October through December, 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

We're ready for pasta season!

October 1
Today is Saturday, so we're around doing projects... Dino works on Donald's fireplace fender, making it smaller, and it takes far longer to cut and rebuild than Donald imagined, but no worry.

For me, the morning is spent mostly sewing a pair of harem pants and top, resting a lot, and making potato salad for pranzo. Tonight we'll dine at Tia's going away party. Our dear friend is yet another "expat" who tried living here but is ready for a new life, back in Mill Valley, CA; she has left her husband, too. Well, they're now divorced, and Tia is ready for lots of new adventures.

There's a bit of gardening to do, although most things look pretty good. We're waiting for bulbs to arrive, and then we'll work outside in earnest, readying them for a winter hibernation.

We decide to leave Sofi at home, and drive to Amelia to send Tia off with hugs and good wishes, telling her we'll see her late next month when we are there. Everyone brings something to eat, and there are plenty of pizzas to go around. Frank and Candace sit with us and fill us in on what's been happening to them since we saw them last.

October 2
Many of the regulars are in church, except Rosina, with neck pain; we sing the songs we know and love. Six of us are in Coro today, and it's good to be back. Outside, we chat with Tiziano and Alessia for a moment, for we'll see them later at our house, and Alessia looks beautiful with her growing tummy.

No, there are no twins parent support groups in this part of Italy, if in Italy at all. Both sets of grandparents will certainly be involved to help raise them, and the couple will move to their new house in January or so, just before the births. Everyone in the village will be around to help. Italians love children, and although the twins won't arrive for this year's Babbo Natale's Christmas presents, there will be plenty to do to get ready.

When they visit, we give them the gift from France, and although they did not "house sit", they are good friends and generously contributed to our larder when the frigos defrosted after the storm while we were away.

October 3
I'm still not feeling well, and we stay at home doing projects all day, which is fine with me, ending with me walking up to Coro practice at night. We learn a couple of new pieces, and I'm just amazed that no one reads music here, except Federica and me.

Federica leads us after playing the pieces on her cell phone for us. We have the words and sing them over and over until we know them enough to at least sing while we look at the words. What's more amazing is that the process works fine. I'll bring the music home and look it up on the internet to practice...when I'm in the mood.

October 4
We have breakfast "on the road" at Bar Quadrifoglio in Bomarzo, then drive to Viterbo to my favorite fabric shop, while Dino and Sofi wait in the shade. I don't pick up all the notions I'll need, but there will be other trips to Viterbo, and weeks before the outfits have to be finished for the trip to San Francisco.

Next, we drive to Ipercoop, and park in the shade for Sofi, while we use the magic wand to indicate the bar codes of the things we are purchasing. Only one won't register, so at the quick checkout, a woman inputs that item manually. I'm wondering if this system is available in the U.S. It's quite wonderful.

There's Metano to buy for the car and a thermostat for the bathroom. This year, Dino wants to try a new system for heating. We have a heater in the kitchen, a heater in our bedroom, and this will heat the towel warmer in the bathroom. Otherwise, we'll see if the fireplace and stufa will be enough to heat the house this winter without the expensive regular metano (methane) heat throughout the house.

I have no idea where the days have flown so far this month. Somewhat in a daze with my stomach not behaving, I'm taking my time doing anything, although the mountains of fabric and ribbons facing me has me realizing that I really should share more of this with you. That is, if you're a regular reader of the journal.

More and more, people want to see my projects in process, and this room is an explosion of things to do, faced on two walls with single beds made up like harem couches with plenty of pillows to lie back upon and be fed grapes...but no grapes are welcome here. On each bed sits projects in process or waiting to begin.

Photos will appear later in the month, speriamo.

There are many things here, among them: upright storage of finished paintings in the corner, shelves of art supplies, a painting of Cesar with his sunflowers, barely begun on a cavaletto (easel) near the South wall, a bookshelf full of art research and inspiration located between Cesar and the door, the desk, where I write and Dino keeps up Terence's web site and our journal, a printer, two armadios with linens and pillows, a bed on the North wall with plenty of pillows and a painting above, "Sempre Amici" (Always Friends), of two young Andreas. A little TV, a fan, and on the East wall another bed with pillows; and in front of that, the table set up full width with a sewing machine on top and a project or two or three always in motion. Two chairs and a bit of space for Sofi's wicker basket sit in the middle of the room, in flux, and usually classical music plays in the background. What else could a dreamer want?

The census begins soon - the 15th Census since the Unification of Italy in 1861. The forms have arrived. The window for submission is from 9 October - 20 November.

Dino needs to write a letter a letter to the technico at the Comune asking for permission to install a concave specchio (mirror) across the street from our parcheggio to alert us to speeding cars as he drives out of the parcheggio. This is the photoshop mockup that he will submit with the letter.

October 5
I'm feeling about the same, despite taking the medicine our good doctor prescribed. We'll see him tomorrow, and I'm thinking it's an infection of some kind, but not a big deal. I write about it for future use, so sorry that it's boring.

Now to the "good stuff"...Dino finishes the fender for Don's fireplace, and delivers it to his house. It fits perfectly, so Dino once again proves that he's an accomplished artisan, as well as an excellent idea person and implementer of his own ideas. Here at home he has a specific place for the thermostat in the bathroom, and tomorrow he'll drill through the wall and set it all up. I can only agree, not understanding much about it, other than knowing we'll use it.

October 6
Steve Jobs died in the U.S., but you know all that, and my recollection of the man is that his thinking was all about beauty and elegance as well as power; power by itself was not enough. I heard that he was fascinated by calligraphy, and had an extremely curious mind. When first at the helm of Apple, he introduced himself to other Silicon Valley successful entrepreneurs and wanted to learn all he could from them. Yes, asking questions is a great way to learn.

I look toward heaven to send him my thanks as he winds his way up there, for inspiring so many of us to be more creative than we thought we could ever become. That is worth thinking about when one thinks about our children and grand children; for the many technological changes he made possible for every man and woman and especially every child on this earth.

Here's what everyone is describing him as being today:

vi-sion-ar-y ? ?[vizh-uh-ner-ee] Show IPA adjective, noun, plural -ar-ies. adjective
1. given to or characterized by fanciful, not presently workable, or unpractical ideas, views, or schemes: a visionary enthusiast.
2. given to or concerned with seeing visions.
3. belonging to or seen in a vision.
4. unreal; imaginary: visionary evils.
5. purely idealistic or speculative; impractical; unrealizable: a visionary scheme.

I'm reminded of my dear father and his brother, Barney, both in heaven, upon reading the fifth description above. One day in my twenties, I arrived in California from Boston for a visit with my father and Uncle Barney. As Barney drove us in his Rolls and Dad and I sat in the back seat and chattered away, Barney scowled, "Dreamers! You're both dreamers!" Dad laughed out loud. I bristled.

He was so right. I bless the fact that I am a dreamer, for without a dream, how can one's dream come true? If I were to write an epitaph for myself, it would probably be, "Dare to live your dream." I wish that for all of you reading this right now.

This morning, Annika and Torbjörn arrive for a visit and to invite us for cena tomorrow evening while we treat them to espresso made in our new sweet little Nespresso machine. While sitting around, I bring down the latest creations for Nicole and Marissa and yes, we all agree they are "over the top" . But then, I am all about creating things for people I love, the more dreamy and fabulous the better.

When they leave, I return upstairs to work on a special costume for Marissa, and want to know how to sew on special sequins in the shape of a small flower. I learn how while watching an internet blog, and it will take a long time to sew on all the things I want to sew.

No matter. I'll make fewer and more elaborate outfits for each girl. Dino thinks we can fit more into our luggage after all, although Annika recommends that these special pieces be taken in our hand luggage. We'll see.

Not feeling well, I fix scrambled eggs with panna (cream) and chives and a bit of blue cheese. Dino eats a sandwich as well as some of the eggs. They are really tasty.

It's been a while, so how about reading a lovely piece I included in the journal some time ago. I'm thinking of inspiration and inspired thought, and what better to write than the following, written by William Henry Channing, a minister who lived in the 19th Century:

My Symphony

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony.

I return to sewing Marissa's latest new dress, and to teaching myself how to make flowers out of sequins to sew onto it. Come no? (Why not?)

We leave for the doctor's appointment, and after half an hour are able to see our good doctor, Stefano Bevilacqua. I honor him as a great diagnostician and tell him that what he prescribed for me to take for five days helped, but that the pain persists.

He gives me a short exam and since I have pain on my right side, wonders if it may be an appendix problem. To rule it out, he and I agree that I should see a gynecologist, and gives me the name of a woman who is associated with the local hospital, Bel Colle. In the meantime, he prescribes a blood test, to rule out appendicitis.

We call Bel Colle and are told that the Dottoressa will be in the hospital tomorrow night, so we'll call then. Life goes on...

October 7
Since blood tests are given early in the morning, we drive to the glass building in Viterbo to AUSL, where I have blood drawn. Since my veins are tiny, it is not easy, but the technician is confident. This is not the first time he's drawn blood.

Results won't be ready until next Thursday (!) but no matter. We drive to Rome for our semi-annual teeth cleaning with Dottore Chiantini, and all is well. There is just enough time to get to Fimucino Airport, so Dottore gives Dino a shortcut idea to avoid the corteo (march) that will block the main route to the airport. Each day this week there has been a demonstration against the government by one union or another. Yes, the government in Italy is not in good financial shape and people don't want to lose any services.

Just as we arrive at the airport to pick up close friends Don and Mary, we learn of new organizing that has taken place there. For the past year or so, no cars other than limousines or buses are allowed to drive up to the curb at Arrivals. Instead, there are a number of free spaces nearby...well, they are free for the first thirty minutes. After that, the charge begins at €4.

Dino finds a great spot, and just as he parks there is a message from Don that they have arrived and are waiting at the gate. Dino walks down the ramp while Sofi and I wait so that she can frolic in the grass near the car. It has begun to rain. What's that? Have Don and Mary brought the rain with them from jolly (soggy) old England?

It's great to see our dear friends again, and the JetBag on top of the car is a great help; Mary's wheelchair folds up and fits right inside. She's weaker than before, but in great spirits. What a woman!

We take them home, and Don is so pleased with his adjusted "fender" for his fireplace. Dino did a masterful job refitting it. Bravo, dear Dino.

We decide to drive to the Orvieto hospital, where I'll be checked out at Pronto Soccorso (emergency). First, we try to locate Candace to see if she knows of a gynecologist associated with the hospital. We find her at her orto, but she does not. So it's on to the hospital.

Dino drops me off and finds a place to park. I'm admitted to a room right away, but it takes some time for someone to see me. We have been invited to cena at Annika and Torbjörn's house near us, the house we all call "The White House" (it is white, with a balaustra (balustrade) all around the roofline. Will we make it on time?

We arrived at the hospital at 5 P.M., but it is 7:30 P.M. before we leave, and call our good friends and confirm that arriving at their house at 8 P.M. will be fine. Stopping at a market to pick up dessert, we're welcomed with open arms and have a sweet evening with our good Swedish friends, who will be in Mugnano for a few more days before they return to Sweden for the winter. We will surely miss them.

It's too late to visit a farmacia tonight, so we drive home. I was given an injection after we were told that I have an intestinal infection, and it was supposed to rid me of the pain. Instead, it made me feel drunk and a bit silly. No matter.

The doctor at the hospital recommended a gynecologist affiliated with the hospital, and we will call him on Monday. The dottoressa in Viterbo is too difficult to reach, and we feel good about the people at the Orvieto hospital, so I'll take the medicine prescribed tonight for the next week or so, as life goes on...

October 8
While Dino drinks coffee from our new machine, I drink a mixture of hot water, lemon honey and a bit of the ginger syrup concentrate we bought in France. I'm to stay away from coffee for a week or so. The drink is very good.

Dino drives off to pick up the medicine, and returns home to be sure that I take the first dose before driving to Viterbo. Sofi and I stay in the studio...she snores while I make more sequined flowers for Marissa's dress.

There is still no word about my impending citizenship status here, and my Permesso di Soggiornio does not expire until May. In the meantime, we'll renew our Carta di Identità (I.D. cards) and Dino will apply for an Italian Passport. We'll do that next week.

After pranzo I'm really tired, but return to make more sequin flowers. I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the fabric and my ideas for costumes for the grand daughters, so somehow I'll need to scale them down.

Perhaps it's the infection in my stomach, but I can't seem to fathom doing the number of outfits I have planned for them for this visit. I'm so sorry but don't have the energy to give Mary a back massage today. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day.

October 9
Church is a welcome activity on this, or any morning, in our little village with our neighbors joining in to sing and pray with us. These days, it is the same four songs that we all sing, and I love singing each one. The young priest from South America leads us this morning, and I'm thinking how much my life has grown and blossomed since I no longer judge others. Yes, I continue to judge myself, and to strive to be an exemplary human being, but it's not for me to decide who makes the right choices in life and who does not as we all go about our lives.

I think of Father Paul Rossi of St. Rafael's Parish in San Rafael, CA often, and wonder about his health. I'd enjoy sitting with him and speaking about the subject, or any subject, and will contact him to see if he'll be around when we're in San Francisco this Thanksgiving.

I no longer worry about the safety of our house, as it's closed up tighter than a drum (what does that mean?) when we turn the locks on our steel grates when we leave the house. We've nothing precious that anyone would really want here, especially since the treasures mean something only to us and have no real tangible value to anyone else.

We dye more towels that lovely deep blue, and they look new again, instead of the old pale grey/blue. I hang them out after taking an afternoon nap while Dino continues to sleep, and then return to the studio, where I've dreamt of fashioning waist panels for each girl with sequin designs.

Today I'm designing a panel of fish from the sea, air bubbles and ferns below the surface, and they'll be blue and white on a background of pale violet silk for dear granddaughter Marissa. Let's see what I can come up with.

Earlier after church, we visited this year's Ecomuseo art exhibition, and Antonio asked me why I did not participate this year. I now realize that I can submit anything, and it's not just what I can create in one day, as in last year. So next year, I promise to enter, and will probably enter Cesar with his backpack of sunflowers; that is, if I finish it.

In the meantime, I remind him that I'll paint the albero genealogico di Mugnano this next year, and he reminds me of the wall where it will be displayed. I should have plenty of time to paint it after we return from our annual San Francisco Bay Area visit to the U.S.

October 10
We spend the morning and part of the afternoon in the Pronto Soccorso (Emergency Room) of the hospital in Orvieto yet again, and after performing an ultrasound and other tests, they find nothing...but pain. So we're sent off with a kind of Magnesium Salt packet for me to take with a half liter of water and told to eat lots of vegetables.

We pick up Sofi at Frank and Candace's house and return home, where I think about making more sequin flowers but run out of steam. Later, I'm able to return to fashioning sequin flowers, and begin to think about an elaborate design of fish under the sea for Marissa made of sequins and little pearls. It will be fun to show them how to make them and to create things with them when we are in San Francisco next month...Soon!

I drink loads of water and take two different types of magnesium-type of medicine that are mixed with water. If we're in luck, at least some of it will do the trick.

October 11
Happy wedding anniversary to Adrian & Jed!!!!

Dino encourages me to take more medicine, and I now add to it the medicine cocktail I take for headaches. It's back to bed for several hours, and when I awake I see that Dino is not here. I think he has returned to the Comune to renew our Italian ID cards and to apply for an Italian Passport. There is still no news about my pending citizenship. Don't worry. We'll not relinquish our U.S. citizenships ever, but are allowed to hold both. I've stopped worrying about mine still not finalized.

Yesterday, the bulbs from the Netherlands arrived, in sweet little marked packages. Now we'll decide just how to arrange them and where they will be planted. Do we ask Cristina to return to do the manual work? We'll see what Dino thinks, but the weather is so warm (forecast is for 88 degrees F in Rome, so it will be even higher here) that it may not be good to plant them right now.

Here's an interesting article from the NYT about envy. I remember that my mother was not an envious person herself, although she did covet beautiful ancient Chinese horses for some reason. She and my father collected Chinese artifacts and I remember several of them in our house when growing up.

One piece that I remember vividly was a blue ceramic frog with a ridge down it's back and features so ugly it was almost endearing. Later when someone was brought in to evaluate them we were told this one was a fraud, but no matter. I've never seen another like it again.

Back to envy, I think it's interesting to think of it as applied to one's self at a time when one is not feeling particularly envious. It's such a sad feeling, as if a demon is inside one's head, prodding them to... "Go on. Go ON!"

The new evidence from the Texas experiments is important because it clearly demonstrates that memory and attention are linked with envy, said Richard H. Smith, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky and the editor of "Envy," a 2008 compendium of research on the subject. The Texas study also supports a very old notion about this vice.

