July through September, 2012

To read the CURRENT month, go to ITALY JOURNAL

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

July 1
It's Sunday, and Don Daniele is our priest, encouraging us and prompting those of us in Coro to sing particular hymns. He's a wonderful priest, and one of these days we should check in with him to see if he's made the call to help my citizenship process along.

Dino covers the pomodori and only the four giganti variety next to the summer kitchen will remain uncovered until they're ready to pick. In the meantime, he picks up a variety called cuore di bue, which should be good, but don't have much taste. No matter. We make up for it with pieces of the loquat cake I made the other day for dessert, warmed in the microwave and served in a bowl with a scoop of lemony ice cream. I forget I should watch those calories, but let's not stress...about anything!

July 2
Very hot weather continues, but I know that I need to lose some weight, and Sofi loves to walk with me, so we take a giro around the loop below our house and meet some of the neighbors. We'll try to do this every morning, for it's fun and good exercise and more opportunity to converse with our vicini(neighbors).

Donato tells me while he sits on a wooden chair outside his house facing us, as we're about finished on the flattest section of Via Mameli; that now is too late to take a walk this morning; we should have been up earlier. He's certainly correct, so perhaps we should take our walks even before I take a shower each morning.

We'll try to take another walk tonight; that is, if it's not too hot. Fa niente (no matter). Hi, Mary! (Fa niente! is her favorite Italian phrase.) I do miss my dear friend, and think of her often, but she'll back in October.

Dino shops for tomatoes for our caprese to have during pranzo, and I realize we eat this almost every day during hot weather. Come no?

We arrive back home, but the heat is getting to me; I take a medicine cocktail and a shower to try to stave off a migraine, and for now, it's effective.

We take a nap in the afternoon; then do a lot of nothing for the rest of the day and evening. It's just too hot.

July 2
What happened today? It was hot, we ate caprese as part of our pranzo, but other than that, it's a mystery, the details hidden away somewhere beyond my reach.

July 3
On yet another hot morning, we have breakfast at home (Dino eats cereal while I eat a heavenly peach); then drive to Orte Scalo for my pedicure with dear Giusy. I'm finished by 11 AM and we're home by noon, so with lovely rosetta rolls from a panificio that we fill with egg salad, we follow them with caprese; then with just a bit of our loquat cake. What's more heavenly to eat on a hot summer's day?

I make fresh lemonade, and it brings back memories of my early childhood, when Nana and I would go to Beverly, MA to visit a cousin who owned an antique shop there, and we'd drink freshly squeezed lemonade. The shop was quite famous during the JFK days, with an item or two from there later living in the White House, but I've no knowledge if any of the relatives survived and kept the wonderful shop going.

If you make fresh lemonade yourself, just begin by boiling an equal amount of sugar and water in a pan until the sugar is dissolved; why not one cup each? You'll be able to use this simple syrup for other things as well. Then squeeze lemons (you can nuke them first for ten seconds with a scrape or two of lemon peel) and add lemon juice (1 cup if you used the sample just mentioned from about 5 lemons) and 3 to 4 cups of water. Serve over ice. Note: I always roll a lemon over the counter under my hand to soften it before doing anything with it, and it results in more juice. Just a thought.

We're invited to the white house of Annika and Torbjorn below us for cena, and will bring pizza bianca. Dino wants me to make the cheese spread my mother loved to make, with blue cheese, cream cheese, softened butter, Worcestershire sauce, chopped green olives with pimentos and I'm not sure of the quantities, but will fool around with them until they taste just right. If I remember (don't count on it, knowing my memory is very bad), I'll write them down and let you know here in a day or so. Speriamo.

Instead, we take a nap and then I prepare the easy borlotti bean dip that everyone loves, with plenty of fresh sage and garlic and Tabasco. I think the recipe is on this site. It's a big hit, eaten with pieces of the pizza bianca we made earlier. Tonight we're on their marvelous roof terrace for cena. What wonderful friends they are; too bad they're not here as often as we'd like. Sorry. Let's not moan...let's just delight in the time we have with them!

July 4
Yes, It's Independence Day in the United States, but nothing special is planned. We've a doctor's appointment in Viterbo with Dottore Bevilacqua, then a vet appointment for Sofia, where we'll ask about the little bumps on her stomach. Since she's just been shorn short, it's easier to see if there is a tick bite, but I can't tell by looking at it. She needs a regular injection, anyway.

We'd given her the monthly dose of Advantix, a tiny liquid vial rubbed on the back of her neck to keep fleas away, a day ago, so by tomorrow afternoon, we'll have learned a lot more about her. I don't like taking her out in the car at this time of year, for it is hot, but someone will stay with her in the car all the time, for it's too hot for her to stay alone.

There are no plans for a festa tonight. Perhaps pranzo at the Viterbo McDonald's will do the trick, American Style, for it's American's Independence Day from England, the date referring to almost four hundred years ago . Come no? We receive a text from Duccio and Giovanna, wishing us a Happy Independence Day, and Dino thanks them back, telling them that being here is our Independence Day from the chaos and stress of living in the U.S. Yes, we love visiting our family in San Francisco once a year, but can't imagine living anywhere but here.

Our good and great dottore, Stefano Bevilacqua, reassures us, gives Dino a prescription for his eye appointment that will take place in December and another for an intestinal blip.

Then we're off to Sofi's vet appointment, for a scheduled injection and to have the bump on her stomach looked at. Is it a tick? He thinks it's nothing to worry about, but tells us to give her some medicine each day and return in two weeks.

Yes, we do have pranzo at McDonald's in Viterbo, and I enjoy the chicken wrap and Dino loves his fries and a kind of burger I've not seen before served inside a different roll. We're both happy enough to forego dessert. Sofi's so happy to go home!

After naps, Dino leads a couple to a rental property while I try to remember all we've done today. I do come across some of the names for a recent pizza evening naming exercise I told you I'd reveal:

1. Pizza King Arthur
2. Pizza Galvano
3. Pizza Parsifal
4. Pizza Lancillotto
5. Pizza Merlino
6. Pizza Dulcinea

Earlier this morning, Dino watered some of the plants and I weeded and picked up many leaves by hand. But the best news is from Angie, who tells us our nipotini (grand daughters) are thrilled we're returning to visit them this fall. I've visions of costumes in my head, but think I'll prepare some things to sew once we're back there for them but not do a lot of sewing in the meantime this year.

Instead, I really need to paint the Fosci Family Tree, as a campione (sample) to show to Ecomuseo and give to the Fosci family as a gift. We love this family, and it will give me a thrill to do it for them.

July 5
While Dino drives back to Tenaglie and Guardea, Sofi and I stay at home, beginning the day picking up more leaves, mostly from the glycine(wisteria) and two of the three very dirty nespola (loquat) trees. Oh, how we'd love to replace these nespola trees, which were here when we purchased the property in 1997, but it is so hot under the summer sun that we need every bit of shade we can get.

The front garden and terrace are full of swallowtail butterflies and bumblebees, dancing around under a breeze. It's a wonderful day.

After procrastinating for a while, I spend a bit of time concentrating on the painting of Cesar. No, he's not Julius Cesar, but a young boy who spends time here with his family and otherwise lives in South America, I think.

I find a way to extend the headphones from the desk so that I can listen to music while I paint. In just an hour, I've added quite a bit of texture to the painting by brushing in a layer or two of the background street and wall and sky and more background between the sunflowers.

Yes, music has me soaring...I do love to paint! I check on the music, and would you believe the piece that is playing is "Out of Nowhere"! I feel as if Cesar has just stepped...out of nowhere!

After a short nap, I'm painting again, and am back to my old self, falling into the spell of the paintbrush and my own dreaming. If this keeps up, I'll be giving up on other activities each morning as if I'm an alchemist. Why not? What does that mean? Well, I feel I'm an experimenter, a transformer, with a big dollop of dreamer floating on top...that's me!

July 6
There's no color in the sky, and we know what that means...hot, hot, hot weather today to look forward to. After toast for prima colazione, I translate a couple of paragraphs for Dino on the computer regarding medicine for him, and we agree to drive to Viterbo.

I need a tube of cadmium yellow to paint Cesar's sunflowers; the tube I have is almost vuoto (empty). We drive to Montefiascone to source the tufa for the entry path, but cannot find the cava (cave where it comes from). Only after it's too late to drive back to it does Dino find out where it is...Next time...

