKYPE helps a great deal.

    We've stayed at the Hotel Piccolo Puccini these past two nights, and the room is tiny, but it is facing the piazza, Piazza Puccini. For two nights, it is fine, and the price is not bad. We had asked for the next room, on the corner, but it was not available at the time we checked in. Va bene. We love walking around the town, and Sofi does, too.

    Here are photo memories of our trip. Enjoy!

    France, Languedoc:


    We arrive home to learn that Tiziano and Alessia did not stay here after all, but there were no problems, other than an electrical storm that shut power off and everything in the refrigerators and freezer defrosted, for the power was not reset for three days. Tiziano arrives soon after we're home, while I'm upstairs unpacking, replacing all the things we've left. It's not necessary, but he insists. All the plants look fine, for there has been rain, and things will return to normal soon.

    September 28
    Dino leaves early for Viterbo, to have the window on the door fixed. It is a manufacturer's defect, but since we are no longer in warranty, it costs €150 to replace the armature. He learns that it's just a matter of time before the window on the driver's side does the same. The problem is a simple plastic piece, but it's not possible to replace just the little piece, even in advance. Fa niente. (No matter.)

    It's time to renew the iPhone contract, but Dino does not have the file with him, so he'll return another time. A man calls regarding a Tenaglie house, so he'll drive there after he picks up a pollo arrosto (roast chicken) and we'll have a simple pranzo when he makes his way home. Meanwhile, Sofi sleeps happily in the studio in her little bed near me, happy to be home and serenaded by classical music as we are each time we are alone together while Dino is in the car doing errands. It feels so good to be home.

    Oh. Dino tells me that he is buying a little Nespresso machine! What? The cost is sotto costo (below cost) and it's €49, and he already has a spot for it... in the summer kitchen. "It will be good whenever we want a quick cup and has little cartridges that slip into the machine". You've all seen the George Clooney Nespresso commercials. So I ask you. When has Dino ever wanted a quick cup of coffee? He's one funny guy.

    I have not felt well for the past two days; there is something not right in the lower part of my stomach and I am a bit groggy. Perhaps I'll just need a few quiet days at home. At least it is not a headache!

    Painting and sewing projects will have to wait.

    September 29
    Still not well, Dino calls to make an appointment an I spend most of the day doing not much other than reading and making a batch of potato salad. Oh. This afternoon Silvia arrives to strip Sofi, and she's alone, so I stand caressing the little dog while Silvia takes out the extra hair. These dogs are tended differently than many breeds and every several months or so, their extra hair is stripped. It does not hurt Sofi and really makes her feel more comfortable during these lovely and warm September afternoons.

    Oh, the electrical storm that happened while we were away also "fried" our ADSL Wi-Fi modem, so we can't access the www or get email. Dino wants to buy a backup modem. When we're in Viterbo tomorrow morning I'm sure he'll pick one up. We also need to renew our cellular phone contract, and although Telecom has not approved a new modem for our telephone line, this one may work in the meantime. There is some silly procedure whereby Telecom agrees to replace our modem (they have), but need to communicate that with a certain local store, and although Dino calls and calls, they have not called the store. Tomorrow we're hoping all will be well, for we have not had access to our email for days.

    September 30
    My pain is worse, so we drive to Viterbo and see our good doctor, who has the answer, based on my diagnosis. I feel better just knowing he knows what to do.

    I've been thinking about returning to sew outfits and costumes for the grand daughters, and lay out all the fabric we've purchased this past year. Dino tells me we won't be able to fit everything into our luggage, so some things will have to wait until next year. That's fine, but the belly dancing outfits are a must, and if we have extra material I'll make a few extra outfits for folks in San Francisco, or for parties they might have during the year.

    The garden looks lovely, and we're told the bulbs have been shipped, so soon we'll dig up the area near the summer kitchen and plant some, and will also plant more on the other side of the house. We're still waiting to hear from Stefano about coming back to work, but he told Dino it may be next week...Magari! (If only that were so...)

    Summer is done and autumn has arrived....

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