"Traditionally, envy is linked with the eyes," Dr. Smith said, noting that the word comes from the Latin "invidere," which mean to look at with malice, or cast an "evil eye." Just as an invidious comparison is by definition bad, so is envy defined by some psychological researchers to be inherently malign.

But other researchers, like the Dutch psychologist Niels Van de Ven, define envy in two different ways. There's "benign envy," in which you pay attention to superiors in order to emulate them, so as to raise your own standing. That's different from "malicious envy," in which you pay attention to superiors to find weaknesses that will lower them toward your level.

"With benign envy, the eyes are probably wide open and eager," Dr. Smith said. "With malicious envy, they are squinting and resentful."

By any name, envy requires mental effort, as the Texas researchers found in yet another experiment testing envious students. This time, after contemplating a wealthy, attractive peer, the students were asked to work on puzzles. Compared with a control group, they gave up sooner.

They were apparently victims of what psychologists call "ego depletion," a state of mental fatigue originally documented in people whose energy was depleted by performing acts of self-control. Now it looks as if envy depletes that same resource. It may sharpen your eye and improve your memory, but the benefits come at a cost. Coveting thy neighbor's goods is hard work.

After reading this, I'd rather have poorer memory than better memory and a sense of envy. Again, my personal mantra applies here:

If one took all the time one spends using negative energy to fret about a subject, especially as it refers to another person, and used all that time to think about something positive, what a wonderful way of life one would have.

Two more related subjects come to mind: * not judging others is a subject I've written about often recently, and oh, how not judging others opens up one's joy of life! And...
* my name as it applies to the word evangelist. Is it possible I was meant to be an evangelist? I am sure this was certainly not a determining factor when my parents agreed to the choice for my name.

Dino returns to tell me he has begun the process of obtaining an Italian passport for himself, and when in Signor Ivo's office learned that an Italian Identity Card can only be used inside Italy as a means of identification; unless one is an Italian citizen. So I need to continue to use my U.S. passport when we travel to another EU country until my citizenship has been finalized. Good to know!

My health is still not great, and I remain in my robe and slippers and close to the bathroom. Dino thinks I am much better, and I am hopeful. I don't remember the last time I remained in my robe after noontime, but have no interest in getting showered and dressed; it's not like me. I remain positive, for the day is lovely and warm, and Sofi gambols about. She is such a loving dog!

After another hour or two, I'm feeling almost back to normal. So it's right to the studio for me, to continue to sew sequined flowers for our little ones. As the afternoon takes on fall tones of sun lowering in the sky early, the whole skirt glistens. What joy I'd have if I were dancing around in such a frock!

October 12
Dino's parents Leo & Iolanda were married in Fairfax, CA on this date, 1935!

The day begins and it is dark inside my head as well as outside. I awake with a headache and take a medicine cocktail, then dream about Marissa's dress and what to do next on it.

Once I'm taking a shower, I realize it's Columbus Day, and wonder what the Italians think of Columbus, and if they celebrate today. What I learn on the internet is frightening, and worth sharing. This post is from yourworldnews.org, and is shared by many others.


Each October 12th, millions of Italian Americans and other citizens celebrate the "discovery" of America by Christopher Columbus. Seventeen states do not recognize the federal holiday, however, including North and South Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, and Wisconsin; and a number of California cities celebrate Indigenous People's Day rather than Columbus Day.

Columbus is honored even though he did not "discover" America; he left a legacy of "greed, destruction, brutality, slave-trading, and murder"; and this celebration is shameful insult to Latin Americans, African Americans and American Indians. The evidence documenting Columbus's violence cannot be disputed. It is found in the writing of Bartolome de las Casas, the Dominican priest and eyewitness to some of the horrific atrocities during Columbus's rule: "Endless testimonies ... prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives.... But our work was to ... ravage, kill, mangle and destroy.... The admiral ... committed irreparable crimes against the Indians." It is also found in Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"; James Loewen's, Lies My Teacher Told Me; Kirkpatrick Sale's, The Conquest of Paradise; Hans Koning's, Columbus: His Enterprise; and David Stannard's, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World.

No reputable historian denies what happened in the Caribbean 500 years ago; the truth is as crystal clear as the Holocaust in Europe under the Nazis. Those who ignore the facts of Columbus's butchery deserve no more credence and sympathy than Holocaust deniers, whose views are rightly opposed and ridiculed. Why do Italian Americans and other citizens continue to defend and honor Columbus? Why are students in many U.S. cities given a school holiday to honor some that began the 500-plus years of European invasion and conquest of the Americas? When will school districts, city councils, state legislatures and the federal government cease celebrating this crime and tragedy?

We do not celebrate the genocidal murder of millions in Europe; why, therefore, should we celebrate one of the major architects of the American Holocaust? Even Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, Columbus's admirer and biographer, stated that he initiated a period of "genocide" in the Western Hemisphere.

The Transform Columbus Day Alliance (TCDA) of Denver, Colorado is one of the many groups engaged in educational and political efforts on this issue (www.transformcolumbusday.org); its fine statement of principles and historical review should be read by all educators and citizens. TCDA points out that before Columbus came to the Americas, he transported West Africans to Portugal as slaves; he then commenced the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, joined by his brother and son. His subsequent rule and violence as viceroy and governor of the Caribbean Islands led to "the first mass genocide of indigenous peoples."

TCDA calls Columbus Day a celebration of "racist ... cultural domination" that reinforces "theft, lies, murder, slavery and the destruction of ... the environment." Columbus's legacy is one of "violence and death"; the national holiday teaches children to "honor a cruel and brutal man" and it encourages people "to ignore ... racist practices" in the Americas and throughout the world. We should support the call to transform Columbus Day from one that "celebrates conquest and domination" to one that "calls for a future in the Americas without racism [and] exploitation...."

I am personally moved by TCDA's call for solidarity with Italian Americans who do not wish to celebrate the genocide represented by Columbus Day - instituted as a federal holiday in the 1930s under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. TCDA applauds "the beautiful, positive contributions of Italians around the globe" and condemns "the history of discrimination ... experienced by Italians in the US." However, it urges Italian Americans to stop celebrating "colonization and slavery ... by repudiating Columbus."

A history of Columbus and the Americas that is built upon lies and myths denies young people their inalienable right to learn the truth about the past. How are they to grow to become informed and democratic citizens when this right is denied and racist myths about Columbus shape their education? It is long past the time to end our shameful celebration of Columbus and all that he symbolizes.

Let us join together with TCDA and those who celebrate "Indigenous People's Day" to reflect on the crimes of the past and affirm our solidarity with Americans throughout the hemisphere.

John Marciano, Professor Emeritus, SUNY Cortland, is a past chair of the Tompkins County (Ithaca, NY) Human Rights Commission (1991-96). He lives in Santa Monica, CA.

In other news,

Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a bitter regional rivalry, one that has intensified as they have jockeyed for influence since the political upheavals of the Arab Spring. The Saudi Embassy in Washington denounced the plot against the ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, as "a despicable violation of international norms, standards and conventions."

Mr. Holder's assertion and the F.B.I.'s account of official Iranian involvement in the plot, reportedly code-named "Chevrolet," provoked puzzlement from specialists on Iran, who said it seemed unlikely that the government would back a brazen murder and bombing plan on American soil.

Investigators, too, were initially skeptical about ties to Iran, officials said. They said, though, that the F.B.I. monitored calls to Iran about the plot and found money had been wired from a Quds Force bank account. In addition, the Iranian-American accused in the scheme, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, correctly identified a known Quds Force officer from a photo array, and his cousin - who he said recruited him for the plot - is another Quds official.

It remained unclear, though, whether the plot was conceived by a rogue element or had approval from top officials of the Revolutionary Guards or the Iranian government.

"It's so outside their normal track of activity," said a senior law enforcement official who had been involved in the investigation and would speak only on the condition of anonymity. "It's a rogue plan or they're using very different tactics. We just don't know."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed her incredulity in an interview with The Associated Press.

"The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador, nobody could make that up, right?" she asked, also saying that the plot "crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for."

The State Department issued an alert on Tuesday for Americans traveling or living abroad regarding "the potential for anti-U.S. actions following the disruption" of the plot, which it said "may indicate a more aggressive focus by the Iranian government on terrorist activity."

While Dino drives to the Comune to see if the mirror on the other side of the street in front of our house has been approved, I catch up with you.

With my headache almost cleared, I'm working on Marissa's dress and thinking it will sit on her hips instead of having a regular waist. We've received a number of requests to show you what I am working on as I go, and we'll do that in the next post.

Right now, as I determine how the pleats will work on the upper part of the dress, I decide they'll not be sewn as regular pleats; instead, the sequin flowers will mark them. Let's see how that plays out.

Dino returns from the Comune. Francesco has given him written permission to have the Safety Mirror installed, at our expense!

Dino recants the 11 month saga leading up to this tiny win!

November 2010 - I have a casual conversation with Francesco at an event here in Mugnano. I tell him that I would like to install a safety mirror on a pole across the street from our parcheggio and ask him if he thinks we need a permit, as the mirror will be on public property. He says that it would probably be a good idea. I ask him who the request should go to. He tells me to get it to him (Francesco is in charge of Public Safety in our Comune.)

A few days later with my mockup pictures in hand I go to the Comune and leave it on his desk.

Knowing that the Italian bureaucracy takes a bit of time, I wait a month or so and, when I see Francesco, I ask him the status of the "mirror" project. He tells me that I should talk to the Mayor - who is only in his office about 1 day a week.

A little more time goes by - a few months - I am in the Comune and see the Mayor and show him the photo mockup to remind him and he remembers the project and tells me that I need to talk to the Tecnico and make a new request for the mirror - for he is responsible for permits. I do this with the mockup photos and send it to him via email.

About a week later, I print the email and photos and return to the Comune to seek out the tecnico - of course he is not there and I return to his office the next day. He tells me that he received the email and that I really need to talk to Francesco about it!!

Guess what, (it's now early October 2011 - 11 months after the initial request) Francesco IS IN his office. I recant the whole story to him. He turns to his computer and types an authorization for us to install the mirror - on Comune letterhead, complete the obligatory official rubber stamp seal!!!

So the circle is complete: Francesco, the Mayor, the Tecnico and back to Francesco!

The weather is warm and sunny, and as Sofi and I listen to classical music on SKY, I hear a piece I love. I don't know what it is, but recall that it was prominent in a love story filmed with Betty Davis, Now Voyager, which is a tear-jerker for sure if you're looking for a film to rent or download.

Dino figures out how to have SKY work for us in an interactive way, and now I can see the names of each piece that is played, who the composer is and who is playing it. When I can figure out the piece of music that I thought was in the movie, I'll let you know.

We drive to Roma Est, the big shopping center outside the main part of Rome, where the main Apple store is located in the area. Dino has an appointment with their Genius Bar, and talks to them about the trouble he is having with the battery on his IPhone.

He does not get a new phone; instead, the genius shows him how to shut off the phone and hold two buttons down at the same time for ten seconds. It apparently re-synchs the phone, or something like that.

We leave and stop to visit Stein and Helga; tomorrow they take the train to Rome to celebrate St. Olaf's Day. It's a Norwegian thing. We'll see him back her next week, and see Helga in the Spring. She is such a kind and generous woman, and we wish her all the best.

Dino and Sofi drop me off in the Borgo for Coro practice, which lasts just an hour, after which I walk home. The sky is so clear, the moon at it's fullest, and there is not a sound. This is a really dear village and we feel honored to be living here. Hope you're happy wherever you are living.

Back at home, I can't resist trying to make another sequin flower for Marissa's dress while Dino watches a crime show on TV. It's late, so time to turn in. A domani (until tomorrow).

October 13
With bright sun chasing any clouds away, we get up leisurely and Sofi gambols outside, while Dino discovers a snake skin near the ortensias (hydrangeas), shed some time ago, or that is what he tells me. I'm just hoping Sofi won't encounter it.

I'm rallying, still not back to my old self, and return to Marissa's dress, figuring out what to do about the arms of it. I'd like them in gossamer pink, and realize we have just what we need in a piece of fabric that is a Moroccan design, but in gradated shades of purple and pink. Let's stop with the sequins for a bit, and see what I can come up with.

That pile of things are costumes already finished and ready to be packed for the trip. Let's get out the scissors!

Mary called while I was in the shower, and how dear she is, worried about me, when she is the one who needs all the attention and care. Always the valiant one, she and Don have been visiting friends on this trip to Italy from England and going out for coffee each day, although it is very difficult for her to move about.

Before you moan to yourself about your aches and pains, think of Mary, who has lived with M.S. for decades. Although she is confined mostly to a wheelchair, her mind and spirits are that of a twenty year old and bring joy to all who encounter her. We'll see if I can rally and we'll go out with them, perhaps tomorrow night, although I should attend Coro practice.

After a medicine cocktail and rest for two hours, my headache will not go away. This is a first for me. The medicine has always worked for me before. Let's rally and try to ignore it...

After working on Marissa's dress for a couple of hours, thanks to Angie for giving me the girls' arm lengths, I give up on her long sleeves and add another ruffle to the bottom of the skirt instead. It was quite short, and since there are flowers on the new material, I add one sequin and one clear bead to each flower. That's about twenty, and they'll add to the shimmer of the outfit.

Should I make the sleeves into a separate top and make the dress sleeveless, so that it can be worn with or without the long sleeves? I think that's a good idea. Marissa can then wear the top with other things, and the dress alone. I'll work it out so that she can decide, for I have some lavender jersey fabric, I think. Come no? (Why not?)

October 14
Feeling better, I have more energy and new thoughts about the costumes. First, Dino drives to Viterbo and Sofi and I meander about the garden; one looking for her pals scurrying across the gravel and one pinching back the sweet peas in the big pots holding the wisteria trunks. I love sweet peas, and in one pot the pinks are lovely explosions of joy.

Alost as soon Dino leaves for Viterbo, he is back and tells me that Francesco is meeting him here to discuss the entry stairs that we and Pepe will pay for, but are on the Comune's property. After 11 months, Francesco gives us the thumbs up on this project! Back to the studio, I will make a new top of the same material as the sleeves as a blouse, instead of adding it to a stretchy material. The material I have is too dark in color. I also sew the bottom border ruffle to the skirt, and this piece can be moved further down later if Marissa grows taller and still wants to wear it.

Sofi chooses to lie in her wicker bed, which she seems to love, instead of her bed in the bedroom. We have an extra cushion, so perhaps will add that to the softer bed in the bedroom. She is so dear; what's not to love?

Yesterday, Dino and I learned how to use the interactive feature of our SKY satellite TV, and this morning I learn that the piece I love and have been trying to find is Franz Schubert's Duetsche Messe "Sanctus".

For some reason, my interpretation of the words is: "I believe in heaven, I believe in God". Perhaps Stein can help me to translate, but let's see what Al Gore's internet has to say instead. Here it is, after all this time!

Holy, holy, holy,
God almighty Lord!
Holy, holy, holy,
Everywhere adored!

He without beginning,
he th'eternal one
reigns and rules forever
all things 'neath the sun.

Power and love and wonder
circling round his throne,
praise him, holy, holy,
Lord of life alone.

That reminds me. I have to scan and email two new hymns to Paul in Paris and find out when he will be here. I think he'll be here at the end of the month with his family. It will be lovely to see them again.

That done, it's back to sewing sequins and working on Marissa's dress until it's time to meet Don and Mary at I Gelsi for pizza.

What fun it is to go out with friends who speak the same language! Tonight it is all I can do to not hug Mary, she is so dear to me. It pleases me so to help her to cut her pizza; she is so sweet and happy, although can hardly move a step without her wheelchair and Don's masterful help. Sempre Avanti! (Always forward!) seems to be her mantra.

Sofi is not allowed into the restaurant per Dino, but she's happy to gambol about when we leave and let her out of the car, especially to give Mary a big kiss.

Back at home under a moon just past full, it's back to sewing for a bit, then I realize it's almost 11 P.M., so turn in. A domani! (Until tomorrow!)

October 15
Happy Birthday dear Patrick!

What a lovely day! We're so fortunate to face South, and are sheltered from the wind, which whips all along Umbria.

We see Pepe as we are leaving and he invites us to see his winter orto and offers us to take insalata when ever we want.

In the car as soon as we're able, we drive to Don and Mary's so that Dino can install their track light in the kitchen.

In the meantime, Sofi and I join Mary upstairs, and I work on Marissa's dress, wanting to show her how I make each sequin flower. There is a large wall mirror, and when I pick up Sofi and face the mirror, she can't quite believe the dog she sees right in front of her. Her expression is priceless, but by the time Dino comes up with his camera, the moment has passed. Was it another dog? I walk with her right up to the mirror, and as soon as we are two feet away, she turns her head, not wanting to see the image up close.