We drive to KLIMT to pick up more paint for Cesar, especially for the sunflowers; then drive home where I fix a pasta with marinated artichoke hearts and parmesan cheese. It's a bit dry, but delicious. We cook the whole package, so there is cold pasta to make a baked pasta dish on another day with other ingredients.

Time for a nap, then weeding the path while Dino waters and Sofi tries to help me pull weeds, kissing me with her tiny tongue and wagging her tail. How sweet she is to me! Actually, these days she's in love with Dino, and I know that because when we're all on the sofa watching T V, she noses up to him and puts her front paws on his lap so that he will pet her. It's new for her, but very sweet.

Butterflies have continued on our terrace and gardens, and they seem happy here. We're happy to have them, and what wonders of nature they are!

We stay up late to watch movies, but why not? It's still warm, and we're using the air conditioner. I worry about the bill...There's no way to tell how large it will be.

July 7
I slept little last night, but no matter, We awake early, begin the washing machine action because power costs less on weekends, and watch a bit of TV, especially the tennis finals.

I begin to do an index for all our recipes, and there are many. I've wanted to do this for years, so it's a start...I also re-file the recipes themselves in specific binders in the kitchen for future use.

I return after pranzo to work on the recipe list. Why, do you ask, do we have such a list? Well, I keep recipes that I've used and liked, and some I have not used, but may want to try. Most often, I look over a couple of recipes for a particular thing to cook and then put them all aside, adding my own ingredients, taking some away, changing the way the particular dish is prepared...

Afterward, if we're fortunate, I'll remember and document what we did and how I'd like to change the recipe to improve it. What's remarkable, I think, about my memory, is that things long ago are easy to remember; it's the things that happened a minute or so ago that drift out of my mind; only to be replaced by another dream or so. Ha. Can't do a thing to change that, so might as well put on the headphones and listen to music while I catch up with you.

I do write to you just about every day; sometimes a few times a day, and I look forward to doing it, especially when I look back upon it later and something makes me smile. Right now, although the front shutters to the studio are latched and partially closed, a bunch of leaves from the cachi (persimmon) tree wave back and forth as if they're doing a dance in the early afternoon breeze. Hi! My silent dreamy self calls back.

We're to go to eat cena at a couple's house in the countryside tonight, and Sofi will stay home, for she'll be more comfortable here, and there will be less chance of her getting bit. There is a dangerous insect bite to dogs this summer, and I suppose every summer, known as leishmania, and although we give her medicine to counteract it, it's still dangerous.

A migraine headache looms, so I take a difmetré cocktail, and the symptoms seem to disappear. Dino tells me I concentrate on projects too intensely; they bring on migraines. This one must have had to do with the recipe arranging...what a lame reason for a major headache!

Tonight at Sam and Lisa's house, we enjoy the latest houseguests, Put, Val and Oonagh, have lots of fun, and we're hopeful we'll see the three of our hosts again, alla prossima volta (the next time, meaning the next time they'll be here). Italians use this phrase often, and we use it whenever we look forward to seeing someone again.

It's a humid evening, but there are lots of beautiful stars. Let's hope the humidity does not last.Speriamo di no.(we hope not).

July 8
There's church this morning, and I show Norena the little gold ring found years ago in our garden, hoping it was hers. No, she does not remember it. So we'll keep it with other little mementoes in our garden. Come no?

Don Angelo is our priest, and it's always wonderful to listen to his sermons, some of which I actually understand. It's obvious that he takes his mission seriously, and also that he enjoys it. Yes, he will come for pizza one night this summer. We just don't have the date decided yet, for Tuesday evening's group is all set, with two of the participants wanting to keep the group small and the portions larger. Va bene.

Dino watches the Formula-1 race and we'll probably watch some of the Wimbledon Tennis in a bit, but for now it's time for a nap and for me, a bit of reading and cooling off. The temperatures outside are hot; the laundry drying quickly and sheets pressed and back on the bed in time for a dolce fa niente (sweet nothing, or afternoon nap).

The race over, the tennis match over with Roger Federer winning for the 7th time, and Dino returns to the garden, where he lops off an entire basket of wisteria cuttings. It's amazing how quickly they grow.

In this heat, the cicadas are rubbing their little legs together again, and what a loud sound they make! As soon as the temperature lowers a bit, they'll stop, probably exhausted from making all that noise. Speriamo.

I've worked a bit to get rid of all that ironing waiting for me, and just at 8:47 PM, while I'm writing to you, the cicadas stop for the night. Yay!

I've checked out all the recipes and they're filed in binders in the kitchen by type of food, with an index at the front, but no page numbers. That will give us flexibility to add to it without redoing the index.

Darn. It's two minutes later and the cicadas have returned with their grinding. Let's watch TV and ignore them.

July 9
Have you noticed that I've stopped putting in Italian News bits with each month's post? Well, they take up a lot of room, and you can read Italian News in English anytime you'd like at:


Unless there's something particular I'd like to share with you and like the way they pose it, I'll not include ANSA news in succeeding postings.

Hope you'll still find reasons to read, but if you don't, I understand that, too. Just try to remember my mantra as it applies to you: "Dare to live your dream"...it's never too late to follow your heart's desire.

So about that dream...you know by now that my life has become just about everything I hoped for, and more. As time goes by, I find more and more to love about life these days.

No, it is not perfect. Perhaps that's what makes my life complex and interesting. My mind keeps expanding, at least I think it does, for I find something new to love and enjoy in every day. The things that get me down are things I need to continue to work on about how I see myself, but I truly believe it's important not to place too much importance on the negative.

With baby steps each day, perhaps beginning by taking a walk with Sofi around the loop below our house before the heat of the day sets in is a great start. Just after 8 A M, before even taking a shower, I dress and Sofi is more than happy to do a giro (walk) around the loop below our house.

On the way are many familiar sights, the wildness of the trees make me wonder if their beginnings were carried by birds in flight from another spot, sometimes many, many years ago. Come no?

The first part is easy, all downhill, and when we're more than halfway through the steep climb begins; Sofi is ready and gambols along, stopping here and there for any delicious smells. I'm reminded of living in San Francisco many years ago with our cocker spaniels, Huntley and Brinkley, and Brinkley would help pull me up the steep hills by trudging forward on her lead. It seems another life ago.

Once on Via Mameli again, I think it's Pasquale on a Vespa coming up to us and giving me an Italian kiss (one on each cheek). If it is Pasquale, the man who lives above us part time, he looks different, with his hair seemingly shaved close to his head and a Don Johnson growth on his face, under a beige baseball cap. He tells me he never sees us, but we are almost always around. I don't remember seeing any activity at his house above us, either. No matter. We finish our walk, and Sofi and I are both content.

For the rest of the day, Sofi stays at my side, and after catching up with you I return to the painting of Cesar, feeling refreshed and ready to systematize the studio by finishing the rest of the ironing and making files for things that can be put away for another day.

That leaves the pieces of fabric, and I'm wondering if the grand daughters have been growing. Not knowing their actual measurements currently, perhaps we'll take fabric with us to the U S and I can make some things for the girls to wear, since Angie has a sewing machine that I've used when we visit with them.

While Dino returns outside to work on garden projects, let's paint! A couple of hours later I'm finished for the day, well aware of migraines if I spend too much time concentrating. I like what I see, and really enjoy doing this painting today. It's perhaps the most fun painting I've done yet, but don't expect to see the final image for a while.

After a nap and shopping for tomorrow night's pizza festa here, we decide upon the menu and I begin to sauté some of the toppings and make the dough, let it sit for thirty minutes and then pop it in the frigo overnight. There will be just six of us, but there is just as much work as if we were eight. No matter. Our ospiti(guests) are all from Mugnano and we'll speak only Italian, so expect me not to be the life of the party.

I wish I spoke the language better, but have so many things happening in our lives on an ongoing basis that are wonderful that going back to school for a course in Italian is at the very bottom of the list.

As I sit down to give you the final comments of the day, I look over at the painting of Cesar and it does not look especially like him, but I like the painting. I also want to begin to sew, but there's just no time. Might as well just go to bed. A domani. (Until tomorrow.)