The track light installed, Mary and I venture downstairs to look, and it brings lots of light into the room. Dino and Sofi and I leave with our dear friends quite pleased, and drive on to Viterbo to purchase more clear beads for the center of each flower on Marissa's dress. I'm almost out of the first 100; that means 25 flowers. I plan to finish the ten remaining flowers and hope to finish the dress before going to bed tonight.

Beads are sewn and I hope to finish the dress tomorrow instead, then move on to other things, including the harem outfits for Erin and Angie, although Emily's is finished. The grand daughters received their harem outfits for their birthday in June.

Hopefully thinking my stomach ailments had flown the coop, they have returned, probably based on some small thing I ate tonight. Let's see what happens overnight.

There is a crackling sound outside, and we realize there is a brush fire...Dino walks out to the middle garden and can see it in the distance, between Michelle and Claudio's house and Bomarzo. He calls them, but they cannot see it. He also calls the Corpo Forestale (fire department), who send their trucks and thank him. After a while the sound dissipates, and the fire has been put out.

October 16
We're hoping to fit in one more day before posting, and that means today, not that there is much going on, other than lots of sewing and figuring out where and when to plant all the tulips and other bulbs.

First, we drive up to church, where there is a full contingent of Coro members, and Federica seems stressed. It must be difficult to deal with a newborn, and that is why we joke with Tiziano and Alessia afterward, talking about how much sleep they are trying to get in advance of the birth of their twins after the first of the new year. They look so happy, and we are very happy for them.

At Il Pallone, the supermarket always open on Sundays, we purchase our first meatloaf of the year, and roast it with carrots and potatoes and gravy. Yes, the colder weather is here, and it's beautiful.

As we drove across the countryside earlier, I mused about how Italian country folk are more about loving their land than in stressing over class distinctions and material things. Dino told me that farmers don't work on Sunday; it's only the folks who work elsewhere during the week who are in their gardens and ortos on Sunday. Even Pepe wears his veluto, (corduroy) jacket and slacks as we drive by his garage this morning and wave.

Yes, it's a peaceful Sunday, although I've added another under layer to Marissa's dress, including sparkly sequins and beads to make sure it is long enough, and so it won't be finished after all until...tomorrow.

Here's how it looks as it waits for me to sew the shoulder and neckline.

There's something else I want to add, but can't remember what it is when I'm sitting at the computer, so if it comes to me, we'll include it in the next post. Oh, I remember. It's the update to my citizenship application. Here's what the powers that be tell us:

State of the practice: The investigation is complete, the application is being evaluated.

ATTENTION The practice has been updated automatically by the system in real time. Therefore, the state of the practice seen by the user matches the current state of discussion. The news that would be obtained by citizenship are exactly those already available on the portal. Please, therefore, not to call as not to delay the preliminary investigation.

What does that mean? Dino thinks it means they have received the information they requested from the U.S., and are now evaluating it. Please don't call, they tell us, or it will delay the investigation.

Do you have a rich imagination? If so, perhaps you're thinking we'll hear that I've been granted Italian citizenship before the month is up. Trick or treat? We have no idea.

October 17
I'm so interested in finishing the dress, and now add a sash that I will add sequins and beads to as well. Might as well make it a fully finished garment in all respects. I'm almost sad to see it packed away.

Dino works on photographs and gets quickly bored. He switches to our family tree project, and asks me questions about my side of the family. I know some of the answers, so we put together an email to other members of the family to see if they'll cooperate. Come no? (Why not?)

Tonight is Coro practice, and it's earlier these days, so I imagine I'll attend. It only takes an hour, and perhaps there'll be time for a nap and to finish the dress first.

Yes, the dress is finished. I hope Marissa enjoys it as much as I have making it. Here is the back of the dress:

October 18
It's another clear and lovely day. Last night I walked home alone from the borgo, once leaving Vincenza and Giovanna at their homes on Via Mameli, and the silence and beauty of the night seemed to envelop and caress me. It is still a thrill to live here, especially when greeted at home by hugs and kisses from Dino and Sofi.

Dino asked me to give the sewing a rest for a day, so other than searching for one pink gossamer sleeve that is somewhere in the studio, I agree. I'm reading a book about Michelangelo and his painting and sculpting and it's quite interesting, so I expect to do lots of nothing, except reading and a bit of cooking for our pranzo.

This morning I see the missing sleeve hanging behind the sewing table, and can't wait to make a blouse with the same material, so when Dino leaves for the Comune to check on his passport and ask about my pending citizenship status (all my information is in; they're evaluating it, so what does that mean?), I begin to design and sew the blouse that may be for either girl, now that I have the sleeves right in front of me.

What's my latest interesting challenge is attaching the sleeves. In the meantime, I've added a layer to the blouse at the bottom, and it now looks like it can be worn over pants or a skirt! I'll take a photo for you if I can remember.

I am a bit off on the first try to attach a sleeve, but now understand how to do it, and in the meantime, I'm adding bright gold piping to the top. Tomorrow will be the day I will finish it...perhaps. I'm having a great time, and it's almost like playing dress up with dolls. This time, I'm creating for our two little real live "dolls". I'm glad we have more than a month for me to play around before the garments are packed in the suitcase to travel to San Francisco.

Helga comes by with updates about our dear friend, Stein. He lays in a hospital in Rome with yet another pancreatis attack. When he's ready to come home, we'll happily drive to Rome to pick him up. We continue to worry about him, as this is his third attack this year, but he has many friends who love him as we do, and we'll all make sure he is well cared for.

October 19
We're met by fog this morning; a dewy terrace and garden give Sofi a fresh start to her day. The banana muffins I fixed yesterday are polished off, and with an addition of a bit of the wonderful ginger syrup from France in the batter, they're a treat for prima colazione (breakfast). I wonder about those words for breakfast; is it to set aside for a second breakfast, or merenda? (snack).

Sofi and I return to the studio, where I'll work on the top, beginning by taking out the sleeve and re-sewing it, after Dino and I talk about the bulbs to be planted. Perhaps we'll have Cristina plant them for us after we decide where the different ones will be placed.

Muscles in my shoulders, especially the left one, ache. Dino tells me that's because I stiffen them when I concentrate. Let's see if I can be more mellow about it.

I so love listening to classical music while in the studio; now it's T. Albinoni's adagio. It's a familiar piece, although I never knew what it's name was before using the interactive SKY feature on the TV. The Academy of St. Martin in the Field plays the piece, conducted by Nevil Marriner, and perhaps it's worth looking up to see if you remember it.

I apologize to J Roderigo for his Concerto De Aranjuez. This morning, it is played by the Bream-Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Rattle. All this time, I thought it was Miles Davis playing "Sketches of Spain". Well, I think he plays the piece, too, and we must have his interpretation somewhere in our music collection. There's just one more piece to share with you that I really like: A. Pizzolla's "Oblivion". If you know how to determine the character of a person by the music they love, here's a way to figure me out. If you do, please let me know....

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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".

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Minister proposes clampdown after Rome riots

'Unprecedented urban terrorism', says Maroni

(ANSA) - Rome, October 18 - Interior Minister Roberto Maroni on Tuesday announced tough new measures to crack down on street violence after what he called "unprecedented urban terrorism" in Rome at the weekend.

In a report to the Senate, Maroni condemned the "blind violence" during Saturday's demonstration which he attributed to "3,000 masked people who had overshadowed the protest by thousands of others".

Previous estimates had said there were up to 800 hooded thugs who took over what started as a peaceful protest by around 200,000 people in the Italian capital on Saturday.

Maroni also said that security forces had information about those who might disrupt the demonstration but police did not have adequate powers to stop them.

"There was all the information on the hooligans' movement but the actual laws did not allow police to stop them or arrest those suspected of participating in the violence," Maroni told parliament.

Under new measures foreshadowed by Maroni, police will have the power arrest troublemakers on the basis of video evidence after the event as they do with soccer hooligans.

The government is also proposing greater protection for police and powers to take more preventative measures.

ANSA English > News
Milan judge clears Berlusconi in tax fraud case

'Berlusconi had no involvement in this affair', says lawyer

(ANSA) - Milan, October 18 - A Milan judge on Tuesday cleared Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a fraud case related to his private Mediaset television empire.

Judge Maria Vicidomini dismissed the case against Berlusconi but ordered his son Pier Silvio, the deputy chairman of the company, and chairman Fedele Confalonieri to stand trial. "Silvio Berlusconi had no involvement in this affair," his defence lawyer Niccolo Ghedini told reporters outside the court.

In the case company subsidiary Mediatrade is accused of fraud and tax evasion related to the purchase of TV rights in the United States.

Apart from Pier Silvio Berlusconi and Confalonieri, nine others have been charged in the case and the next hearing is scheduled for December 22 in Milan. Prosecutors had claimed Berlusconi and his associates had skimmed millions of euros, which then went into a secret political slush fund. Berlusconi earlier this year called the charges against him "pure invention." The 75-year-old prime minister is facing two separate corruption and tax fraud trials linked to his business empire and a separate court case in which he is accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

In the ongoing and several other previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly leftwing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

In more than a dozen cases, the premier has never received a definitive conviction, sometimes because of law changes passed by his governments, while some other charges were timed out by the statute of limitations.

Historic Assisi has dropped by 15 cms in 20 years

Scientists check satellite data for more details

(ANSA) - Assisi, October 17 - The town of Assisi, the birthplace of Italy's patron saint St. Francis, appears to be sinking.

According to satellite data collated by the European Space Agency and Italy's electromagnetic institute (IREA), the Umbrian hill town has dropped 15 centimetres in the past 20 years or 7.5 millimetres a year.

Scientists are analysing the satellite data in a bid to learn more about the movement of the earth in sensitive areas around the Medieval town.

St. Francis founded the Franciscan religious order in Assisi in 1208 and the town attracts millions of Catholic pilgrims and other tourists every year.

The town was hit by two devastating earthquakes which struck Umbria in September 1997. The historic Basilica of San Francesco, a UNESCO World Heritage site, suffered serious damage but was reopened less than two years later.

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'Blind' hairdresser nabbed riding bike

Woman charged with defrauding state

Bottom of Form (ANSA) - Ravenna, October 14 - An Italian hairdresser claiming disability benefit for blindness has been charged with defrauding the state after tax police filmed her working in her salon and riding a bike, officials said Friday.

The woman, 62, was judged "completely sight-impaired" by a medical panel and had been claiming benefits "for at least three years," they said. Authorities will now try to get their money back and are suing for damages.

"Not only was she styling hair but we also filmed her cycling, crossing the street with a keen eye on the lights and even reading the paper," police in Vigo near Ravenna said.

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Barenboim named La Scala's musical director

Post left vacant by Muti in 2005

(ANSA) - Milan, October 13 - Famed Argentinian-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim was on Thursday named musical director of Milan's iconic La Scala opera house, filling a post left vacant when Riccardo Muti stormed out in 2005 amid artistic differences.

Barenboim, 68, who is already principal guest conductor for La Scala, will assume his new post on December 1, La Scala said.

For the last five years Barenboim has been Maestro of La Scala, a less formal title under which he has produced at least two operas a year. This arrangement was due to lapse this year.

Barenboim will serve as musical director until the end of 2016, La Scala said, adding that he would be present at the opera house 15 weeks a year for concerts, operas and tours.

Making the announcement "with great satisfaction and pride," La Scala Superintendent Stephane Lissner called Barenboim "one of the greatest conductors of our time".

The appointment, Lissner said, would launch "a broad-scale European project which strengthens La Scala internally and at the same time opens it up to new prospects on the world stage".

Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia, who is titular president of the La Scala foundation, said "with this choice, the theatre has once again confirmed it is a reference point for culture and music at an international level.

"The greatness of his (Barenboim's) work, which I have had the opportunity to enjoy many times, will enrich the history of this temple to opera and the image of Milan and Italy in the world," Pisapia added.

Barenboim has conducted many of the world's top symphony orchestras and is currently general music director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin. He is also known for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a Seville-based orchestra of young Arab and Israeli musicians, and as an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Barenboim has received numerous awards and prizes, including Britain's Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), France's Legion d'honneur both as a Commander and Grand Officier, the German Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz, and, together with the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said, Spain's Prince of Asturias Concord Award. He has won seven Grammy awards for his work and discography.

Meanwhile, back in Mugnano...

As soon as pranzo is finished, I return with Sofi to the studio, completing Marissa's top and taking photos of the top as well as the lavender dress with sequins. If we have not included photos before, here they are:

Have I neglected Nicole? Hardly! She has a large hand painted scarf with a forest and three magical owls and a very spiffy blue dress to wear under it. I fashioned that before beginning Marissa's sequin dress.

I've heard a sound on the sewing machine that tells me it needs to be lubricated. It was reconditioned last year, but this is a first for me to oil it. Dino to the rescue! We review instructions in Italian and in English, and he decides to take the machine downstairs and take a blower to it. Va bene. Once back upstairs, he takes apart the sewing mechanism and puts in a drop of oil. I'm hoping that will work, and thanks again, dearest Dino. I've given up making outfits with the silk on which I spend hours hand painting bows, so instead make a long scarf of it that can also be used a wrap for each girl. There is enough fabric to make two, and to add a little something special, I'll make a flower and add a sequin and bead on top of the flower to each corner. Come no? (Why not?)

There's Coro practice tonight, but I have the wrong time, so arrive at the little church just in time to sing one hymn and walk home to be with my dear pals.

October 20
We leave early to pick up Don and Mary to take them to Fimucino Airport and then drive into Rome to visit Stein in the hospital. The drive to the airport with our dear friends takes two and one half hours (!), but there is plenty of time for them to catch their flight.

After goodbye kisses and hugs, we drive in to Rome, parking on the Lungotevere and walking across a bridge to the hospital, Fate Bene Fratelli to visit Stein.

On the way in, I see a large Pronto Soccorso (Emergency Room) sign, and admit to Dino that I have a fear that the pain in my back has moved up to my shoulder and down my left arm. After we visit our dear friend, who looks quite good and is pleased that the doctors are doing all they can to determine what his problems are, we walk downstairs to Pronto Soccorso and four women in the office, including a delightful Dottoressa Diana, have me laughing and trying to speak Italian while they try to speak English.

After an echocardiogram, and another blood test, they have us wait in a patient room for several hours until the results show an inflammation, but nothing else. At least I have a bed to rest in, and Dino waits in a chair beside me, reading his Kindle book about the Chicago Mafia.

I'm given an injection of salt and some anti-inflammatory drug, but it does little except make me feel somewhat silly. Since I take very strong medicine for migraine headaches, I suppose I need to tell them that I need a stronger dose. This is to remember to do that if there is a next time.

Sofi waits patiently in the car, sleeping in the shade, until we return. There's time to pick up two bottles of Dino's favorite, hard to find, Irish whiskey: Tullamore Dew, before leaving town, and the drive home is a breeze, now that it's way past the commuter traffic hour.

It feels so good to be home.

October 21
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a book that will come out soon. I'm fascinated to know about human behavior, especially how and why we become who we are. This author, a Nobel Prize winner, seems to know quite a bit about it. I'm hoping the Kindle price might come down, so am holding off on buying it online.

With shoulder pain continuing to an intense degree, Dino scowls as he sees me moving around, sweeping, weeding, cleaning... He wishes I would be a lazy sort. When I ask him if he thinks I am lazy, he replies, "Magari!" (If only that were so!) I suppose one always wishes for that which they don't have, at least until they have it. I make peace with my dear one by catching up with the journal as we wait for Patrick to come to try our new Nespresso machine and have a quick visit on his short trip here to manage the workers on his Italy property.

The day is lovely as we move a few things around on the terrace, with Dino doing most of the lifting, and I look forward to an afternoon reading in the sunshine on this beautiful fall day. I've promised Dino not to work or to sew all day, although I look longingly at new designs I'd like to fashion. I admit I helped to move a somewhat heavy table, and now I know that was a very bad idea.

Patrick arrives too late for a snack, so we invite him to join us for pranzo. I fix risotto, using chicken and sage, and never worry that it will be other than very tasty. Patrick arrives, and we've missed him. Eating outside under the shady wisteria in front of the kitchen, the meal is simple and just right. There is so much to talk about, so much to share.

I especially enjoy his comments about the two latest costume designs for Marissa and Nicole, and hope that the two little girls for whom they are made will share these comments. I so enjoy the activity, the endeavor.

After Patrick leaves, I'm so tired I catch up with you and then get into bed to read and just hang out, hoping my shoulder pain will go away. I've already taken 1,000mg of tachiprina (aspirin) for the pain. No matter.

Today is such a lovely day. There is something about sun during the fall that brings joy to one's heart, as if it's not going to end and the winter cold will be far away.

More than two hours later, Sofi and I get up from our nap, and although the pain still persists, I'm ready to face the world again.

October 22
I'll try not write about pain again, for reading about it is such a pain. Sorry.

There's an email invitation to a concert from a friend, and since she's a retired attorney, I have to laugh at the description of the place where the reception afterward will be held: Following the performance you may meet ... in my garden (weather permitting) or salone which are appurtenant to Palazzo .... So what does appurtenant mean? Here it is: A legal right or privilege attached to a property and inherited with it.Add that word and definition to your already brilliant memory bank. No wonder it was written by an attorney!

We've slept in late, and have received an email to tell us that the granddaughters are looking forward to sewing with me. What fun! That also means that I don't have to do any more sewing, for leaving things unfinished means they will have fun completing them with me. My shoulder thanks them more than I can say. Now all we have to figure out is how much material will fit in the suitcases.

If I sew anything, it will be a somewhat casual dress for me to wear when we are there; one with dolman sleeves and an interesting detail.

Today is the day I'll do almost nothing, other than make a chocolate cake in the shape of a heart for Paul's family, who arrive from Paris today for a visit. It will be so wonderful to see them!

There I go again. I am a hopeless lunatic who can't just sit around. At least making a cake for dear friends will be fun.

F. Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite" is yet another piece I hear while catching up with you and wonder if I've confused it with another piece that played in the old movie, "And Now Voyager" with Bette Davis. Perhaps we'll have to rent it and find out. I email Christopher to see if he can find out for me, and he emails me back to tell me he'll try to find out. He now works for Ray Dolby, and the film was recently rereleased with Dolby Sound.

Dino asks if I can do something with the squash we have for pranzo, with pasta. Sure. How about squash and sage and pine nuts over farfalle or corkscrew pasta? Perhaps add a bit of nutmeg. Let's see what we can do. Sofi reminds me that it's 12:03. She somehow has an alarm clock to remind me to feed her right on the nose of noon...What a nose!

Later, just as we're taking a nap, one of the French children, Wolf, brings an invitation to us for a visit. We make a cake and as soon as it's ready, decorate it and bring it to them as a welcome gift.

We don't stay long, but long enough to greet everyone and take a tour of the latest changes to the house. The grand house reminds me of a French castle, I tell Leon, the oldest child, and it's obvious he loves the place, as do I.

We offer to lend them blankets and anything they need, and if we don't see them later, we'll see them in church tomorrow. It's really good to see them all again.

October 23
We're early for church, and greet Paul and his family as he sets up his keyboard next to where the Coro sits in our church. Wolf is today's altarboy, and Leon and Beatrice sit on the front row with me, trying to sing as Federica leads us on each piece.

We drive to our Sunday tradition, prima colazione at Bar da Nando and then food shopping, although the plan according to Dino is that we'll feed Sofi and then drive to Pronto Soccorso (The Emergency Room) at the Orvieto Hospital (I'm sorry. I told you I would not write any more about the pain...) and are only in the hospital for an hour this time.

The doctor has little faith in what he reads from Friday's hospital report from Rome, and tells me that I have an inflamed nerve in my back. Telling them the pain medicine I have been given has not worked, they give me something new in an I.V., after trying in three different places to find a vein large enough. I have inherited tiny veins from my dear mother, but after two different people try, there is success. We come away with a prescription for drops and pills to take three times a day for twenty days. I'm already feeling better.

We stop at the Autogrill on the way home for a plate of pasta, and as soon as we're home we all go to bed for a rest.

Dino finds a pharmacy that is open, and picks up the medication I am to take. What a guy!

October 24
The medicine I've been prescribed is called Lyrica and Contramol. Here's what I find out about them (skip this if you're not interested).

Contramol is another name for Tramadol. Here's what I found about Contramol: Ultram is a narcotic-like pain reliever. It is the brand name for tramadol. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain by changing the way the body senses pain. Ultram can either be taken as a normal tablet or an extended-release (long-acting) tablet to be taken through the mouth.

Tramadol is in a group of drugs called opiate agonists. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain by changing the way the body senses pain. Tramadol is often abused, because it creates a morphine-like high that can last up eight hours. Tramadol Abuse Tramadol is easier to obtain than drugs such as morphine and OxyContin.

Last night's vomiting attack (sorry) was then caused by taking the drug, which is also a side effect of Lyrica, a capsule used for fibromyalgia. No matter, I'm going to continue to take both. Lyrica's effect takes place after about a week of use, and I am to take twenty days of it.

Fibromyalgia (new Latin, fibro-, fibrous tissues, Gk. myo-, muscle, Gk. algos-, pain, meaning muscle and connective tissue pain; also referred to as FM or FMS) is a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia, a heightened and painful response to pressure.[Evidence from research conducted in the last three decades has revealed abnormalities within the central nervous system affecting brain regions that may be linked both to clinical symptoms and research phenomena. These studies show a correlation, but not causation.[11] Some research suggests that alterations in the central nervous system might be the result of childhood stress, or prolonged or severe stress.

Is it possible that my flights of fancy, often alluded to in the journal, are side effects of the fibromyalgia? I do consider myself at times separated from the real world. Perhaps that is a good thing, and my lack of judging other people seems to enhance this.

On a happier note, new friends from around the world continue to sign up for the journal, and Dino teases me about it, telling me that most of the subscribers are folks we don't know. We agree that the value of the site, if sold to a Google or similar company, is about €6 maybe €7. I have no interest in making money on it, not that anyone would want to buy it, but the mere thought of it makes me feel silly. Or is that the medicine I am taking?

Cristina arrives to weed and to plant the bulbs, and manages to plant a couple dozen of the parrot tulips in the area next to the summer kitchen. She'll return tomorrow to plant more. We're so pleased with the work she does. She tells me that her spirit is so happy here. Indeed, I do believe there is something magical about the place, and I dearly love what it has become...a lovely haven of peacefulness and joy. We are truly blessed.

October 25
Dino tells me the tulips that Cristina planted yesterday have to be replanted; they are too shallow. I don't have the energy to confront her, so Dino to the rescue. She planted 32 bulbs, as well as all the anemones and Dino wants to purchase a bulb planter, although I don't think we need one. Yes, it's another tool, but he cannot find it in nearby Attigliano.

What I'm most excited about is being able to paint the parrot tulips from life in the early spring. Stay tuned...

The pain in my back is pretty severe, so after Cristina arrives and settles in with Dino to supervise, I'll return to bed to read my latest book, Angelology, which I find quite fascinating. Between the drugs and the book it will be like being in a dream world, at least until the pain subsides.

Then I'll make basil lemon pesto, and will put the recipe on the site in case you're interested. I particularly like the added lemon taste to pesto; it adds a freshness and lightness to it. There is so much going on, that we'll probably not post it until next time. Sorry.

October 25
Everything has been planted and the whole place looks great. Stefano still can't come here to work, but thinks he can arrive to put in the hole for the pole and mirror across the street. He does not come, so Dino has Dino from Attigliano fix it.

I walk up to Coro practice and am stopped by Vincenza, who tells me there weren't enough people this morning, so practice will be tonight. I tell her I can't, and we drive to Viterbo to pick up a few things at a tessuti (fabric) store and a few things at OBI, the big hardware store, as well as a gift for Terence, instead.

Sofi has been rubbing her snout, and I see a little pink thing near her eye. She has been bitten by a tick, so we take her to our vet, and there is hardly anyone there. Yes, it is a zecca (tick), but it is taken out quickly with alcohol and a piece of cotton and then tweezers; then Sofi is fine. What a good doggie!

I take a nap this afternoon; the medicine is strong but I am getting used to it. I don't take as much as the maximum, (20 drops, 2 instead of 3 times a day), can put up with the pain, and think I am slowly getting better.

There is time to work on a dress for me, with dolman sleeves, and I hope to wear it for Thanksgiving. We'll see. I think we did not purchase quite enough material, so we'll drive to Terni to pick up a bit more tomorrow. Dino is always up for a little trip.

I'm still not sure I know how to fashion dolman sleeves, and can't find much on the internet about it, so I'll make the pattern up as I go along. The more I sew, the more I like sewing. I'd like to find a more refined way of sewing details, and that will come...Magari!

I make the lemon pesto, three double batches of it, and put it in ice cube trays. When frozen, they'll be moved to Ziploc bags to use for winter soups and sauces and even pesto! I know. You want the recipe...

October 27
It's Thursday, although I cannot tell unless I look the date up. Days roll over, one after another, and unless we have church to go to, the days have no real distinction. It's a blessing, with us slowly meandering from one project to another... or not.

This morning, we are traveling to Marcelloni in Terni. It is possible that we purchased the embroidered blue material there. Nope. I do pick up a bit of winter fabric in a kind of Diner plaid, to make one or two hooded jackets for the girls.

On the way home, we stop at Spazio Verde, a magnificent place to buy real plants or imitation ones, as well as things for the home. I don't mean necessary things for the home, other than some furniture, but items to touch up the scenery. We leave with no nepeta that Dino wants to plant in a couple of places, but an expert recommends that we look around in the spring, instead of trying to plant now. Good idea!

We're almost home when I recall that we purchased the fabric in...Lucca. Will we drive there soon and confront the woman, who must have known that she sold us fabric with a sun line streaking right through it? Non lo so.

In the meantime, will I try to put together a dress with the material that we have? I want dolman sleeves, and don't think we have enough material for that. But that is what I want. Let's see what Dino says.

I do have more harem outfits to make, and possibly a winter jacket or two. But I concentrate on the dress and yes, I am able to make it with the material I have. I also remember that we purchased the fabric in Lucca on our way home from France.

At practice tonight, we sing somewhat sweetly, hopefully like angels during our practice. Dolci, dolci! (sweetly, sweetly!) is how we should sound, but perhaps some of the members always sing with loud voices. I look up at Jesus on the cross and sing, "Eccomi, eccomi, Signor io vengo!" (Here I am, here I am, Lord I am coming!)

That makes me a bit nervous, for I am not ready...There are too many things to do.

October 28
Dino asks me to help him to lay the last of the nursery cloth from the giant roll we purchased several years ago, to be placed under the gravel. This cloth is to be laid under the wood bark chips (oops, I almost wrote Redwood bark!) in the secret garden, near where some of the new bulbs were just planted.

There is not enough nursery fabric, so rather than use small pieces, Dino tells me he'll drive to Bruno's to purchase a 2 meter x 4 meter piece. Va bene. But first, he wants to set up the large round specchio (mirror) on the newly installed pole across the street, now that we have the proper permit documentation from Francesco, the Vigili Urbano (local policeman).

Yesterday, Luigina walked by and told Dino with a big smile that on her way down the hill on foot to feed the pulcini (chicks), she can check on her makeup in our big new mirror across the street. Ha!

This morning, we install the mirror with the help of a ladder and me to hold the nuts and bolts and the mirror while it is fixed in place. I laugh up at Dino, reminding him: now that we can see right up the street toward the borgo, it will give Francesco security to drive even faster as he reaches our gate. We'll soon see...

I take more drops for the pain, but am doing better, and Sofi joins me in the studio while I work on the sleeves for my new dress. While working on the dress, I wonder if there will there be enough Diner plaid to make jackets for both girls and Emily? We'll surely drive to Terni soon to pick up more, if there is more. What fun to have a family plaid we can call our own!

Here it is:

So why is it our family plaid? Well, we're mostly girls, and the background is a deep-ish pink, for all the girls. There's black, for Terence and Dino and Christopher and Chris, Jr., purple for Angie and pale blue for the junior male members: Ryan and Sean. I'm not sure what color Patty likes, but hope she'll like one. I like the pale blue. Let's hope the rest of the family members agree.

I don't know what we'll do when the material runs out, but we'll ask the people at Marcelloni if it's a plaid they can restock, and if it is available in cotton. How about clothes and dishcloths and table cloths and napkins in the same fabric? How about a family flag? How about a rest, Evanne?

I turn to my dress, to work the sleeves and the neck, and Dino inspires me to create a cotton top; luckily we have no cotton in the house. You know that means we'll pick some up in Viterbo or at Marcelloni and I'll have something to show when we are in San Francisco next month.

We arrange a time to get together with Patrick when we are there, as well as Tia, as well as a hairdo appointment, as well as a dinner at Adrian's for the family on December 1st, which would Dad Leo's 99th birthday, and are closing in on a couple of other dates. That's it, meaning the rest of the time will be spent with Terence and Angie and Marissa and Nicole. We really look forward to that.

Earlier this morning, Rosina called out to me from her balcony and called me "Evann-ee". I suppose that's her big sister-to-little- sister name for me. Va bene. In a silly way, I even like it!

Dino will pick up more nursery cloth and when he's ready, I'll help him to lay it down and then he can spread the wood bark. Let's see how weedy it becomes...

Before I know it, Dino has the cloth, and we work together with long metal stays to make it stay in the ground where it is placed. Hence the name stay.

We only have a bit of the bark, although it is two large bags, so Dino searches for it, finding it at Vivaio Pinzaglia, in Bassano in Teverina. The bark is cheaper, and Dino thinks, better. He spreads it around and it is beautiful.Va bene!.

At home, I've fixed baked breaded chicken fingers and little balls of the breading and left over egg to serve with rice. Life is simple here, as is the food most of the time. The little balls taste like ammunition, but at least Sofi likes them.

Let's not forget about how it feels to be outside in the fall air, mild and sweet. Our place looks just like the dreams I've had of it, with dreamy lavender, cypress trees, boxwood, roses and gravel under foot. Let's plant sweet peas in the long planters; we'll be able to move them wherever we want as focal points in our view during warm months, when they'll bloom joyously.

I finish the day feeling better, and do not take drops before going to bed. That makes just one dose today.

October 29
When the movie Enchanted April came out in 1992, my love affair with the sound of crunching gravel underfoot began. The romance blossomed when we decided to purchase our property in 1997, and with the help and guidance of our dearest garden mentor at the time, Sarah Hammond, our property has lots of it.

Not wanting to spend our time grooming and cutting grass, gravel has become a wonderful compromise. Weeds have a difficult time finding their way through both nursery cloth and then gravel, and these days it's a blessing. Let's hope the bark around the areas where the tulips and other bulbs are planted will act the same way.

Today is Saturday, with plenty of time to play out in the garden and not so much time to work on clothes for the grand daughters, now that we have purchased what looks like "Diner Plaid" and I want Marissa and Nicole to have jackets made of the plush material.

I'm close to finishing my dress, but need more trim from Viterbo before completing that project, so it's time to move on to other things. That means the harem outfits for Erin and Angie and plush lightweight jackets for the girls.

Terence won't read this, so I can tell you that we are doing a black apron for him to use in his bar with a transfer on the front of his first car, a 1976 Capri, and the girls will sew sequins below it to read, "This is it!". Marissa and Nicole can do the sewing with my help while we are there, and can present the apron to Terence before we leave, or for Christmas.

We do drive to Viterbo, pick up the trim we need from my favorite shop, but they don't stock Diner plaid. So next week we'll travel to Terni to purchase enough material for scarfs for some of the Diner family. Here I go again. At once the projects for the next weeks were easy, with little to sew. Now I'm loaded with "must-do" projects within the next month. Comé no? (Why not?)

After a divine pranzo of tagliolini with garlic and prezzemolo (parsley) and shrimp and rose wine and olive oil and a couple of glasses of the wonderful wine, I'm anxious to take a nap. Afterward, I'll return to sewing the dress, keeping enough of the turtleneck material to make cuffs. Then I'll move on to the little lined capes for the girls.

Let's take a nap.

Adding the cuffs and turtleneck to my dress is more difficult than I imagined, so I don't finish and tomorrow will work it some more. Time for a movie instead!

October 30
There's more sewing to do, but first, we drive to Il Pallone for a meatloaf, and it is so good that we can have it again tomorrow as well.

Tonight we spend the evening with the Mann family in the Borgo. Yes, it is the French family. Everyone serenades us, Beatrice plays her flute and Wolf plays the bassoon. The littlest girls, Joy and Lisa, also play the piano, although Lisa pretends to play after an automatic button is pressed on Paul's keyboard. We ask Marie, her mother, when she began taking lessons. "Just now!" she responds with a big laugh.

Enjoy the photos of the evening, including the pre-Halloween hats on the children. We don't expect to see anyone tomorrow night at our house, but if we do, we shall be ready.

October 31
We don't know if we'll have visitors tonight, but Dino stocks up anyway, with mini candy bars that he loves and will eat anyway.