I'm in bed just before midnight, having made two batches of pizza and sautéed many items. Tomorrow there will be more to do, but a great deal of the prep work has been done, and it should not be a stressful day.

July 10
The morning arrives, and it is indeed a hot one. I forego a passagiata with Sofi to keep things from getting stressful before tonight's pizza festa here.

Dino shops, then there's sausage meat to sauté, zucchini to grate with the large hole of the grater, beschamel sauce to make, bacon to fry, garlic to press, Parmigiano and Edamer cheeses to grate, wild fennel to clip and on and on. But that's it for this morning.

After pranzo... We're avoiding the work for a bit, so take a short nap, which Anne Robichaud calls a pennichella . We refer to it as a dolce fa niente (sweet nothing), but then, I'm reminded never to take Italian lessons from another straniero (stranger, or non-Italian).

In this case, I'm sure Anne is correct. Thanks, Anne. The dictionary refers to a nap as a sonnellino, and since sogno is a dream, and I am a sogniatrice(dreamer), why not add those to your Italian vocabulary?

Dino fires up the pizza oven for tonight's pizza cena, and Rosina calls down to him. She's angry, for she'll have to close her drapes and balcony doors for the rest of the day and evening. We're both really sorry, and did not understand that the smoke blows into her tiny house when we have fires in the pizza oven.

I'm hoping Dino will bring the subject up tonight to Francesco, our Vigili Urbano (local policeman) and see what he thinks. Tomorrow he'll meet with Stefano and help him assemble a stainless steel chimney to add to the existing chimney to take it up as high as our roof line which is another 4 meters! That way, we don't think she'll experience much, if any, smoke from the chimney.

An hour or so later, I take the pasta out of the frigo and cut it into pieces, form them into rounds and lay them out on trays under wet towels to rise. I stuff the zucchini flowers with mozzarella and anchovies, clip basil and mint, slice figs, and grate more Edamer cheese. Since we use Parmesan on top of most pizzas, this is to introduce another flavor to the mix.Come no?

In the meantime, May Elin's sister, Charlotte, and her sister's husband, Tommy, and their baby, an adorable girl named Nemi, arrive for a visit. They sit in the kitchen while I work on the pasta and some of the other prep work. Since they are visiting for another week or so, we decide to do a pizza night again this weekend for the family. There are six adults, so just the right number, and it will be fun. That's three pizza nights in six days!

We have more pasta than we'll need for tonight, so return some to the frigo for now, realizing that we'll only have five pizzas tonight. Only five! On any other evening, we've found that we've served too much pizza. Let's slow down...Ha!

Tonight's pizza evening is a great success, and we so enjoy getting to know the four neighbors better. Here is a photo of we girls...

Special thanks to Mauro, who kindly stands by and guides me here and there on the fine points of turning the balls of dough into thin pizza dough, ready for toppings and the forno. Dino also gets a few valuable pointers from Mauro. He's very kind.

After tasting each pizza, there are suggestions as to which one is the best. Since I have invented most of the combinations of toppings, some of the tastes are a bit of a stretch for standard Italian palates.

Mauro and Francesco seem to enjoy the unusual ingredients, and for that I am grateful. But Laura asks why we do not fix a Margherita; is she disappointed? I hope not. She and Serena laugh a lot and seem to have fun.

It is interesting to be involved in an evening during which not one word of English is spoken. I suppose that means we're fitting in here, although the conversation about my still pending citizenship status has all of us roaring with laughter at the possible reasons for the delay.

Dino takes photos of both couples in the conch shell afterward, but since it was dark, they did not come out well. Strangely, the photo of us came out just fine. The next time we see them we'll ask them to come again during the day for photos to include in the journal.

Our guests tonight brought us a spectacular array of pastries from a pasticceria in Soriano, so for what we don't eat we'll keep them in the frigo until this weekend. We'll serve three pizzas on Saturday, a salad and the pastries, so no need to make another batch of dough. Everything will keep just fine.

July 11
Since we cleaned up and put everything away after our friends left last night, it was well after midnight before we fell into bed. I did dream, however, some lovely dreams.

This morning is very hot, so there's no walk in our plans. I do talk with Rosina and tell here that Dino is in Viterbo buying parts for the chimney for our pizza oven. She's relieved, but wants me to know that she was not happy. I can understand why, and am so very sorry. Let's hope Stefano can put the parts together this week.

Before he does that, Dino has to drive to Lorenzo's to have him make some clasps for the house to anchor the chimney extensions. He'll arise very early tomorrow and be at our fabbro's at 7 AM when he opens up. Let's hope he'll make those things right as Dino waits. Speriamo! (We hope so!)

I work on pinning the new curtains for the inside of the balcony; then move to do a bit of painting on the canvas before Dino returns. Since the sewing machine has not been brought out, it will be a day or so before I sew the hems of the two curtains.

There's a phone call from Robert DeGraaf, and there will be an art exhibition in the Todi area, in Acqualoreto, during Ferragosto, where they'll accept a painting of mine for an exhibition. Let's make it Cesar with sunflowers for his mom. That will give me the impetus to finish it in the next couple of weeks. Come no?

After a nap in the afternoon, I return to the studio to make seam binding for the curtains, since I don't have any that I can use with white fabric. It takes quite a while, so perhaps I'll go with Dino tomorrow to Viterbo and pick up seam binding that will probably work better. At least I know I can do it.

Dino wants to proceed with the chimney extension on the side roof above the pizza oven, and this morning drove to Viterbo to pick up the extensions in stainless steel. I've given up on wanting it done elegantly, believing that being a good neighbor is more important.

Dino is able to sit the first extension piece on the chimney, and I call up to Signora Rosina to show her. She seems a bit embarrassed at the commotion she caused yesterday, but she was correct. It is not fair for us to cause her to close her windows in the room where she spends almost all her time.

I will say that she is relieved, and perhaps quite happy, that we have moved so quickly. So will we finish before Saturday, when Dino will have to heat the pizza oven in the mid afternoon for us to eat pizza that evening with May Elin and her relatives and dear Olav. By the time you read this, we hope to have finished the work. Speriamo. This is one place where magari! (the famous Italian expression meaning...if only it were so), just won't work.

I've spent a few minutes painting highlights on the sunflowers tonight, but that's it for today. It's just too hot to do much of anything more.

When we go to bed, the bathroom temperature is at 29.5 Celsius, which is so very hot. Let's hope things cool down overnight.

July 12
Dino has set his alarm, so is up at 6 AM and at Lorenzo's at 7 AM when he awakes. He arrives home to pick me up before driving to Viterbo to pick up the last piece of stainless steel for the chimney cap extension. We stop to pick up white seam binding to shorten the new drapes for the balcony doors.

Because it has been agreed that David will do the work to rework the tiny path between our property's main entrance and Peppe's garden into a few slowly sloping steps, we drive on to Montefiascone to speak with a particular man about cutting the tufa tiles a specific height. It's not economically feasible, so we agree to buy the regular tufa bricks in a pale color and have the six pallets delivered after the cement underlayment has been poured and set.

Once home, Dino walks up to talk with David about when he can begin, and on to Stefano, to tell him we're ready for him to complete the chimney for the pizza oven, subito!. Dino may anchor the iron pieces that will support the structure himself that were made this morning by dear Lorenzo. He does paint the structure a flat brown, similar to the color of weathered copper, and it looks fine.

Will we always be working on projects? I thought we were going to slow down. Stefano is not available to finish the chimney, so while David goes off to research prices to give us a preventivo (estimate) for the project on our little path leading to both our main entrance and Peppe's garden, Dino tells me he'll anchor the supports for the chimney extension himself. Bravo, Caro! (dear one)

Perhaps while David works on the path, which we think will have low steps with one meter between each step, he will work with Dino to finish the chimney. But will the chimney be finished by Saturday? Dino's not worried, for he assures me that the two chimney extensions will take the smoke above and away from Rosina's balcony.

He does visit Pangrazi, the geometra, who tells him he does not need a permit to extend the chimney if he paints it. So all is well for now....speriamo. Dino tells me we can take the extensions off after our pizza night on Saturday and then clean them off before painting them. There's always a solution.