We're expecting the little French girls to play with Sofi, and perhaps the whole family, but three of them arrive just after pranzo to play with Sofi and give her treats. It's a bit of a bust, for Sofi is not in a chasing mood, and that is a shame, for the girls love her, although Joy screams when Sofi gets within kissing range.

The girls leave just in time for Dino to take me up to Bomarzo for my scheduled free mammogram at a portable trailer. I just hate these; they are really painful. The work is done right away, for there is no waiting line. I'm evidently the first woman scheduled this afternoon.

Back at home, I finish the coat dress, and really like it. With proper tights of a grey/blue, it will look good, I hope. We'll bring it to San Francisco, so if you see us, you can see it in person. Just ask.

Here it is:

I'm relieved not to have Coro tonight; there will be a mass tomorrow morning (Tutti Santi) as well as a mass on Wednesday in the cemetery for the Day of the Dead. Yes, Italians venerate the dead, bringing them flowers often. I think it is a place to visit and speak with those loved ones who have gone beyond but are right with us in spirit, knowing all that we're up to. Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. Hi, dear Nana. Let's not forget Felice!Ciao, Bello!

It's a great way to end the month, don't you think? Don't forget to blow a kiss to someone no longer with us whom you recall fondly.

December 1 - 5
We're in San Francisco for a few more days before returning home, and if you want to see the memories of our trip, here they are:


Some of the friends that we saw...

...and some of the places...

...and of course the Fashion Show v.2011...

Somewhat in a daze with a head cold, Dino leads me back to SFO, the local airport, and our long flight to Zurich. We both now endorse Swiss Air highly for their service, although I admit I was not happy with their version of a meat loaf sandwich, served to us on the short flight from Zurich to Rome, which was some kind of liverwurst slices inside a long roll. Dino defended them, telling me it was veal loaf. Whatever.

The house is fine, although we had to trudge through a grand pile of wisteria and persimmon tree leaves before reaching the front door. No matter. It's so good to be home. On the drive late at night from the airport, I recall how in love we are with the ancient towns on the rolling Italian hillsides, the decaying buildings with their sense of history.

December 6
Missing Sofi terribly, we drive up to Orvieto to pick her up, and I can't wait to hold her in my arms. There is nothing like a Sofi kiss; it's soft and sweet and so from the heart.

Friends are visiting with Candace and Frank, and they seemed to enjoy Sofi quite a bit, thinking she was nothing but sweet, the recent bite of the electrician's ankle notwithstanding. After a short visit, we return home, and I move around with a duster after cobwebs, then proceed to break a glass while emptying the dishwasher, while Dino rakes leaves on the terrace and starts to burn them.

The house was fine in our absence, with nothing stirring, and although it's ready for a giant cleaning, we'll take that slowly, as we deal with the jet lag and consider what we want to decorate here for the holidays as well as Babbo's annual big night on the 24th. All I want to do is sleep...

Candace and Frank gave us some agretti seeds, and they are surprisingly large. Plant them at the beginning of February, they tell us, and I wonder about that, thinking they must come up quickly, for we remember them as a wonderful early spring vegetable.

What is agretti, anyway? The internet tells us it is "a springtime Mediterranean succulent, or water-retaining plant. With its verdant color and feathery texture, agretti looks like a cross between fennel fronds, rosemary, and grass. Its season is very short, typically a few weeks, in late spring". I thought I recalled eating it in April...no matter.

What characterizes this time of year most where we live? It's the color of rust, shades of brown and gold, and that colorless sky again. I'm reminded of it everywhere we look while on the road, the quercia (oak) leaves hanging and tawny brown, waiting for the new green growth in spring to push them to the ground as if they're little birds being shoved from their nests.

December 8
I wake up feeling strangely insecure, but today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and in church, my fellowCoro members welcome me back and greet me with hugs. I remember the hymns by heart, and am told to sit in the front row. Our Coro director, Federica, leads us with devotion and a wink or two, and Don Angelo arrives in the church and shakes hands with Dino in his regular spot and me in the midst of my Coro buddies. We're not sure what that means, but like him a great deal, and appreciate the sincerity with which he goes about his vocation here. He shook no one else's hand; we have no idea what he is thinking.

He speaks during his homily about the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, and admits we know little about it. I'm wondering how Christ could grow in Mary's womb in less than three weeks, and imagine her life must have been quite frightening at the time.

Back on earth, we greet Tiziano and Alessia after the mass, noticing how large her stomach has grown. In about a month or so, she is expected to give birth to twin girls. She looks lovely, and Dino gives them the gift we've brought to thank them for taking our mail and looking over things here while we were in the U S.

We drive to Nando's Bar for colazione, to Superconte for grocery shopping, then home to greet Sofi.

While I unpack groceries, Dino continues to rake the leaves on the terrace while Sofi gambols about. It's so good to be back.

While catching up with emails, I read an interesting piece in the NYT from good friend Don about intellectualizing. Although I don't consider myself an intellectual, I do have similar thoughts about our place in this life, and enjoy the writing of Gary Gutting. If you have not read his piece this week, I'd like to share a bit of it with you:

December 7
Intellectuals and Politics

What is an intellectual? In general, someone seriously devoted to what used to be called the "life of the mind": thinking pursued not instrumentally, for the sake of practical goals, but simply for the sake of knowing and understanding. Nowadays, universities are the most congenial spots for intellectuals, although even there, corporatism and careerism are increasing threats.

Intellectuals tell us things we need to know: how nature and society work, what happened in our past, how to analyze concepts, how to appreciate art and literature. They also keep us in conversation with the great minds of our past. This conversation may not, as some hope, tap into a source of enduring wisdom, but it at least provides a critical standpoint for assessing the limits of our current cultural assumptions.

I'd like to spend the rest of the day in bed, but it's a beauty, so instead I make a lemon cake that we eat while it is still warm after a pranzo of tagliatelle pasta in a wine and garlic and parsley and butter sauce with a bit of cream. Oh. Don't forget we add the shrimp, bought yesterday and already cooked and some freshly grated formaggio pecorino, the only cheese allowed with fish as prescribed by the rigid Italian food laws. Ha!

I sew up one drape on three sides and iron it; next we'll measure it and the rod for the hallway outside the kitchen and when we know the exact measurements we'll need, I'll sew the pocket and the top of it and it will be hung in the front hallway outside the kitchen door.

The fabric is a double thickness, and should provide plenty of protection from winter winds that try to sneak under the front door. It's a lovely color, reminiscent of what is known as Tuscan pink, a bit on the strawberry spectrum. How wonderful it will be when we are finally able to paint the walls in the hallway as a background for these beauties!

December 9
The story I wrote about yesterday gives me motivation to continue writing in the journal as a reflection of our lives here, including inner thoughts about life in general. While taking a walk around the lower village with Sofi, I return to the initial days here in late 1997, extolling the brave roses that endure the winter's cold and rain and the ancient little buildings in the valley built to contain tools and protect farmers from weather extremes as they feed their chicks and sheep, donkeys and pigs, as well as tend their ortos, walking back home with pieces of wood for their stoves or minestra(soup) for pranzo.

I wear only a vest over a sweater for our walk, but there is no wind, although grey clouds move overhead toward the East. On the upward climb I see that Elena's gate is open, and I call out to her to bid her a Buon giorno! She walks out to us, gives Sofi a pat, and tells me that she is cleaning out the lower room that seems to act as a cantina (storeroom). Anna's head pops out, and I'll have to ask Dino if she is related to Elena. He later tells me she is related to Elena's husband, Pietro. Yesterday, her husband, Franco, sat next to me in Coro, and I do have to refresh my mind about their names.

I work on the second piece of fabric, once back at home, sewing what I can until we can figure out how long each one will hang. I'm ready to purchase the paint we'll need for the hallway and entrance, although Dino grumbles that we're far from being ready for that. Much patching has to be done to the walls and ceiling in advance, but when will Stefano return to do the work? We agree that Dino will patch what he can; then we'll paint. Later, when we have the two Stefanos here for an extended time (magari!), they can repair and then we'll repaint where we need to.

Instead, Dino drives to Tenaglie and Guardea to figure out the ICI (property) tax that a client has to pay. The client is not an Italian resident, so owes tax on their property, although until very recently Italians were exempt from this tax on their first residence.

Crafty as they are, Italians weave their way around this law, placing each piece of property in another member of the family's name, thus exempting them from the tax at all. With the new Prime Minister returning this tax as a financial necessity for the State's dire financial condition, I'm wondering if we'll owe ICI for our house this year, although I recall it is paid in arrears. I'll ask Dino what he thinks when he returns.

Outside the front studio window, branches of the cachi (persimmon) tree stand up straight as a Martin Short hairdo, reminding me that the tree bore no fruit at all this year. Our second tree in the middle garden bore none as well, and I'm thinking that the persimmon trees cross-pollinate, so if one bears none, the other does the same. With Dino's severe clipping of the tree last winter, we had plenty of leaves but no fruit; no mess.

I love the colors just the same. Copper is the color of an Italian winter here, and I bless all of it. Each time we leave in the car, we're able to see the Lady Hillingdon roses in bloom, bringing a bit of color to the dull tufa walls behind them.

December 10
Wondering if we owe ICI (property tax), Dino tells me we do not, for it is paid twice a year and until the last few days the law instituted by Berlusconi several years ago as a campaign promise stated that there was no tax on one's first property. Mario Monti is Italy's new Prime Minister and has rescinded the law. Good for him. The country desperately needs to put itself on firm financial footing, and so the technocrats that are now in place here do not govern based on favoritismo. I think the proper word is nepotismo (nepotismo, or favoritism), yet it does not appear in any Italian/English dictionary. What is that all about? Per Wikipedia,

Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit. The word nepotism is from the Latin word nepos, nepotism (m. "nephew"), from which modern Romanian nepot and Italian "nephew" or "grandchild" are also descended. I especially like the freedictionary.com interpretation: favoritism shown to relatives or close friends by those in power (as by giving them jobs). The word is translated from Italian nepotismo, from nepote NEPHEW, from the former papal practice of granting special favors to nephews or other relatives.)

December 11
Marsilia, the dear woman who was Felice's wife, and lived several years after his passing, died today. She will be buried tomorrow in their crypt at the local cemetery and yes, we will be there for the mass, and then some. An indomitable spirit, she was a larger than life woman whom we dearly loved, and we'll call Angie Good to let her know. Angie often visited Marsilia and Felice when she housesat for us here.

Here is a photo of Marsilia and Felice taken a few years ago at a family wedding...

Can't shake the cold, but DayQuil helps during the day. I make myself busy sewing the second curtain, but somehow this one's length comes out longer than the first. Tomorrow we'll take out all the hems at the top and re-seam them, for the bottoms do not have proper hems and the drapes are double thicknesses. Yes, I sometimes make things more complicated than they need to be, but like the weight of them when they are finished. They hang beautifully.

Outside, Dino hangs three bells from the loquat tree right outside our bedroom window, but their clangers are so soft that he'll have to add something to send their sounds up into our bedroom. I love the sound of chimes, and these have a lower and rounder sound than most. We picked them up at The Gardener in Berkeley, CA, a wonderful garden shop worth visiting, when we recently visited our San Francisco family for Thanksgiving, a United States holiday known here as Ringraziamento.

There is a bright fire in the fireplace tonight; Dino is a masterful fire maker. It's a good thing he's prepared wood during the hot months, setting aside kindling and wood and covering them to protect them from winter rains. Now fires start quickly, and with the proper kindling they burn for several hours, with no smoke billowing into the room.

We're trying to settle in for a long winter's "nap", although I have trouble sleeping, and lie awake reading for a good part of the dark night, thanks to my Kindle with its attached light.

December 12
We've had quite a bit of rain overnight, and although I didn't sleep much, this place is like a sweet cocoon, gently holding us in its embrace, no matter the weather outside.

Dino and I drive up to the church for Marsilia's funeral. He brings his Confraternita cloak and dresses in the Sacristy as I sit with Rosina and wait for our Coro buddies to sing. The church is full, with Don Daniele presiding. Eccomi, eccomi, Signor io vengo... (Here I am, here I am, Lord I am coming...) is one of the pieces we sing, lovingly guiding her to heaven. Afterward, it is too rainy to walk in a procession, so we drive home. We will visit her soon when the weather clears.

We both still have jet lag, so take a nap, then watch TV before a warm fire until we are tired enough to turn in. A domani. (Until tomorrow...)

December 13
This morning we drive to Orte Scalo for my pedicure with Giusy, and it's wonderful to see her again. She's ready for me right away, and soon Dino and I are driving to Viterbo to try to make a doctor's appointment with our good doctor.

What transpires is worth an Italian Notebook story, but I'm not sure if G B will want to publish it. It's more about the character of Italians, putting procedures together and publicizing them only to ignore them in fact.

When we finally obtain the appointment, it causes us to reschedule Dino's appointment with the Genius Bar at Apple in Roma Est, but no matter. With a roast chicken from Coop, we return home and try to regain our Italian timetable. We're still not fully functioning on Italian time.

Tonight there is Coro practice. Looking out the window this afternoon, I see signs of glycine (wisteria) buds, all over our ten plants, as well as the largest peonia (peony) in its pot, chewed down to the nub last year by Sofi but full of deep pink buds just peeking out as if to try to hasten Spring's arrival.

On the green fields between Viterbo and our house, Dino surmises that the crop is alfalfa. Looks like grass to me, but we'll see. If only our sparse grass would look that well groomed and regular...Magari!

December 14
In the early hours of the day, I read for a couple of hours until there is a message that the Kindle is low on battery. Not able to find a converter, I turn the wireless off and turn the Kindle off and decide to wait until Dino awakes to see what he can do. I'm still on U S time, not able to sleep. Dino rises and finds a converter, then returns to bed. What a guy!

That means I can return to bed to read. I'm loving the book, War Brides, and although I'm nearing the end, WWII stories have a fascination for me, as long as they're not brutally depicting the fighting. Yes, I'm a wimp.

Today we have a doctor's appointment in Viterbo, when Dino will speak with him about the results of his glaucoma exams, and I finally tell myself I will ask him about the mark just below my throat that I've ignored for several months. It's probably nothing.

The mark on my throat is nothing, so I'm fine, especially with no headaches lately. Dino makes some changes and is due for another blood test and a prescription for eye drops. After the first of the year we'll figure out if he should get more treatment for his right eye, which seems fine.

Stefano and Guarino and Cesare arrive in the misty afternoon, but are unable to begin the paving for the little road to our new main gate. Francesco from the Comune has changed his mind regarding the job, and the Superintenza needs to sign off on it. He's often at the Orsini Palazzo for the project that will take months, so perhaps he'll sign off on it soon. Magari. We think they can at least build the foundation for our cemetery plot fairly soon, although I'm hoping we can move forward on building the entire structure. Dino sternly tells me that until and unless we know what we're getting into on the little side street, we cannot move forward on the cemetery project. Let's move on.

Although the Euro is down at the 1.30 level to the dollar, which is better for us, the economies of the European Union in general are not good. Things appear dreary financially, so let's think small and simply and dream of blossoms in the Spring.

December 15
So I'm wrong. The peony plant has not changed since Sofi chewed it on the chase for a lurking lucertole (lizard). I remain hopeful.

Yesterday we came across little Cesar, who must be here with his family on vacation. I believe they live in South America for most of the year. Reminded that it's time to return to the painting of him holding a backpack full of girasole (sunflowers), I open up the oil paint palette and begin to mix the colors for his skin tones.

With some help from Al Gore (are you sick of hearing my joke about him saying that he invented the internet?), I take out burnt sienna, burnt umber, ultramarine and titanium white, mixing them after putting knobs of the colors separately. It's important not to just add white to a dark color, like burnt umber, or it will turn out grey.

It's a bit complicated, with many artists using different combinations. If you want to try it, here's a test and you can use either acrylic or oil paints for it:

* Add burnt sienna, yellow ochre and dark blue, each about the size of a quarter, evenly spaced across the top of your palette.

* Add the same amount of titanium white a good distance away from the other colors.

* Using a palette knife, take half of the burnt sienna and place it below the original burnt sienna. Mix a dab of dark blue into this burnt sienna, which should turn it into a deep brown.

* Mix one half of the deep brown with yellow ochre for a milk chocolate hue.

* Mix a small amount of the white with half of the milk chocolate mixture for a deep caramel shade.

* Add more of the yellow ochre or titanium white to acquire the shade of brown you want. To deepen any of those colors, add more burnt sienna and dark blue a little at a time.

* Add more yellow ochre or white to achieve the shade of brown you are looking for. To deepen any of these colors, add more burnt sienna and dark blue a little at a time.

We're expecting Stefano, but where is he? We find him working on Pepe's cantina...finding much damage there. The work is very dangerous, with rocks falling as Stefano and Guarino and Cesare work! Dino reports this from the site, so it's obvious the paving work will not begin yet.

With assurances that they'll move on to our cemetery project very soon,magari, Dino returns home while I'm studying and applying Cesar's skin tones to the painting in the studio. Sofi sleeps gently nearby.

It's a lovely day, and time to put up our Christmas lights in the shape of a tree, facing the parcheggio and our neighbors as they leave the village. Thankfully, last year Dino purchased more light bulbs, in the event of any breakage. Two bulbs are broken, and we replace them before he takes out the ladder and strings them, with me underneath taking direction and giving guidance regarding placement of the strings of lights. What a team!

Once the star is placed on top, we're ready for the season.

Up above, Rosina calls down: "Storto!" (distorted) and laughs. There is no way that the tree is not straight, for we're using the tall iron pole that the muratores put together some years ago to bring up cement for an earlier project. The pole comes out of its mount and is stored behind the house during the year for just such a purpose. Brilliant, don't you think?

It's a pasta kind of day, with sausage meat from Pino's in Attigliano for the sugo, and then I return to painting in the studio while Dino works outside, hopefully raking more leaves. He tells me he rakes most of them, and only when the remaining leaves are dry can he blow them to pick them up from a pile and clean the gravel look clean. Sounds good to me.

Clouds move in, with storms forecast for tomorrow, and with a party scheduled in Orvieto after an appointment at Roma Est with the Genius Bar at Apple, my wintry lack of interest in going outside returns. We'll see...

With no Coro practice tonight, I forget that there is a piece I want to research on the internet. Perhaps tomorrow...

December 16
I cannot find the words for the hymn on the internet, so perhaps one of my Coro buddies can give me a copy.

With grey clouds moving swiftly toward the South, Dino finds Stefano and Stefano in the cemetery at our plot. There is cement under the grass growing there, and they need to dig down about 20cm before pouring new cement. When Dino tells me this, I wonder...was there a grave there before? If not, why was cement poured? Perhaps Vincenza and Augusto poured it when they built their chapel next to us.

Dino has given them the ok to do the digging and pour a cement pad. Then he'll have to get a preventivo (quote) for the peperino stone to make the chapel for us. I don't think we have the money for it right now, but it is a necessity to have the finished project behind us.

On the terrace, Dino strings more lights on our iron fence, bringing them toward the former front gate, now that we turned the corner with them last year. They remain in place during the year, unlit unless we are having an evening party.

A few minutes ago, he told me about Stein's beautiful cantina, and the work that the muratore, also named Dino, did. Stein has no cachi on his tree, and I zone out when or if he tells me where ours will come from to make the traditional budino di cachi (steamed persimmon puddings) that our friends love to receive from us as holiday gifts. You probably don't need reminding that we (especially I) do not believe in shopping for Christmas presents.

We have an early pranzo and leave for Leroy Merlin to pick up the fabric for the second hallway drape and for Dino's appointment at Roma Est. Then it will be a quick ride back, cena for Sofi and then we'll leave for tonight's party in Orvieto with Sofi guarding the house.

Finding the fabric at the second LeRoy Merlin store, we drive to Roma Est and Dino and a Genius at the Apple Store change out the phone for a new one. Now we need to transfer and download all the data, but there is not time this afternoon. Dino thinks he can do it at home. We leave hopeful.

At home there is plenty of time to feed Sofi before leaving for tonight's Christmas party near Orvieto. It's good to see old friends again and to meet new ones. Our hosts are especially charming and the holiday cheer is fun, especially since we can speak English with many of them, although we do speak Italian with the natives, and I'm able to stumble along.

There is rain and plenty of wind as we drive home, and arrive before the holiday tree lights have been turned off for the night. It's wonderful to have them greet us and its especially wonderful to be home.

December 17
We sleep in; then I return to painting while Dino works on projects around the house. We wash the new fabric in two loads, and when it is dry I will iron it and then sew the second pair of drapes for the entry to the salone living room.

Sun appears, but I'm not about to take the time out for a walk, although I do want to find Cesar to see if he will pose for another photo or two. I have questions about his eyes and cheeks. Perhaps we'll also see Paul and Marie.

It's time to make more budino di cachi (steamed persimmon puddings) for gifts, and Dino remembers that he told me that Rosina's land next to Annika and Torbjorn's has plenty of them and they are ripe. If we use them, we'll surely give Rosina a budino for Christmas.

December 18
Forgive us. We're late posting for the middle of the month, but when we do we'll include plenty of photos.

We drive up to church, and the music is sublime, if I do say so myself. It's not so much how we sound, which really is not bad, but the music itself; a combination of old favorites (Adeste Fideles) and some completely new to me.

Don Angelo leads a mass full of spirit and joy. With us today, sitting in the front row with most of the Coro are Paul and Marie, dear friends who live part time in Mugnano, and otherwise in Paris with their five children. Since their house next to the larger church is not finished with its restoration, they arrive for the weekend without the children to supervise the progress and also have a mini luna di miele (honeymoon).

We get together at our house in the late afternoon for prosecco and our budino di cachi (steamed persimmon pudding), which finished steaming only an hour before their arrival. Dino heats up brandy and lights their servings as we all eat and drink by candlelight and a warm fire nearby. Sofi behaves and stays on the couch, for Paul is allergic to her, and she seems to take it in stride.

I'm anxious to finish the drapes for the door to the salone and pin the set for the door, but they are not even, so tomorrow I'll rework them. No matter.

December 19
Stores are open today, for it is Christmas week, so the normal Monday morning holidays are abandoned for this week. We stop to buy braid for the sofa cushions, which I'll cover with the same material as the hallway drapes, and pick up matching cord.

Dino is anxious to find a "Flexible Flyer", you know, those ancient red wagons with a black handle. He thinks we can find one at one of the big toy stores in Viterbo, but have no luck. Then Dino remembers that Gianni has a green wagon much like the one he wants, used to help bring large quantities of groceries to customers. He thinks we can borrow it for Christmas Eve. But we're too late finishing our shopping to get to his market before pranzo, so Dino will visit him later.

Why does Dino want a wagon? Well, to carry all the Christmas loot for the village children on Christmas Eve, of course. As Mugnano's Babbo Natale, he's the local representative of Santa Claus in the North Pole at World Headquarters. He takes his job seriously, and later Gianni agrees to lend Dino his wagon. We're all set, except for wrapping the presents and...tell you later.

The the cement pour at our nearby cemetery plot was not a lot, despite the fact that a large cement truck was used. We've just to save up for the chapel building and find the best source for the peperino stone to frame it. Dino tells me it's the start of our next house project, and "all houses should start with a good foundation". In this case, you know it's our ultima casa.

Pepe's cantina next door is so dangerous that the men will build a steel framework within the space, with columns of steel and headers across the top. It will minimize the space, but also the danger of possible dropping rock from the ancient space. Since the nearby tower is 1,ooo years old (yes, one thousand), there's no telling how old the foundation of his house is.

December 20
Cold, cold, cold weather greets us, although there is not a cloud in the sky. It's color is a very pale blue-grey, and the arms of the cachi tree stand straight up, as if in fear of some grand band of marauders soon to descend on the village. It's not to be, thankfully.

Instead, Dino leaves early to take a blood test at the hospital in Orvieto and we sleep in a bit. Once up, I begin to sew the new covers on the two pillows on the kitchen sofa, made of the same fabric of the drapes. I sew the first part with the trim purchased yesterday. The second part is to be sewn entirely by hand, and takes quite a while. By the time Dino arrives around noon, one pillow is finished and the second is half way completed.

I intend to finish the second just after pranzo, but we polish off most of a bottle of local red wine while watching part of a movie on Lady Jane Grey, and are too tired to finish either the wine or the movie. It's time for a nap instead.

This is as good a time as any to comment about these or days of joy, with no "work" schedules with which to adhere, or bosses who look at us scornfully to learn what we have just accomplished. "Nothing!" we would cry out in joy, although each of us is always busy with one project or another. Although we could sleep in 'till noon, we never do. There is always something to do. Soon I will return to Cesar's painting, hoping to finish it before the new year. Then we will need to meet with the Ecomuseo folks to determine the scope of the tree project for the village.

December 21
Today is the winter solstice, and italiannotebook.com has a wonderful description, complete with photos in a Roman church.

Here in Mugnano, we have lots of sun on this, the shortest day of the year. I make a short window covering for the inside of the kitchen with a piece of fabric left over from the hallway drapes, now that the pillows are done and sitting on the couch nearby. Dino hangs it before going out to pick up yet more cachi (persimmons) for our holiday gifts, the steamed persimmon puddings, known here as budino di cachi.

It's also time to make more of my popular applesauce, and that's another fun task that keeps me away from working on Cesar's painting. I also do a search for zucchini and carrot pancakes, or fritters. Originally, the recipe I've used has been my mother's divine potato pancakes, light and crispy, served with sour cream and yes, applesauce. I'd like to do a variation for our meal on Monday, since Candace is a vegetarian and I'd like to have a number of things to eat in addition to the pork roast that Frank and Dino and I will eat.

I also come up with a Venetian fish dish to serve on Christmas Day, since it will be the two of us, and the fish is made early, refrigerated and served at room temperature. So we can get up whenever we want, and I expect we will both be tired, especially Babbo Natale.

December 22
Cold and wintry days continue, with this one beginning bright and sunny. For the past weeks, news has saddened me regarding the treatment of women in the Middle East, especially Egypt, where police have repeatedly beaten female protestors, singling them out in acts of brutality. In one show of exemplary revolution, a huge human shield has forged through the streets, with men surrounding the women as they move along. One can only hope for a more humane and respectful world in 2012.

In Iraq, terrorism continues, with clashes between different factions, and there has been no arrest as yet for the Vice Prime Minister, who has directed killings of numerous political adversaries.

If only the peoples of the world would step back and take a worldview of prospects for a better life for all mankind instead of huddling in groups and judging others with disrespect...

Here in little Mugnano, Pepe needs more power to operate the arc welder for the reinforcing steel beams for his cantina restoration, and Dino willingly lets them use our power. Come no?

Clementines are delicious this year; so delicious that Dino picks up a dozen or so a couple of times a week. Yesterday's final budino di cachi was left covered in the summer kitchen, and this morning looks better, with the offending ingredient staring starkly at us: butter. We're leaving it in a sunny window and will try to use a turkey baster to take out the extra. If all else fails, we will serve it here as pudding. It will still be delicious, I am sure.

I really must return to painting, but this morning it is not to be, although the image of Cesar's face transforms closer to the real thing. Outside, neighbors call out to one another as Christmas draws near. Tonight is the holiday party at Kay and Csaba's house near Orvieto, and we'll bring a budino to them.

We look forward to attending, as Sofi guards the house, although we no longer fear being away. The grates on the property give us a feeling of security. How sad that some people feel that they have the right to take things belonging to others, and to damage or destroy others' property.

Yesterday's budino is a success after all. Will we need more? Yes, probably another set or two for holiday presents. I still have not returned to painting, and the days seem to fly by, without even time for an afternoon nap. No matter.

Outside there is birdsong, although not near as much as in the Spring. Yesterday, a little one stood on the studio windowsill for a few seconds. I would love to paint one in a larger scale one of these days.

Tonight is Kay and Csaba's Christmas party, and we look forward to seeing our friends again. I recall the decades during which Dino's parents held huge parties on New Year's Day at their Carmel Valley, CA home. By the time they were our age, they were not able to continue, so I don't feel guilty that we don't hold huge parties here. We hold memories close to our hearts of wonderful parties we held when we lived in the U S. Here, our gatherings are in warmer weather, when pizza is the star of the show. Better rest up...

What a fun party! We meet a few new friends and chat with the old ones. One couple even lived in Hingham, MA, where my brother and I attended Derby Academy oh, so long ago.

We're back home before the lights on our Christmas tree have turned off for the night, and it's so fun to see it welcoming us. I imagine it giving blessings to the neighbors who might drive out of the village on these days after dark.

December 23
Lots of sun and birdsong greet us on this morning, as we toast the traditional panettone for prima colazione (breakfast). This morning we line up gifts for the children of the village to be sure we have not forgotten anyone. Painting Cesar is still on my list, but there is no rush. It's better to take my time and paint it the way I want it to look.

"Editor" Emanuela sends me an email about our last post, giving me the scholarly translation of a few things. It's not as if she's whacking my bum with a stick, just a friendly clarification here and there. I respond that I love the phrase "Come no?", although it seems "Per che no?" is more correct technically.

Remember never to learn the language from another "straniero" (stranger, or someone who was not born here). That's what Italians have been known to utter. However, we find Italians joyous that we are trying to master the language, praising us for the effort. We love them; every one. But by now, you know that already.

As little Sofi snores nearby, I put the sewing machine away and clear the table for Santa's workshop. There are more budino di cachi to cook, with three juicy orbs waiting in the kitchen. Sometime today we'll get to that, too.

In the meantime, here's some news:

Anita Ekberg appeals for help after falling on hard times -'Dolce Vita' diva asks for support from Fellini foundation

21 December
Bottom of Form (ANSA) - Rome, December 21 - Anita Ekberg, who became an icon of unbridled sensuality thanks to Federico Fellini's 1960 film classic La Dolce Vita, has appealed for help after falling on hard times in her old age.

The 80-year-old Swedish actress's independence is limited by the debilitating effects of a leg break and is currently living in a resident home near Rome.

Ekberg's accountant has sent a letter to the Rimini-based Fellini Foundation asking for economic support, pointing out that her financial problems have been aggravated by the theft of jewelry and furniture at her own home, which has been damaged by a fire.

The Fellini Foundation was created in 1995 by Maddalena Fellini, the late director's sister, and the City of Rimini to safeguard and promote the filmmaker's legacy. The scene in La Dolce Vita in which Ekberg cavorts with Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni in the Trevi fountain took away the breath of male movie-goers the world over.

ANSA English > News
Woman with drugs in breast and bottom implants stopped -Spanish model nabbed at Rome airport
21 December
(ANSA) - Fiumicino, December 21 - A Spanish model was arrested at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport Wednesday after trying to bring 2.5 kilos of cocaine into Italy inside breast and buttock implants.

The woman, named as M.F.M, 33, was examined after "failing to satisfactorily explain" the reasons for her trip from Sao Paulo in Brazil, police said.

"Extremely pure crystal cocaine was found perfectly molded to the very large implants on the women's chest and rear," they said.

"She tried to distract officers with a plunging neckline and a short skirt but they were not impressed," a customs official said.

The model has been charged with international drug trafficking.

Michelangelo codex hits iPad
New app accesses codex in Vatican Library - 21 December
(ANSA) - Rome, December 21 - A collection of writings and drawings by Renaissance great Michelangelo is now available on iPad thanks to a new app put together by the Vatican Library, the National Geographic Channel and Italian marketing firm Froggy.

"The digital version of Vatican Latin Codex 3211, made up of 111 parchments dating from 1534 to 1563, contains letters, essays, poems and sketches," the Vatican said Wednesday.

Among other things, the codex has the original versions of many poems later gathered into the painter and sculptor's famed verse collection, the Canzoniere.

"The compositions were written on single sheets of paper which were later compiled into a sort of note-book," the Vatican said.

"Anyone who downloads the application from Apple's app store can flick through the document digitally. There are also comments on the manuscript and a film telling the story of the Vatican Library as well as describing the treasures it contains".

The app can be downloaded at the following link:


ANSA English > News
Calabrian councillor arrested in anti-mafia operation
Seven accused of extortion and intimidation
21 December
Bottom of Form (ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, December 21 - A city councillor from the southern city of Reggio Calabria is one of seven people arrested by police in an anti-mafia operation on Wednesday.

Police have accused Giuseppe Plutino, 47, a member of the People of Freedom Party, of mafia association in an operation targeting the Caridi clan of the Calabrian mafia, known as 'ndrangheta.

Anti-mafia investigators claim Plutino, who has served three terms in office, is a political representative of the clan.

Members of the Caridi clan have been accused of extortion, intimidation and causing damage to businesses in several areas of Reggio Calabria, in particular to Ciccrello, Modena and San Giorgio Extra.

ANSA English >
Mussolini likens Monti to Fidel Castro -'He does not have his stature', says MP
20 December
(ANSA) - Rome, December 20 - Rightwing MP Alessandra Mussolini has likened Italy's Premier Mario Monti and Industry Minister Corrado Passera to Cuba's Communist dictator Fidel Castro.

"First you tax Italians, then you make them leave their work and beat them in the head and finish that without even allowing them to take their pensions," Mussolini said. Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, was speaking on a TV programme on state broadcaster RAI.