I do admit the necessary chimney cap is brutto (ugly), a design right out of 50's space travel, but we'll hopefully not notice it when it is painted. The good news is that the row of houses behind us is not particularly attractive and is faced in unfinished darkish brown tufa, so the cap will probably blend right in.

Annika and Torbjorn arrive for a brindisi prosecco (to raise a glass of prosecco) before they leave for home in Sweden early tomorrow morning. We look forward to their return in September, and will fix a pizza for Torbjorn with cozzi (mussels) and red sauce and other fish treats then. Sounds good to me!

It's still very hot at 8:30 PM; so hot that the cicadas are still rubbing their legs. No matter. We return inside to cool off. Perhaps tomorrow I'll take out the sewing machine and hem the inner balcony curtains. With nothing done on Cesar's painting today, I hope to spend an hour or so on that as well. What fun I have in the studio each day, with many waiting projects to surround me!

Dino has his projects, too; we are one busy couple. He's even more active than I am; and I'm really impressed with his no nonsense approach to a project, or a problem. Let's just hang out together in the cool kitchen for the rest of the evening...

July 13
Friday the 13th is not unlucky in Italy; it's Friday the 17th that is considered unlucky (sfortunato) for Italians. Every day we seem to pick up more of the language and culture, albeit somewhat subconsciously; here's an example:

We wake up and leave early, with Sofi "minding the store", and have caffé in Bomarzo, where we run into Fabiano, the son of Enrico and Vilma, a couple from Mugnano. This young and robust man is a chef in London, and does all the cooking for his parents when he's here. He will be in sleepy Mugnano for the rest of July and August, so we'll surely see him again.

He speaks excellent English to us, for he lived and worked in London for two years, and tells us that Agri Fish, the shop that sells frozen fish in Viterbo that we know, also sells fresh fish, and it's very fresh, so there's no need to drive all the way to Marta on Lake Bolsena to pick up the best fresh fish. Good to know!

What's funny to me is that he speaks to us in English, but with his parents standing quietly and proudly behind him, I find myself speaking to them in Italian! What?

Last night I had vivid and wonderful dreams, and in one heard my uncle Barney speaking disdainfully to my father and me: "You're dreamers!" This also happened in real life sometime in the 1960's, and at the time, it felt hurtful. But now, I am thrilled to say that he was so right. Dad and I were and are dreamers...although my father is now beyond the grave. He speaks to me ever so gently now and then and I can feel him smiling down at me. Hi, Daddy dear.

Early this morning we drive to Bonucci , the excellent paint store in Viterbo, for Dino is to paint the stainless steel chimney pipe for the pizza oven. We consult with a young man we know, who has worked there for years, and come away with a can of expensive paint (€22) that we'll try on the shortest length, 50cm, and let it dry for more than 24 hours before painting the rest of it. Tomorrow night's pizza festa here will be the real test. I'm disappointed that the paint does not come in a flat paint, but no matter.

It's not as if we think the pipe will disappear, with it's cap's shape right out of an old science fiction movie. Stay tuned.

We drive home and Dino sets about the painting, while I catch up with you and return to Cesar. It's quite hot today.

Some hours later, after pranzo and a nap, I find him out on the lower roof, wearing a sweatband on his head, on a ladder at the edge of the roof, preparing to lift up the first length of painted aluminum on the chimney.

I remain nearby in the studio where Cesar and I commune while I add paint to the canvas.

Tonight we pick up Duccio and Giovanna in Bomarzo and drive to Giove where we eat at the sagra della zucchini. The food is quite good; for instance, Giovanna eats the parmigiana di zucchini and Dino has cartoccetto di manzo in crema di zucchini. Duccio and I stick to the fiori di zucchini (zucchini flowers) and because we are early we are served well and enjoy the meal and the music.

A man plays guitar, and I request that he play Santana's "Black Magic Woman". He plays that almost right away, followed by another Santana piece. When we lived in Mill Valley, CA, Santana lived on the end of the same little road, and we often listened to his father, Jose, play mariachi music at a local Mexican restaurant. We have tonight's musician's information on a card and will surely see him again. His music is quite good.

At home I caramelize mushrooms, almost forgetting about them, but rescuing them just in time. Earlier, I made the dough and it sits in the frigo until tomorrow afternoon. Dino watches a program on T V, and then we're off to dreamland. A domani.(Until tomorrow.)

July 14
It's a big holiday today in France, but here it is just another lovely day, although we'll be celebrating tonight with May Elin's family and friends with another Pizza Festa at our house. Come no?

There's laundry to do, and the sheets dry so quickly I'm able to iron what I need to and put them back on the bed in time for us to cool off with our afternoon naps. We've finished most of the things we can until 5 or 6 this afternoon. So let's relax a bit. Ha!

This afternoon is windy, and Dino puts up two extensions to the pizza oven chimney to try it out for tonight. Rosina is especially cordial, leaning over her balcony to talk with us somewhat happily, and that's fine. We want this to work for all of us.

Dino lights the fire in the pizza oven and we watch the chimney for smoke. Earlier, with one extension, the smoke seemed to move too close to our neighbors. The paint color is fine, but we're thinking that the strange cap Dino picked up may be returned. We may not need it or want it. We'll see.

I do all the prep work I can, and there is an hour to go before our guests arrive. I've been bitten by mosquitoes and other tiny insects and I'm trying to think of something else to take my mind off it.

I paint just for ten minutes or so, but am not in the mood to paint. Perhaps when our friends arrive I will be too busy to think about anything else. And that's a very good thing.

Our pizza festa is a big hit. Our guests are May Elin and Olav, who are here part of the year and have two places in our village (one in the countryside) facing Attigliano. May's sister, Charlotte, and husband Tommy and baby Nemi and Tommy's parents, Tom and Hanna, are our guests. They all speak English and seem to enjoy each pizza.

Afterward, although everyone tells us they cannot eat another thing, each person eats at least one half of a large pastry from the bakery in Soriano. Nemi eats nothing, for she's only eight months old, but here is a photo of her with her parents, and a pic of the group.

Even though it's past midnight before we've completed our cleanup and gone to bed, we've enjoyed ourselves immensely.

July 15
I oversleep, but we arrive in church with a couple of minutes to spare before mass, and are delighted to greet Phillipe and Marie and Louie, who I see sitting next to and behind me. Wolf and his friend, Paul, from Paris, and Andrea are the altar servers, and it appears that there are sufficient costumes for each of them. Beatrice is at a Christian camp and the two littlest girls are sleeping in.

Here are the three altar servers:

Don Angelo is our priest, and joyously talks about little Mugnano as a metropolis (!). His friend Lucia is with him, and afterward we decide that they'll both come for pizza in two weeks. The next time we post we'll tell you all about it. We're thinking with: Phillipe, Marie, Don Angelo, Lucia, Roy and me at the main table, the children and one friend will be served their pizzas beginning one half hour early at the round table nearby on the terrace, we'll have dough for eight pizzas (a double recipe) and it will work out just fine.

We have food at home, so only drive to Bomarzo for colazione, but run into Cristina and it is good to see here again after a long while. I'm not feeling all that well, so have juice, followed by a difmetré and an ice pack when we return back home. Is it possible that I'm allergic to alcohol? I drank plenty of rose wine last night, so am not surprised.

We try to open the door and greet Sofi calmly, but it's difficult. Using "Calming Signals", we slow her down and soon the atmosphere is calm and cool. The air conditioner is turned on for a while and we're able to cool down as well, although I augment my heated body with an ice pack and sit on the couch with it under my head. That, combined with the difmetré tablet, helps a great deal. I'm almost back to normal by the time I fix caprese to go with the rest of our pranzo and we sit down to eat.

There is plenty of wind this afternoon, and after the sun has moved beyond the lower roof next to the studio, Dino climbs back up there again. With a tall ladder, he removes the three long sections of the pizza oven chimney, and later he will paint them the same color as the short section on the bottom. Right now, it's dangerous to leave them up, for although they're attached at one point, Dino thinks he has one of the supports on backward, and does not want to lose them. Nor do I.

Now that we know that they will all work, he'll clean up the sections and paint them. Stefano has offered to help, and perhaps later this week he will. I'd feel more secure if Stefano would work with Dino on this, mostly because I don't want Dino to be in a position to hurt himself. Let's not worry. Stay tuned.

I think the wind has something to do with barometric pressure and my headache. So while a headache persists, it is not a strong one, and manageable. I'd rather paint, so let's do a bit of that with the fan moving the air about.

Just a bit earlier, the familiar grumbling sounds of "Laika! Laika!" from across the street tell us that Pia and her dear mother have returned, perhaps for a visit. It's good to see that Pia's mother looks well from here, she must be in her eighties. They are not here often, perhaps because Pia has a boat that is kept on Lake Bolsena during the days of summer.

Don and Mary call from England, and we're sad to hear how terribly wet and cold the weather is there. Dearest pal Mary won't be here until October, but Don will be here, perhaps twice before then, and we'll surely have a pizza evening on one of those visits.

Cicadas are back, but of course they are. Wind does not seem to bother them, and the temperature must be in the 30's Celsius. Perhaps rubbing their legs together keeps them cool.

By the time we go to bed, there are crickets sounding here and there, but no cicadas. Pia and her family have left for the evening and all is quiet. I read some of Italian Hours by Henry James before falling asleep, and if you have ever fallen in love with Venice, this is worth the read. I'm only 10 per cent of the way into the book, and can't wait to return to it.

While we sleep here in Italy, dear Freddi, Terence and Angie and Marissa and Nicole's dear Basset Hound, passes away. By the time you read this, she'll be romping around the flowers in heaven. How sweet she was! Heaven is surely a better place with her there. Here's Freddi with the girls and Terence in a recent photo:

July 16
We've just learned that Freddi has passed away in California at 13 1/2 years. What a sweet doggie! Her passing is especially difficult for little Marissa and Nicole; sadly, dealing with the loss of one's pet is one of the first truly poignant passages in one's life. At nine years young, it feels as if their hearts would break, and surely they will carry a memory of their dear Freddi with them always.

Back here in Italy, there's Coro practice tonight to prepare for Ferragosto, well, really the Feast of the Assumption, but other than Dino driving to Viterbo to pick up some little cupcake tins and a few errands, we'll be at home. Dino decides to put that trip off until tomorrow.

David and May and Olav arrive for a meeting on our terrace regarding May and Olav's garden property. It is a good meeting, one that Dear Sofi and I do not attend, for after greeting them, we're in the studio and can hear May laughing. Dino is so good at this project management.

David has become a fixture in our village, for dear Stefano had so much work here that there was plenty of room for a new muratore. Stefano is still to arrive to do a few small projects, and tells us he will finish the fountain in the next days. As Doris Day sang so well, "Que sera, sera".(What will be, will be.) We no longer wait. When he arrives, he arrives. Perhaps by this posting, there will be news.

There's time to paint, time to sew, and now that my headache has finally passed, I pledge to keep myself from getting stress in my back, which leads to more headaches. There is an air of sadness this morning regarding dear Freddi, who was always very sweet to us whenever we visited.

We embrace our California family from afar, for this is so very painful for them all, and are sorry we're not there to console them in person. A phone call to Terence helps, and we hear that big dogs with large ribcages and stomachs have health problems, as they get older. It appears there was a problem with Freddi's stomach.

As I've said once before in this journal, we do not add Italian news any more, for you can check in with ANSA.it/English anytime you'd like to know what's happening here in the news and it's always available in English. For those not interested in the news, you no longer have to skip around when reading it, unless you'd like to and are a dreamer, like me.

"How much sweeter Nature is than man..." Henry James wrote in his Italian Hours. I have not read much of this author, but am reminded of Thomas Hardy, of whose works I have read many. Hardy, on the other hand, wrote of Nature as a power over man, as though it were a menacing force, sometimes wreaking havoc on its characters. At other times, it was used as a force of Nature, including a time in Return of the Native, when a letter was mistakenly guided by the wind under a mat, not to be read until it was too late...

We truly embrace Nature here, with its sights and sounds all around us. I sit outside on the terrace in the bright sunlight for twenty minutes while reading a bit, with Sofi nearby making her little funny noises while trying to find a particular lucertole. My little hunter of a dog, sweet as she is, turns a bit wild when there's something to chase. I don't mean a child, or another dog, but chasing a cat or a lizard or one of her stuffed animals is her heart's delight.

Today, when I realize it's too hot to remain outside, she follows me to the studio, taking her place on the cool floor under one of the beds.

Dino drives not to Viterbo, but to Guardea, to Lorenzo for another piece to secure the chimney for the pizza oven. I think it's time to take the pieces off and paint them, for we're not having a pizza evening until the 25th, when Don Angelo, his friend Lucia, Paul and Marie join us with their children, except for Beatrice, who is at camp. The children will be treated to their own pizzas a half hour before the adults sit down. While we're having our pizza, they can run around and play with Sofi, or watch T V.

Cesar is looking older on the canvas; what have I done? With more paint on the sunflowers and leaves, it's beginning to come together. I'd like to show more contrast in the street; it looks too blue-gray. Let's see what we can do tomorrow.

July 17
On this warm and clear morning, Sofi and I take a walk around the Mugnano loop below our house, where we greet Paolo, Italo, Vincenza, Terzo and May Elin before arriving home. I'm hoping for more sun on my face, but it's possible that as I grow older the sun does not cling to my face as it once did. Perhaps that's a good thing.

Dino gets ready to drive to Viterbo to pick up the final chimney pieces and tiny cupcake tins, while I catch up with you and stare at Cesar. The painting is looking good, but does it look like Cesar? Not to worry, he's quite handsome just the same. At least for the exhibit, I'll leave his face as it is.

I feel good that I've had some exercise this morning, and Sofi rests by my side, ever ready for a new activity, or not. It's time to register to vote in the U.S. Presidential Election in November. We request our ballots and of course will vote!

I put together a leftover pasta to make a frittata for pranzo, depending upon what Dino returns with. When he returns, he has the same larger cupcake tin, but no matter. He thinks a frittata is a good idea, and after he takes a bit tells me it's delicious.

While away from the painting, it seems to take on a new, more finished aspect. I'm enjoying the work, but want to find a way to make the sunflowers look more alive and his arm to look more natural. Yes, I'll find a way, hopefully by experimenting and researching the painting books in our studio.

We have no water! The tank we put in and filled a couple of months ago behind the house to supplement the local water is empty. We hoped our tank would avoid our lack of water on the hottest days of summer when local water is often unavailable for a short while. That means we've been without water since about Saturday (the tank holds about 2-3 days of water). Dino walks down the street and Giovanna has water, so we're the only house, we think, without it. It's after 9 PM and he calls an emergency number for Talete, the water company. Someone tells him there will be someone out at 7 AM. Magari! (If only that were so...)

July 18
Dino awakes at 6 AM, and at the appointed hour, waits on the terrace. 7 o'clock, 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock roll by, and there is still no sign of a technician to fix our water problem.

Sofi and I take our giro on the loop below our house, and it's a lovely walk, albeit quite warm, especially when we reach the asphalt on the other end of Via Mameli. Friends and neighbors abound, and are all happy to see us. Speriamo.

Back at home, there is still no sign of Talete. Dino calls again, and the response is vague. We sit on the balaustra(balustrade) at the front of the piano rotolo landing, and discuss what to do about David's very high preventivo(quote).

Dino tells me he will speak with him again, in what I suggest is an apology for not describing the work correctly. Dino will say that he'd like the work done in two stages...First we'd like a price for just making the cement underlayment. The second part, the paving, will come later. We must find a way to do the work economically.

In what Dino calls his "undying quest for mediocrity", (ha!), he and I sit on the balaustra (balustrade) and talk about his grooming of the glycine (wisteria) in front of the house. "Bob Kalsey would like that!" he laughs. We sit there for twenty minutes or so, just looking around at the view, as if we've nothing to do.

In what Yogi Berra would call "déjà vu all over again", our eyes light upon various vignettes encompassing a myriad of projects we've undertaken since buying this property in 1997.

The original front steps have been removed and the space filled in; the former steps now comprise the basis of a fountain in the middle garden, the six large terra cotta planters hold up the wisteria in front of us, the marvelous steel pergola (which Dino comments is only a bit stronger than the oldest wisteria trunks growing upon and through it) and the pale gravel underfoot, all are a testament to his methodical project management.