"This is a government of 'Cuban' technicians. They have succeeded in taxing Italians. "Passera is like Fidel Castro, Premier Monti does not have his stature".

Mussolini founded the national conservative political party Social Action and served in the European Parliament before becoming an MP in the Italian Parliament.

She is aligned with the People of Freedom party led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

ANSA English
Berlusconi issues 'warning', austerity bill faces final test -Former premier demands more consultation, no more taxes
22 December
(ANSA) - Rome, December 22 - Premier Mario Monti's austerity package faces its final test with a confidence vote in the Senate on Thursday after his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi reportedly threatened to withdraw his support for the new government.

Berlusconi was forced to resign as premier last month with Italy's debt crisis in danger of spiraling out of control.

His People of Freedom (PdL) party, which remains the biggest in parliament, is supporting Monti's emergency administration of non-political technocrats, but the media-magnate-turned-politician has said this could stop if there is not a change of approach.

Berlusconi said at a dinner with a group of PdL Senators on Wednesday that his party must be consulted more and that it could withdraw its support and force early elections if the government imposes more tax increases.

Nevertheless, the PdL is expected to vote in favor of the austerity measures to help them win definitive approval after they passed through the House last week.

The package aims to raise over 30 billion euros to lift Italy out of its debt crisis through tax increases and spending cuts.

Former European commissioner Monti says the alternative is a financial meltdown that would render the state unable to pay pensions and salaries.

But Italy's unions have staged a series of strikes, describing the package as "unfair and unjust" and claiming it hits the poor and the middle classes too hard and does not clobber the wealthy or tax evaders hard enough.

The package features a new property tax and a rise in value added tax, which will take it up from 21% to 23% in the top band in the second half of next year.

Pensions above 1,400 euros will not be raised in line with inflation next year and the retirement age will go up from 60 to 62 for women and from 65 to 66 for men.

Furthermore, the minimum number of years of pension contributions needed to retire before the retirement age will increase from 40 to 42 years for men and 41 years for women.

Monti has promised the package will be followed by moves to boost growth in Italy's stagnant economy.

ANSA English
Six mafia arrests in Messina -Cosa Nostra gang 'had ties to 'Ndrangheta, Camorra'
20 December
Bottom of Form (ANSA) - Messina, December 20 - Italian police on Tuesday arrested six suspected Cosa Nostra members in the eastern Sicilian city of Messina.

The six, including two brothers, are suspected of belonging to one of the most powerful Messina families.

Police said the Mangialupi family had links with the 'Ndrangheta mafia across the Strait of Messina in Calabria, as well as to the Camorra mafia in Naples. The Cute' brothers allegedly set up a drug-pushing operation in their home.

ANSA English
Berlusconi sex-case woman gives birth to baby girl -Karima El Mahroug's partner say happiness 'undescribable'
20 December
(ANSA) - Genoa, December 20 - The young woman former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying to have sex with before she was 18 gave birth to a baby girl here on Tuesday.

''She is well and with her mother,'' said Karima El Mahroug's partner, Luca Risso, after the birth of Sofia Aida Risso. ''My happiness is undescribable''.

Prosecutors say El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, was working as a prostitute at the time when she attended parties at the former premier's home aged 17.

Berlusconi denies that he had sex with her and that he abused his power as premier to try to cover up the case. If found guilty, Berlusconi faces a total of 15 years in prison - three for paying for underage sex and 12 for abuse of power when he phoned a Milan police station where Ruby had been detained on an unrelated theft allegation.

The ex-premier says he believed Ruby was the niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and he was hoping to avoid a diplomatic incident with Egypt.

In three ongoing trials and many previous cases, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

In more than a dozen cases, the ex-premier has never received a definitive conviction, sometimes because of law changes passed by his governments, while some other charges were timed out by the statute of limitations.

ANSA English >
First native American to become a saint - Pope names seven to be canonized
19 December
(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 19 - Kateri Tekakwitha, will become the first native American saint in history.

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday issued a decree saying that Tekakwitha would be among seven new saints to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

Tekakwitha was born in Auriesville, New York to an Iroquois father and Algonquin mother in 1656 and died at the age of 24 in Canada.

Benedict announced the decree after an audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

ANSA English > News
Berlusconi says bribery trial is a 'fairytale' -'Created about something that doesn't exist', says ex-PM
19 December
(ANSA) - Milan, December 19 - Former premier Silvio Berlusconi Monday dismissed the trial in which he is accused of bribing British tax lawyer David Mills as a "fairytale".

Berlusconi was speaking to reporters after appearing in a Milan court for a trial where he is accused of bribing Mills for hushing up evidence. "This trial is a waste of time, a fairy tale created about something that doesn't exist", he said.

Berlusconi also said he had no recollection of meeting the British tax lawyer in July 1995.

"He said he met me in July 1995 but I do not remember this meeting," Berlusconi told reporters outside the court. "Evidently as my lawyer explained, Mills was meeting my daughter and he had a brief conversation with me as I passed through the room where my daughter was with her lawyer".

The former prime minister said recently that he expected the trial will be timed out under the statute of limitations before it reaches a verdict.

Berlusconi is also facing two other trials on charges of tax fraud on buying films for his media empire and paying an underage prostitute for sex before using his position to try to cover it up.

The media-magnate-turned politician has always proclaimed his innocence.

Mills was sentenced to four and a half years in jail in 2009 for taking a $600,000 payment for committing perjury but the conviction was later timed out under the statute of limitations.

Judges involved in Berlusconi's trial are working to get it finished before the expiry date of February 2012.

ANSA English > News
Vandal damages Santa Maria Maggiore church in Rome - Homeless man attacks bronze doors with a rock
19 December
(ANSA) - Rome, December 19 - One of Rome's oldest and most beautiful churches, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major), has been damaged by a vandal.

The vandal climbed over two railings and attacked the basilica's bronze doors with a rock, knocking off six saintly badges and "seriously" damaging a bas-relief portrayal of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, church sources said on Monday.

Police are said to have arrested a Romanian homeless man and Vatican gendarmes are also investigating, since the church, although across the city from the Holy See and close to Termini rail station, is a Vatican 'extraterritorial' site.

Experts from Rome's art heritage superintendency said the damage ran into thousands of euros.

"It's serious damage, quantifiable in a few thousand euros," they said.

One of the fences the man climbed over was a couple of meters high and the other six meters high, police said.

ANSA English > News
11 Mafia arrests as police move closer to Messina Denaro -Clan 'decapitated' near fugitive Cosa Nostra No.1's power base
16 December
(ANSA) - Rome, December 16 - Italian police made 11 arrests Friday in an operation they said moved them closer to fugitive Cosa Nostra chief Matteo Messina Denaro.

Police said the operation had "decapitated" a powerful clan in Campobello di Mazara, near Messina Denaro's power base in the western Sicilian city of Trapani.

Among those arrested was the mayor of Campobello, Ciro Carava'.

The investigation, which began five years ago in 2006, discovered that the Campobello family kept up "close contact" with the hiding boss of bosses.

To increase its power, police said, it had managed to "progressively penetrate business and economic activities in the area through blanket control of the territory," police said.

Those arrested, including the mayor who has been in power since 2006, are all charged with Mafia conspiracy as well as false declaration of assets.

Italian police have been closing in on Messina Denaro for the last few years and in July were able to issue a new identikit picture of the Sicilian Mafia's fugitive head.

The image of Denaro, 49, was aged to update a previous identikit issued in 2007, a year after he took over Cosa Nostra following the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano.

Listed by Forbes magazine as among the 10 most wanted criminals in the world, Messina Denaro has been on the run since 1993.

A year ago police were able to reconstruct his DNA.

The genetic profile of the so-called 'Godfather of Trapani' was identified through tests on biological evidence, including hair, obtained from Messina Denaro's brothers without their knowledge.

Identifying the DNA was considered a major breakthrough because he has never been arrested.

Copies of his fingerprints taken when he was drafted for military service have long since been destroyed.

Messina Denaro built up his power base in his native Trapani before beating Palermo chieftains to become Mob kingpin after 'boss of bosses' Provenzano was caught in 2006 after 43 years on the run.

His position at the top of Cosa Nostra was assured with the November 2007 arrest of Palermo boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo, a veteran mafia chieftain who had appeared to be vying with the younger mobster for control of the crime syndicate and had the apparent support of the 'old guard'.

Messina Denaro is currently believed to be expanding his criminal empire abroad and police have found evidence of trips to Austria, Greece, Spain and Tunisia.

Nicknamed 'Diabolik' after a cult Italian comic strip criminal, Messina Denaro sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his three-months pregnant girlfriend.

He is reportedly idolized by Cosa Nostra younger troops because of his ruthlessness and playboy-like charisma.

For the last three years police have been implementing a 'scorched earth' strategy to try and flush Messina Denaro out, arresting scores of his underlings and seizing million of euros in assets.

"The circle is closing around the No.1 fugitive," ex-interior minister Roberto Maroni said last year.

Palermo Chief Prosecutor Francesco Messineo added at the time that their aim of their strategy against Messina Denaro was to "dry up the water he swims in".

ANSA English > News
Explanation of Knox acquittal issued - 'No guilt or motive proven' judges say on Kercher murder
15 December
(ANSA) - Rome, December 15 - A Perugia appeals court on Thursday issued its detailed explanation of why it acquitted US student Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito of the 2007 murder of Knox's British roommate Meredith Kercher.

The evidence against the pair "does not allow us to come to the conclusion that guilt has been in any way proven," the judges said about their keenly awaited October 3 verdict in the sensational case, which overturned previous lengthy convictions.

They noted that the evidence was largely circumstantial and prosecutors had been unable to prove motive.

The judges said they could not say how the murder took place, whether "one or more" people killed Kercher, or whether other leads had been "neglected".

Knox, 24, is back home in Seattle and Sollecito, 25, in Puglia, leaving Rudy Guede, 24, an Italian-Ivorian drifter, the only person in jail for the murder.

Guede opted for a fast-track trial separately from Knox and Sollecito and was given a 30-year sentence, later cut to 16 years on appeal, a sentence confirmed by Italy's court of last instance, the Cassation Court.

In the last verdict against the Ivorian, whose DNA was detected all over the murder house, he was found to have committed the crime "with others", identified at the time as Knox and Sollecito, during a sex game that got out of hand.

Kercher's family have vowed to continue their battle to find out "who are the other people responsible" for the death of Kercher, 20 when she was found stabbed to death on the night of November 1-2 2007.

"Our family is not interested in seeing Amanda or Raffaele in jail, or anyone else who has shown they aren't guilty, but there's still the question mark over who else (committed the murder) as well as Rudy," they said after the acquittals.

Perugia prosecutors have appealed to Italy's last court of appeal, the Cassation Court, to try to get the acquittals reversed.

Knox is believed to be unlikely to return to Italy to attend the sessions though Sollecito's father has said his son has no reason to flee the country.

On the night of October 3, the pair were acquitted by two judges and a jury after independent experts had cast doubts about the soundness of the DNA evidence that led to 26-year and 25-year sentences respectively for Knox and Sollecito at the original murder trial in 2009.

Knox was given a three-year sentence, which she had already served, and ordered to pay 20,000 euros in damages for having falsely accused a Perugia pub owner, Congo native Patrick Lumumba, of the killing in the early stages of the investigation.

ANSA English > News
Eternal 'love locks' to be removed from Rome bridge - "It will be beautiful" says mayor.
15 December
(ANSA) - Rome, December 15 - Romantic Italians will now be forced to express their eternal love more discretely.

The City of Rome has decided to remove the 'love locks' from the city's famous Ponte Milvio (or Milvian Bridge) and transfer them beneath the bridge on the banks of the Tiber River.

The move follows a lengthy row between those who wanted to clean up the bridge and opponents who have pushed for it to remain a shrine to eternal love.

Lamp posts along the bridge were covered with locks after the success of the romantic book and film, Tre Metri Sopra Il Cielo (Three Metres Above The Sky) by author Federico Moccia.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno announced the decision to remove the locks with Moccia and Gianni Giacomini, president of Rome's 20th borough which the bridge belongs to.

"We will put up a railing and block off the area with some street lamps. It will be beautiful," Alemanno said. "They will be removed periodically. The main risk is the flooding of the Tiber but when that happens we will take them off".

Alemanno said this would be a good way to protect the city's cultural heritage while creating an area for a popular modern tradition for people who come from all over the world to express their love.

"This is an historic bridge, one of the oldest in Rome and we need to respect that," he said.

Giacomini had been pressing for the locks' removal for some time in a bid to beautify the area.

"The locks must be removed because it is a question of decorum and security," he said this week.

After the release of the Italian film based on Moccia's book, young Romans started imitating the protagonists and started writing their names on locks and attaching them to the lamp posts while throwing their keys into the river.

A leading consumer organization, ADOC, is calling for a museum to be established as a conciliatory gesture to house the 'love locks' and enable young people to share the love stories. ADOC president Carlo Pileri said the body's proposal is to safeguard what is "both a symbol of modern love and an historical Roman bridge". When the craze took off, amorous couples came from all over the world to immortalize the bridge or express their love vows.

The trend dated back to a similar move to mount love locks on Florence's historic Ponte Vecchio until they were removed in 2007.

The youth craze spread in 2008 when lovers began attaching locks to a church next to the Trevi Fountain until Rome officials stepped in and banned the practice.

ANSA English > News
Couple declares 6 euros, dodges 65 million in taxes -Tax evaders allegedly hid over 300 million from government
25 November
(ANSA) - Venice - Police have seized millions in assets from a couple near Venice who declared only six euros of income to evade 65 million euros in taxes.

Financial police performed a 10-year audit on the alleged tax cheats to discover over 300 million euros of undeclared assets and income, much of which was tucked away in foreign accounts, authorities said.

The police have so far seized 52 million euros in assets from the couple. Italy's authorities have been turning up the heat on tax evaders in recent years, with the state badly in need of revenue as the government bids to balance the national budget by 2013 and steer Italy out of its debt crisis.

The country has recovered around 35 billion euros from tax cheats over the last three years.

ANSA English > News
Female skeleton found in Mona Lisa search -Experts hoping to reconstruct famous face
(ANSA) - Florence - A skeleton found in the former convent in Florence where archaeologists are searching for the remains of Leonardo's Mona Lisa may have belonged to a woman, experts say.

"Based on preliminary analyses of the cranium and the pelvis we're tending towards the hypothesis that this was a female," said Bologna University anthropologist, Giorgio Gruppioni. He said that the skeleton was whole and connected, but had partially collapsed under the weight of the earth. Further excavation will be needed to confirm the hypothesis, Gruppioni said.

Archaeologists have been searching for the remains of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, who died in Florence in 1542, and is believed to have modeled for Leonardo's celebrated portrait, now hanging in the Louvre. The skeleton's bones have become fragile due to the humidity of the earth. They emerged slowly as archaeologists removed surrounding dirt with brushes and a small vacuum cleaner.

Only a battery of scientific tests will prove whether or not the skeleton indeed belonged to a woman who was a contemporary of Mona Lisa, said art historian Silvano Vinceti, who is overseeing the project for the National Committee for the Enhancement of Historic, Cultural and Environmental Assets. These include a carbon-14 test to determine the skeleton's historical period, a hystological exam to determine its age, and a test to compare its DNA with that of two of Mona Lisa's children, buried in Florence's Santissima Annunziata church.

The objective of the dig is to find Mona Lisa's remains, then reconstruct her face and compare it to Leonardo's painting.

Leonardo sleuth Giuseppe Pallanti has argued that the former Ursuline convent "must be" the last resting place of La Gioconda.

Most modern scholars have now agreed with Pallanti that the Mona Lisa sitter was Lisa Gherardini, whose married surname del Giocondo led to the Italian name for the painting, 'La Gioconda'. According to the Italian researcher, she became a nun after her husband's death and died in the convent on July 15, 1542, aged 63.

The couple were married in 1495 when the bride was 16 and the groom 35.

It has frequently been suggested that del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo's portrait to mark his wife's pregnancy, or the recent birth of their second child in December 1502.

Archaeologists were led to the site of the dig in the sprawling three-story Saint Ursula building dating back to 1309, by references in historical documents and by georadar scans.

Welcome back. That was a lot of news.

It's still December 23rd. Yesterday, Dino called our regular firewood supplier in Giove and it is not too late to order firewood for this year. To be delivered sometime in the next two days, it will be rovere (oak). So what is the difference between rovere and quercia?

"Quercia" is the genre (Quercus in the scientific, latin name).
"Rovere" is a single species: Quercus petraea.