He admits his concentration on those projects is the very thing about him that drives me crazy at times, for it's during those times that he treats me as the appendage that I am! Yes, I'm still waiting for my citizenship and am officially an appendage of Dino's, since he is an official Italian citizen. But you know all that.

No wonder I often lapse into dreamland, as if to survive emotionally, reveling in being a sognatrice, surrounded by a number of unending creative projects. I admit I'm happiest when we're quiet here at home together.

Someone from Talete does arrive, and it appears that Pia is without water as well. The source is past the cemetery up on the hill to our right, so they will figure it out...At least they are here. It seems that someone left their hose running for the last few days, reducing our water pressure to near zero!

Our water is back on and functioning well by noon, prompted possibly by Francesco, who is responsible for water and public sservice in Bomarzo and Mugnano. He arrives while the Talete people are here, and we acknowledge and thank him.

All is well.

I return to painting here and there, a few minutes at a time. I rework Cesar's nose and mouth this time. There's always more to do, but not always more time. In the late afternoon, I spend two hours on the painting working mostly on his face, moving his nose, showing a bit more cheek and adjusting his lips and teeth. Tomorrow I'll work on his skin, lightening it up a bit.

Dino finishes painting the canna fumaria (chimney for the pizza oven), including the inside of the top, for it will be viewed from below. Good thinking, dear Dino! It should dry for 24 hours and then he'll install it and check yet another project off the list.

July 19
Is another walk in the cards for Sofi and me? Not today, for it is already really hot at 8 AM.

I do, however, turn on the oven and make a batch (18) of lemon nut muffins. Surely the French children will arrive in the next day or so to see Sofi and they'll have a treat waiting for them. In the meantime, Dino tries them and pronounces them, "A little better than good!"

He's already been to the next town for parts and has measured the cana fumaria for the last bracket. This evening, he will put it up. Is there a problem with Rosina?

Well, her shutters have remained closed, and Dino tells me she told him yesterday that she remains fearful when he is on the ladder. I suppose she thinks Dino might fall, but he's very careful and methodical. I stand outside and watch him, ever ready to assist if he needs anything. We'll see tonight how it works. This morning, he's been up on the roof at least once to measure again. He appears confident, telling me he enjoys the engineering aspect of the project.

I return to the studio to paint Cesar, for his mouth is not just right and today is as good a day as any to rework the street behind and next to him on the canvas.

Dino watches the The Open (British) on TV, and I'm happy to see him inside relaxing. He has a lot of his father in him, and relaxing is not something he's used to doing.

Back in the studio, having added more texture and depth to the center of the flowers in Cesar's painting, I work on the street, for it looks too much like the sky behind his head.

Do I tell you too often how much I love little Sofi? After reading books from the viewpoint of the dog, I understand her, I think, a lot better. She takes what she thinks as her role in life quite seriously, and is calmer and even sweeter to Dino and me these days, if that is possible. Here she is watching Dino erect the pizza oven chimney.

Earlier, Dino and I talked about the terrible situation in Syria, and although the newscasters tell us the battles will continue for weeks, he does not think it is possible. Wherever is the kindness goddess when we really need her?

I remember asking my father when I was a child why people in the Middle East fought with each other, aimed at killing their fellow man/woman? He told me the battles had gone on since the time of the Bible, so had a predestined opinion, one that did not entirely convince me.

I can do my part, showing sincere consideration and respect with one person at a time, and ask that you consider doing the same. Oh, why oh why, is there no emphasis in the press on the detriment of judging one's fellow man/woman? Perhaps its time for an editorial, or an email to someone I regard highly who can do something about it. If you know someone and can help, do let me know. Thanks.

July 20
With summer heat continuing, we're up really early and leave for Viterbo to return a couple of things and pick up a few more, while Sofi remains in the cool house. Shopping here in Italy is not at all similar to shopping in the United States; there are not many choices here, and very few of the same brands. We've changed our thinking, however, and don't think we miss anything from the U S, really.

I have to laugh to myself as Dino drives along, whenever we come across a new BMW. It's good that I have my dreams, for we have owned three of these wonderful cars, twice purchasing brand new models with five-speed gearboxes. Oh, those were the days when I drove one of these cars on my own, loving to downshift, driving around curves and feeling totally in control as if I were flying a magic carpet.

These days, control is not important to me. I admit I even feel sorry for people who feel a need to control, for think it's a symptom of something else that they lack. I have plenty of things I'd like to improve, although freedom from most needs delights me. Let's focus on what we can do, how we can make the world a better place, instead of getting rid of those people and things of which we don't approve.

Carnage in Syria continues unabated. When will it be enough? In the words of that incongruous sage of the Los Angeles riots occurring numerous years ago, Rodney King, "Why can't we all get along?"

This morning, we're shopping here and there, and it's as good a time as any to add a few more things to your Italian vocabulary and understanding, as it applies to cooking this time:

Brown sugar = zucchero di canna
baking powder= lievito (in polvere)

Now there's no need to bring back brown sugar or baking powder from the US., for it's everywhere we shop. It will be interesting to see what we bring back this winter and to compare it with things we brought back during the first years we lived here.

We invite May and Olav to the Soriano Jazz Festival, called Tuscia in Jazz, tonight, and will pick them up in time to eat somewhere first, hopefully close to where the action will be. We no longer attend the festival each night, and I suppose that's my fault. I really am a kind of hermit, living in dreams that have come true for us; and not believing that we are due any more than we already have.

Painting, weeding and a nap are all in the cards this afternoon before we leave to pick up our dear friends down the street. It's everything sweet, including reading on our Kindles. At least when we fly we won't have to take a suitcase full of books anymore! Hooray!

Tonight the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra plays and a choral group from New Jersey sings at Tuscia in Jazz; after we have a small cena in the nearby Taverna dei Frati in Soriano, we walk to the square where the festival is held. The evening ends at about midnight, with a wonderful concert of young musicians and vocalists, playing and singing together. May Elin and Olav and Dino and I have a lovely time sitting under the starry sky and enjoying each other's company before driving home to a waiting Sofia.

July 21
I've a blister on my toe from shoes I wore last night, so today try to stay shoeless whenever possible. Neosporin helps, as does sun. I sit outside and read a bit, while Dino and Stefano climb up to the roof and Stefano adds argila expansa (a large bag of expanding clay pellets) and fills in the open space in the original chimney built above the roof. Stefano is quite a guy, remembering Sofi and giving her a big hug. I miss not having him working here. He does such great work and is such a kind fellow.

May arrives, talks with Dino about her project, and comes over to sit with me and talk about her latest project, putting in a new kitchen in her garden space. She asks for my advice, and I take her into our main kitchen and show her what we have done with the counters, installing appliances below them with cabinets above. She leaves happy and we'll see them again soon. What a lovely woman she is!

All right now; in two paragraphs in a row, I have judged two separate people in a positive way. Are you now saying that I am the pot calling the kettle black?

I'm not sure how to respond to that. What do you think, Sofi?

I have no energy this morning; so sit in the sun for a bit and read and then move to the conch shell to read some more. It's quite windy, and I'm worried about fire danger, where a dropped cigarette could cause a major catastrophe. Let's not dwell on it.

Sofi plays nearby, until it is time for her pranzo. I feed her and then both Dino and I fix our midday meal and eat together. Sofi gets a bit of my food at the very end, so is happy.

I return upstairs while Dino watches the Formula-1 pre-race, where the fastest drivers in today's exercise are lined up for tomorrow's actual race in sequence. He so loves the sport.

Dino tells me he has what he needs to install the pump and whatever else goes with it for the recirculating fountain in the middle garden. I recall living in Boston on Beacon Hill so many years ago, in a bedroom at the back of an apartment. Through my open window I could hear the sounds of a fountain located three floors below trickling in a tiny garden all night long. It was glorious! Will this be similar? I'll let you know.

I'm going to rework Cesar's painting, for the street in the background makes too much of an impact. Instead, I'll maximize the features of the stone wall rising above the street, to make the wall a prominent feature. "Time's a wastin'", for I must be finished with it in two weeks or less if I want to exhibit it in Aqualoreto, and I do.

Our "gigantic" variety of tomatoes is not bearing much fruit, and only on one of four plants. Another bears fruit, but does not change. I read that I should "vibrate" the plant a bit, so will do just that, or take a dry paintbrush and brush the flowers to help them to pollinate. We do have nepeta (catmint) nearby, and that attracts bees, so... What?

Dino tells me he'll rustle the tomato plants right outside the summer kitchen in a minute when he continues to do a bit of watering. That is supposed to help them pollinate. Speriamo.

With a lovely breeze outside we settle in for the evening, although I'm somewhat skittish that something is not right with me. Let's overcome that with positive thinking and eat a ripe peach. It's delicious. Soon our own peaches will be ready for the picking. The wonderful plum tree on the terrace also has a lot of fruit, ripening in the next month or so. Sorry the majority of our three dozen tomatoes are not doing all that well, but no matter.

July 22
Will there be church this morning under humid skies? Better take a fan. Thunderstorms are forecast for today through Wednesday. Let's not fret.

Don Angelo is our priest, and Wolf and his friend Paul from Paris are the altar servers. Dino confirms with Don Angelo that he is invited for pizza after a service earlier on Wednesday evening. It will be quite a group, with at least eight adults and four children. Will there be twelve pizzas? Stay tuned.

We drive to Il Pallone, have caffé and shop for food for a few days. Dino asks me to do all the work in advance for Wednesday night, for we'll be in Montefalco on Wednesday morning with May and Olav. We discuss the fact that sometimes there are too many things on the pizzas we cook, and I agree, reassuring him that the pizzas will be lighter this time. Va bene.

Back at home we have a pork saltimbocca and it is not bad; we purchased it this morning ready to cook and Dino added Marsala wine before sautéing it.

There is a Formula-1 race today, but Dino seems quite tired, and I don't know if he'll stay awake for the race. Sofia and I catch up with you and then snooze a bit. I try to read a bit first, for I don't have the energy to paint this afternoon. Perhaps later...or tomorrow.

Frank calls to invite us all to movie night tonight at their house in Orvieto. Va bene I'll make a bean dip and chips, for Candace usually makes her delicious lemon meringue pie. Did you know that meringue is spelled that way? It surely does not spell the way it sounds.

After a nap, I make a roasted red pepper dip and refrigerate it until we leave. We'll bring chips to serve it with. After it's mixed, I ask Dino to try it and let me know what it needs. Nothing! Va bene!

Movie night with Candace and Frank is delightful, even if I sleep through most of the movie. Dino tells me it was quite good. We miss spending time with our dear friends, and will surely see them more this summer.

July 23
There is a gentle rain this morning, appearing soon after we awake, and the scene is lovely from the terrace, with the sweet smell of fresh flowers and herbs, the misty scene of the valley a dream come true. The temperature is cool for the middle of summertime, and we embrace it, not worried about anything outside that can be damaged.

Dino moves the cushions in the conch shell to protect them, and I remain shoeless to let the scar on my foot heal. Walking barefoot on gravel is not fun at any time of year. Sofi stays by my side content to follow me to the studio and rest in her bed while I paint. The classical music station on SKY plays gently as if the music knows to play sounds that complement the sound of the rain. Dreams and dreams and more dreams...

Dino tells me he wants to climb up on the roof to see if everything is fine with his chimney work, but I convince him that it's too dangerous when the roof tiles are wet. This part is a nightmare, but he relents. Thank you, dear one. Later, under clear skies, he checks the chimney, including the formerly open surround of the bottom section, which was covered with intonico. All is well. Another project has been finished successfully.

Warwick Wilson has updated their software and we thought fixed all the kinks; they email us and Dino runs some tests and they work very well. Finally, we'll be able to finish and I'll be able to begin the Fosci family prova (test) painting for Ecomuseo. If it comes out well, I'll begin the work on one whole wall of the community center of our village later this summer.

Magari!(If only it were so!) The software does not work after all. Dino emails the fellow back to let him know.

I continue to paint, successfully fixing Cesar's nose and moving to his mouth. With no real guide to go by (I have altered his face to show a bit more of his right cheek, the edges of his nose and lips), I take my time, and think in another week I'll be finished; that is, unless I make the wall behind him larger.

There is no rain after pranzo, and Dino continues to work on the entryway, where Sofi pulled the drapes down, evidently in a panic while we were gone. Perhaps someone rang the bell. He repairs the holes and reworks the hardware up on the wall. If all goes as planned, he'll be able to rehang the drapes soon.

We've agreed to take Alicia, Sam and Lisa's little collie, while he is away for a few days at the beginning of August. Since Sofi needs to socialize more, Dino thinks this is a good idea. I'm hopeful we won't have doggie sleepovers in our future, but agree with Dino that this first time will be a good opportunity to see how she is with another dog close by.

Under humid and muddy skies, rain returns just before 4 PM. The forecast is for continued rain, with a dark blue splat churning over Central Italy for the next day or two. Let's enjoy it!

There is Coro practice late tonight, and I'm not excited about going. We'll see.

Let's learn a few Italian words, again related to cooking and eating. The name strangozzi has a tragic origin. In Umbria, during a period of Papacy domination centuries ago, some anti-priests hid themselves, waiting for the passing of the priests. When the priests passed, the men in hiding assaulted them, tightening the priests' gozzi (throats) with the string from their shoes. From string stringhe, to strangozzi, also known as stringozzi, or strozzapretti we have the translation as Strangled Priests. Yikes!

During this time, the Pope put a very high tax on salt. Because of this high taxation this kind of pasta is salt free. Strangozzi are long and thin shaped "rural" pasta, especially popular in Umbria today.

I'm reminded that Italians are great storytellers, and love to make each other laugh. This last one is a good example. When you come to Italy, if you spend any time with an Italian family, expect plenty of laughing around the table, and funny stories. It's yet another reason to love this place, and its people.

July 24
It's Terence's birthday, and we are sorry we are not in San Francisco now to wish him a happy birthday in person. We're sure his girls will make sure his day is wonderful, and will surely call him later. Now it is just about midnight his time, so we'll let him sleep until his day arrives in San Francisco.

The day begins with rain here, and a forecast with lots of rain through tomorrow. So we're going to postpone the pizza festa we had planned for the Gunderman family and Don Angelo and Duccio and Giovanna. That also means that we won't attend Tuscia in Jazz tonight with Candace and Frank.

We will drive to Viterbo this morning, however, although I can't remember why. It's good the pizza chimney project is finished and Dino is satisfied with it. Outside, skies are a dirty grey, although birds are chirping as usual, though not as frequently.

We take a bombola to Viterbo and drop it off to be refilled. We use it in the summer kitchen when we do any grilling, and it will be ready tomorrow. At Ipercoop we pick up a roast chicken; then drive to Orte to pick up fresh coffee at a special torrefazione(shop where they grind and roast coffee beans), then drive to Amelia to Dino's favorite shoe repair shop, to drop off his sandals.

Since the temperature is mild, although a light rain persists, Sofi stays with us. We look around for a gate for the kitchen door, for Sam and Lisa's dog, Alicia, will be with us for a few days and we'd like to keep them in the kitchen when we're not around. Can't find one wide enough, so Dino will have to make one. That should be an experience...

With thunderstorms in the forecast, we've cancelled both tonight and tomorrow night's events, and I'm a bit relieved. It depends on Don Angelo when we'll reschedule, and Dino has a call in to him to find out.

After a nap, I return to painting in the studio, and it was helpful to let the paint sit for a day before returning to it. It's time to meet up with the real Cesar and have him come by and do a sitting, to rework anything that needs it. I like the character a lot, but don't know if it looks enough like the real deal. I also need to mess up the street a bit, to make it look better travelled. Then there are the flowers, which need more reflected light. I could work on this painting for weeks and still not be completely satisfied. Oh, well.

At 5 PM our time, we call our son and sing happy birthday to him. Sofi dances and wags her tail, to send her own birthday wish. Terence has just turned on his telephone, and will have a nice dinner with his family tonight. All is well there, and we miss them a lot. When they all come for a visit next June, we'll turn the whole house over to them, for one day it will be theirs, anyway. Come no?

We'll stay somewhere close then, probably either at May's or Stein's or Annika and Torbjorn's, and will have lots of fun with them at the house. I look forward to sewing with them, painting with them, cooking with them and having them enjoy sweet Sofi, in addition to fun trips and introducing them again to the children of the village. Dino so looks forward to time with his son.