Well, I have just learned that Jacopo della Quercia was a sculptor who inspired Michelangelo, and Sixtus IV and Julius II, an important patron of Michelangelo, were both of the Della Rovere family. But Dino tells me that's not important, for quercia (oak wood) is what we use to make fires in our fireplace and rovere is the tree which is made of...oak.

Those two families were of the landed gentry, but I have to laugh that many people of Italian heritage have a family name that designates what their work was. Look around at whom your friends are. What are their family names? Here are a few: Bevilacqua (drink water), Benevento (good wind).

The sewing machine put away for a while, let's find last year's children's list for Babbo Natale and update it.

A funny email just in from dear Emanuela, part of which I'd like to share:

I am sure that in Mugnano you have heard "come no?" many more times than "perche' no?", which would be more appropriate in a lot of situations, but being Mugnano rural community very "relaxed" (like a big family, as in fact it is, after all!), "come no?" becomes a bit of a magic word, to be used at any occasion. But most of the times it can be in an ironical way, as I said, to say exactly the opposite: "are you coming to church tomorrow?" -- "come no!", where the answer can mean both "of course" and "are you kidding?".

I find this bit pretty hilarious.

I notice a big red bump on my forehead, and Dino thinks it's a spider bite, so I'm hopeful it will go away in a few days. I don't remember being hit on the noggin. Let's ignore it.

With more budino di cachi to fix, we put in another three, hoping we have enough to give to locals who mean a lot to us. But then, they all do, so our ability to make enough for everyone is not realistic. No matter.

With more firewood delivered, Dino confirms that it is very good wood, if not very old. So we have a fire and plunk a log of the new wood in, and it does catch. Va bene.

While Sofi and I napped this afternoon, Dino moved enough wood into the to fit the car inside, and he'll work for a few days more to stack the rest, of course in precise fashion, as is customary in Italian villages and towns.Magari!

Toys are all stacked in the studio, ready to add the names and stickers. We're expecting a whirlwind of activity tomorrow, beginning at 9 P.M, with a few new children and more of the same. A few are too old to take him seriously, we think rolling their eyes at the image of Babbo Natale, although everyone loves to have their picture taken with him and displayed around the world on our site. Come no? Ha!

Cesar is back in Mugnano, Dino tells me, and I'm so sorr have not returned to his painting. I'll have the camera with me tomorrow night, and perhaps will try to take another photo or two of him, depending on the situation.

Tonight I'm drinking a few glasses of rose wine and snacking on Dino's guacamole with fresh avocado (as opposed to avvocato (which means attorney) and chips. This is a really funny country, no matter how you look at it. That's a good thing, for the economy is terrible. We're feeling poor as church mice, living off our Social Security pensions that are paid to us in dollars but are spent in Euros (the exchange rate is 1.35 to the dollar...yikes!)

By the time we turn in, we have made three more budinos, so we're hoping that will be it for this year.

December 24
This is Dino's big night, begun with us racing to Orvieto this morning to pick up his test results; then driving across the countryside to Viterbo, hoping to find a fish market that stocks scoglio (fillet of sole). I have a great recipe of it marinated and served at room temperature, and tomorrow don't want to worry about spending time doing anthing.

All the gifts for the children are set out, and Dino picks up Gianni's little green wagon to transport the gifts at 9 P M. to children in the borgo, and on Via Mameli, where we live. One day, children will have to come to Babbo, when he's too old to take the cold walk at night. Until then, it's Sempre Avanti! to visit the 25 or so children who are gathered with their relatives for the traditional Christmas Evening cena.

What fun we all had! Here are some photos of Babbo Natale, Mugnano's answer to Father Christmas. Not to be deterred by a little mist, we made it back home in time to dry off and change for mass.

December 25

We only sleep in until just before 9 AM, and after a bit of breakfast, find ourselves busy again. Dino brings up more wood and I make a marvelous marinade for tomorrow's fillet of sole. We don't have it today, for it takes a day to marinate after it is cooked, but I finish the marinade and do a pretty fair job of filleting the fish before beginning pranzo, and an easy scampi.

I have no idea that filleting a fish is so difficult, so decide to cook it first and then the fish comes easily off the bone. Actually, the bone lifts right out. So the Venetian recipe won't be perfect, but it should be quite good.

We'd like to marinate the pork for a day, so this afternoon do just that and it's so cold in the summer kitchen that it can sit right there until tomorrow. It feels colder there than outside. Va bene.

Paola has invited us to come for a visit this afternoon, but we're too tired, and with more to do for tomorrow's holiday pranzo for Candace and Frank, there's not a lot of time.

With stuffing and polenta to cook, I fix them and set them aside for tomorrow morning, when I'll sauté mushrooms, onions and red pepperoni slices with a tomato sauce, including capers and basil and presemelo (Italian parsley). Grated Parmesan cheese will sit on top of the polenta and vegetable dish and stuffing will be baked in its own baking dish on the side. Thankfully, we have a second stove in the summer kitchen, so there will be things to bake in the morning that won't get in the way of the pork roast, bubbling away in the main kitchen.

Because I'm always worried that Candace won't have enough to eat because she's a vegetarian, I'm also going to make zucchini and carrot fritters, to serve with applesauce and sour cream. For dessert, we'll have steamed persimmon pudding that I made a few days ago. I'm tired just writing about all of it, wondering why we did not invite a bunch of friends, for it's not much more work for a large group. No matter.

We SKYPE with Terence and Angie and the grand daughters to wish them a Merry Christmas, and reach them just after they've opened their presents. We've been away from them for a couple of weeks and miss them already. With Sofi right in my arms, she wags her tail and listens to the conversation, loving SKYPE. She's a funny dog.

It's been a mellow and lovely Christmas day here. Hope it's been grand for you, wherever you are.

December 26
Candace and Frank arrive for our holiday pranzo, and it is a monster of a meal, with me overcompensating for Candace, who is vegetarian. Although Franco and Dino and I eat roast pork that has been marinating for a day, there is a fish dish, the recipe from Venice, for Candace and us as well as polenta with red pepperoni and capers, and potatoes French style with cream.

There is homemade applesauce and fritters made with zucchini and carrots to dip into a yoghourt, garlic and mint sauce. There is prosecco to begin the meal and two bottles of marvelous red wine for the main course.

For dolci, there is steamed persimmon pudding, heated and lit with brandy by Dino and then espresso. At about this time I put up my hands and want to holler "'nuff!" I'm about out of steam.

Franco is ready for a nap, and lies on the couch with Sofi, while Candace shows Dino a few new "apps" for the Iphone. As skies turn pinkish blue and then grey, our friends leave and we put things away. I drag myself upstairs with Sofi for a long dolce fa niente (nap).

As I write this, who cares what time we get up? It's been a great day, including SKYPING with Terence and his family, and we feel blessed that we've made it through another year together. Dorme bene. (Good night.)

A couple of hours later we move downstairs to find Dino watching TV, with all the dishes washed and put away. Bravo and grazie mille, dear Dino!

December 27
Today is the anniversary of my father's death. If still alive, he would be 106! Sun shines for him and for us on this day, without a cloud in the sky, even though the temperature is just above freezing. We have yet to wrap the lemon or orange trees...

I'm sitting in the studio, and hear a noise to my left. Outside the window, above the little street we are hopeful to pave, Stefano pulls long dead weeds growing from ancient tufa, cleaning up the bank in front of Peppino's cantina. I ask Dino if he'll ask Stefano to do the same for ours, but am met by silence...

With the phone not answering at our doctor's office, we're unable to visit him to show him Dino's test results or the growing bump on my forehead. Dino tells me he'll take me to pronto soccorso (the hospital emergency room) if I like, but tells me he thinks the bump looks better, despite more swelling and a continued sensitivity. Va bene.

After colazione (breakfast) of panettone toast and clementines and capuccino, Dino takes Rosina and the Gasperoni families their budino di cachi (steamed persimmon puddings) and shops for groceries, for that is what he loves to do.

I put holiday things away and iron, seemingly procrastinating from returning to Cesar's painting, although that is what I'd most like to do. Sofi sleeps happily nearby.

I'm wondering when we planted the bulbs, and in looking through the archives learn that it was at the end of October. there are plenty of leaves that don't look like tulip leaves popping up where Cristina and then Dino planted the bulbs. So perhaps the anemones and others pop up earlier.

Let's give Cesar a try...After an hour or two of painting on the canvas, I clean the brushes for the day. I surely won't be finished by the beginning of the year, but so what?

Lately, we have been hearing what is quite an obscene question, though not by folks in our village. It's "Dove cazza lei?" (Where is your p.... taking you?) It's not even in any of our Italian/English dictionaries, although...cavolo is a cabbage, non capire un cavolo (to not understand a blessed thing, vulgar) and cazzotto (punch, or sock, also vulgar); cazzuola is a trowel.

I have to ask our old pal, Al Gore, and "his" internet confirms the word itself as cazzo, but only when I insert the English word and ask for the translation. Note that the word ends in "o", so perhaps I have heard it incorrectly. Why would it be referred to in the feminine in this distinctly masculine country? Is that a slang in itself?

December 28
What beautiful sun today! There are plenty of leftovers for pranzo, so let's work on the painting. Sofi would rather be curled up nearby than playing outside, unless I am taking her for a walk. That's not going to happen this morning...at least not yet.

The bump on my forehead is red, but seems better. Let's not worry about it. For a couple of hours I paint, and this is the most frustrating period, as layer upon layer of paint is applied with the lightest touch and then let dry on the face, making each tiny area it's own little painting of sorts.

The geometra arrives to talk with Stefano and Guarino and Cesare about the bank outside Peppino's cantina. It is so fragile that it must be rebuilt. Our area to the left of it is a separate issue, so Dino tells me it's not possible for Stefano to treat it as one, even though the area is right next to it, and made of the same fragile tufa, built many hundreds of years ago.

Roberto volunteers that the permit for the tettoio (roof for the front of our summer kitchen that reaches out to the (wisteria) and poles holding it up is ready, and the permit to put a real roof on the serra (greenhouse that we use for other things) will be ready next week.

But will Stefano work here then? Dino must push him, for we've waited for him since at least last May. It is frustrating to wait and wait, but we love his work. This summer, we'll have even more shade on the front of the house, which will be wonderful (magari)(if only it were possible). That is, if Stefano will only do the work before.

In the interim between Roberto's visit and

pranzo, Dino takes the satellite box to Viterbo, some of the programs he wants to record have failed. They download some new software, but if the condition continues, they'll give us a new box.

Dino takes out our grappa making book, wanting to pick all the lemons and other citrus plants before wrapping them for the winter. He wants to make liquors, so va bene. I think it will be mostly his doing, as I have the current painting to try to finish before the first of the year, when we will meet with the Ecomuseo folks and I will begin the painting of the little Mugnano forest of families, to hope to finish it by the first week of May.

Dino tells me that Bishop Lino of Viterbo, our local vescovo (bishop) will be here in Mugnano to celebrate the Feast of San Vincenzo on January 22nd. This is the first time in memory that a bishop has actually celebrated a mass in our village. It's pretty exciting, so wonder what the Coro will have planned.

With a doctor's visit scheduled for tomorrow night, we're planning for a busy day tomorrow, so take a nap this afternoon. Candace and Frank will arrive around 3 AM and we will take them to the airport in Rome for their annual winter trip to the U S. I'll let you know later what we do in between.

December 29
Candace and Frank arrive, and we all pile into their car, including Sofi, for a trip to Fimucino airport in Rome. We leave at 3:30 A.M. and are home and back in bed by 6 A.M.

A bit later in the morning, I have a thought that I can take our excel chart on the computer and put all the Mugnano names in bold of people that are/were also married to Mugnano people. I copy about fifteen families into a new chart, then start at the Barberini family and get to the end of the "C's" before I stop. This part of the project is one Dino would like to do.

Only when I have a grasp of all the families who have been intermarried will I have a picture in my mind of how the Mugnano family painting will look. I give myself from January to the feast day at the beginning of May to complete the huge painting; one that will be three panels wide, each more than a couple of meters.

Lets stop for now, moving to Cesar's painting..!

A bit earlier, I cajole Dino into doing a test paint of the colors we purchased for the hallway and realize that the drapes covering "backstage" will also have to be remade and will be done in the same pink. Yes, I love projects, and while I am able to get my mind around several of them at once, I intend to keep going, or "Sempre Avanti!" (Always Forward!), as our neighbors respond often when we ask them how they are.

December 30
With the side gate open, Peppino moves 30kili sacks of cement for Stefano, Guarino and Cesare, who are going to blow the wet cement on the ceiling and walls of Peppe's finished cantina. Dino tells me it's somewhat like the cottage cheese ceilings in the U S in the 1960's, I think. But this is stronger, and will hold past our lifetimes, we are thinking.

Stefano thinks he can start on the two minor roof projects (the outside studio and the front of the summer kitchen) on Monday or Tuesday. He and his pals measure and we agree on the wood we will purchase in advance for them. Then Stefano makes the call to Roberto Pangrazi, the geometra to make sure and to ask him a question.

What!? Roberto tells him the permit will not be ready for another thirty days, which propels Dino and I into a major funk. The workers are here now, but in thirty days, even if the permit is granted, we don't know how easy it will be to get them to return. They'll be ensconced in someone else's project, for sure.

Inside, I use leftover pork roast to make a Chinese fried rice. It's quite good, but filling, and we have lots left for another meal.

I return to painting, while Dino grates orange peel and leaves it to settle for a week or so in 100% alcohol. He's going to make liquor from our trees, and Pepe has given him some advice, after thinking that the orange plant is a wild orange. But since we purchased it from a Vivai (greenhouse), thinks it won't be wild. Or did we purchase it at a summer market? No matter. We'll let you know.

Last night I had a retching spell, begun with coughs and flem. What was that all about? I seem fine this morning, but had a major session "bowing to the porcelain god" not all that many hours ago.

Dino finished cutting back the rose arch, and will move on to other plants and trees as the days progress and we wait for the permit to put on small new roof structures in two areas.

I stop for a rest, and return thinking of sunflowers. Cesar's face looks much better, but I want to take the canvas back to Roger when we are in Languedoc in several months to fine tune the face and put more of his body in shadow, highlighting his face and the flowers. In the meantime, I'll work on the flowers and read more about refining my craft. That will be fun.

Dino lights the nightly fire in the fireplace and we settle down in the kitchen for the evening. We're sad that the muratores can't begin the work here this next week, but Stefano Jr. will repair the walls in the hallway and then we can paint the entryway.

December 31
This has been a good year, and for that we are so thankful. Hope it has been a good year for you, as well. We'll end the year quietly, as we do most years, and perhaps I'll get in some more painting today. We wake to plenty of sun, and I'm encouraged by the way the painting is progressing. I'll leave his face for now and begin to work on the sunflowers, which will be interesting to do, especially with the complexity of color tones and light and shadow.

Candace and Frank have left us a celery root and plenty of peppers, so tomorrow we'll have sausage and peppers in addition to the traditional lentils and today I'll fix the celery root, which is not unlike potatoes.

We both love the celery root mixed with potatoes cooked and put through a ricer, adding butter and cream and fresh thyme. The pork is still good and is delicious with rich brown gravy.

Dino cuts more roses back and I paint, not able to get away from altering Cesar's face a bit, but concentrate on leaves and petals. I don't know how I can just put this painting away to work on the Mugnano tree, so we'll see if the tree is not begun until later in January.

I also have an idea for tiny little skirts with ribbons at their waists, that Alessia can put on their tiny twins to dress them up a bit. I have plenty of wonderful lavender material that will be great. Now if we only have the right (ribbon)...

We'll all have to wait for next year, but without a nap this afternoon, don't know if we'll be able to ring in the new year at midnight Italian time. Don't forget to say "Rabbit! Rabbit!" as your first words of the new year. Let's see if Al Gore's pals has anything to say about that.

According to Wikipedia,

"Rabbit rabbit" is a common British superstition. The most common modern version states that a person should say "rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit", "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit", "rabbits, rabbits, rabbits",[1] "rabbit, rabbit" or simply "white rabbits" upon waking on the first day of each new month, and on doing so will receive good luck for the duration of that month. In the United States, the tradition is especially common in Nantucket, Cape Cod, other towns within Massachusetts, and throughout Vermont, notably in Middlebury and Chester.

Here in Italy, at the stroke of midnight, per our friend Loredana, one should bare their backside to the moon. I remember our gales of laughter when we spent the evening together a couple of times on New Year's Eve, first silently rushing outside and dropping our panty hose and doing what we were told. No one else knew until we were back inside, too late to catch a peek.

What a way to end the year! What's better than a laugh? "Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!"

Oh. And "Buon anno". Don't forget to pronounce both "n's" in "anno or you'll be wishing someone a good fanny. Ha!

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