A light rain continues and we watch movies and recorded programs on TV before going to bed.

July 25
Up early, we three are ready for another adventure. We drive to Montefalco with May and Olav, to shop for their special Umbrian fabrics for May and to have pranzo at our favorite restaurant in Montefalco, L'Alchemista. Since we still don't know what night we'll have pizza here, there's nothing to prep. I'm feeling relaxed.

The day is a complete delight, with Sofi and May and I in the back seat of Olav's wonderful car and Dino driving all of us all day. We take May to the tessutti (fabric) shops, with specially milled cloths either in lengths to sew of already completed items for the bath and kitchen and dining room.

May bought plenty of things in one shop, and now I'm sewing the edges of several and will turn one large piece of fabric into two tablecloths. It's the least I can do for this very dear woman, whose friendship I cherish.

She and Olav are so very happy together these days that it puts a smile on my face to see them so joyful and so in love.

Do eat at L'Alchemista in the square of Montefalco if you have the opportunity. The food is beyond wonderful, with many innovative choices. I had a wonderful baked zucchini flower dish!

Their shop also sells a wonderful selection of wines and food specialties. We have a wonderful meal and our friends buy wine to take back to Norway later this week.

On the way back we stopped for gelato in Spoleto, then hoped that Marmore Falls near Terni would be at full strength. But the falls were not much more than a trickle, too bad.

Once home, we walk up to May's and measure the largest piece of cloth. There is enough to make two ample tablecloths for them, but first we put the material in the washing machine so that it will do its shrinking before I sew any of it. I also put hems on other linen towels, which were a special price, probably because they weren't completely finished. So before I take a break, I've finished two sets of towels. Tomorrow I'll do the third set and make the two large tablecloths. It will be fun. Come no?

Back in the studio, the painting of Cesar has taken on a nice tone. It's interesting to me that the paint changes when it's sat for a day or so. Since there will be no pizza this week, perhaps I'll even finish the painting in time to take it to Aqualoreto for the exhibition.

July 26
Last night I did not attend church, for I was too engrossed in sewing May's items to be sure they are finished before she leaves on Thursday. Dino attends church, and checks in with Don Angelo, who will not be able to attend a pizza night for a couple of weeks. Va bene. Perhaps we'll have a pizza night in the next week or so for the Gundermans, the wonderful family from Paris who also live in Mugnano for a bit of the summer and now and then.

We're missing seam binding to use to finish May's tablecloths, so I ask Dino to take me to Viterbo to pick some up. At the shop I always visit when looking for tessutti (fabric), I ask for piega, but I'm wrong. Time for another Italian language clue or so:

The word piega is a bend, crease or pleat. When using as a verb, piegareit means: to wave (hair); to bend; to fold; to pleat; to bow (head); to turn; to buckle; or to yield. There's more...

A piegatore or <-trice> is a folder or folding machine. A piego (ghi) is a bundle of papers. Here's a difficult one: pieghevolezza describes flexibility.

But when using the word, don't mistake it for pieno (na), which means full; solid; broad (daylight). Colpire nel pieno is a fun one. It means to hit the bull's eye. Pieno di means alive, but pieno di se is to be conceited. fare il pieno means to fill up.

But don't mistake piena with pieta, which stands for mercy, pity or piety and pietoso/sa is an adjective meaning pitiful or merciful.

While we're at it, pietra is stone, rock. Pietra angolare is a cornerstone, pietra millare is a milestone, pietra tombale is a tombstone; and lastly; pietrificare is the verb meaning to petrify. Go take a dolce fa niente(sweet nothing, also know in Italy as an afternoon nap), as will we...

I work "like a mad woman", happily sewing the pieces for May, and finish most of the pieces just after pranzo . May and Olav arrive an hour or so later and she's happy with everything. I'm going to miss them, and will remember them looking at each other with stars in their eyes. We agree that we may add trim to the second tablecloth and will choose it together when they return in September.

They leave with two full sets of towels and one large tablecloth (17cm x 175cm) square, or almost square. It's not a perfect square, for I rushed to finish it, and would love to fix it. If she brings it back with her, or leaves it, I will do that. I'll certainly measure and sew the second cloth perfectly.

I'm exhausted and take a nap for an hour or so. When I awake, Dino is already watering in the garden. It's been so hot this summer that the lavender has dried up and many things look worn out, including a couple of wisteria in the middle garden.

I envision a much simpler garden in our future, with many of the things that are dying out not being replaced, or replaced with things that don't need constant watering in the warmer months. Since we'll be here this September, when things cool off a bit, I'm looking forward to having a lot of things taken out, more nursery cloth and gravel added. Gardening just finds itself lower and lower on my list of things on which to work, and I don't want Dino saddled with them, either.

Tonight we have a quiet evening, especially after the noisy cicadas have ceased their incessant noise. This really is a quiet place, with neighbors doing their talking while sitting on benches off in the borgo or down on the street while taking a passagiatta.

Now that my foot is healing, I look forward to walks again early in the morning with dear Sofi, followed by sewing May's second tablecloth in a perfect square and hemming her last set of lovely new towels from Montefalco.

Right now, she's in her little wicker bed by my side, although there are lizards to chase and the weather is lovely outside. I could not ask for a better pal; she is so dear to me.

July 27
We think that today will be very hot and sunny. We are up early and stop at Sister Act Bar in Amelia with Sofi to have caffé and a treat. Soon afterward, we're visiting with Simona Pernazza at Eurolinks, the special language school we attended years ago when we first lived in Italy. Then, we struggled with competi(homework) and also in class, but did learn a bit. Today, we stop to see her and things are slow at the school. If you live in Central Italy and need help learning the language, or would like to brush up, this is the place to go. It is in Amelia, and you can contact Simona to learn more.


While we are visiting with Simona, her son Thomas sketches Sofia, POV Thomas.

We'll surely invite Simona and her husband, Jamie, for pizza soon, perhaps with folks they have yet to meet.

There's a bit of shopping to do at the COOP and a stop on the way home for metano before arriving back at a very hot Mugnano in Teverina. It's a good thing it's cool inside the house, where we'll stay until this evening. Dino wants to attend the jazz festival in Soriano, so why not?

There's pranzo to fix and eat, and a dolce fa niente for an hour or more in the afternoon in the cool house with shutters closed to the sun. Sofi's happy to join us, for she's sleepy, too.

I read a book about life in France, and it's another in the line of books about people buying property in foreign lands and restoring them. We continue to work on our house, fifteen years after we took our first look. There's always something to do.

With our limited resources, there's a bit of budgeting to allow us to continue projects here and there. For instance, David is going to lay the cement on the path to our main entrance, and only later will it be paved. That will allow us to spend some time saving the money for the pavement tiles, finding the best ones at the best price, before finishing the project.

Better yet, let's try not to worry about the small stuff, and as Tom Maxwell told us, it's all small stuff.

We hear that friend Dick Ryerson, who we have not seen in a long time, has had a heart attack, so we try to reach Pat to see if we can see them when they are hopefully here in September. Otherwise, they live in California, near where we once lived. A big kiss to you, dear Dick, especially from Sofi.

July 28
With Tia's going away party tonight, I fix a batch of oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries instead of raisins. The berries are known here as mirtillo rosa (red blueberries). What?

There are five dozen delicious crispy cookies when I'm through, so we call Marie and invite the little ones for cookies. Wolf, Joy and Lisa arrive, each eat a cookie, watch a bit of TV and give Sofi a hug or two, for the first day of the Olympics are on TV. These three are so very polite that I'm almost sad, wishing they'd run up to me with big hugs and laughs. I send them home with cookies to eat after their pranzo, including a giant one for Papa, who will arrive on the train in time for a late pranzo. As a sweet surprise, I top each cookie with a chocolate heart.

The weather continues to be hot. We watch the recorded first hour and a half of last night's opening ceremony in London while having our pranzo, clean up and then it's time for Dino to watch the preliminaries of tomorrow's Formula-1 race in Budapest. Sofi and I return to the studio to catch up with you and ponder whether to paint or work on May's tablecloth. I think we'll take a nap instead and read a bit.

Later there's plenty of time to paint and to sew. With another layer on Cesar's face settling in, he looks different again. I need to either tone his entire face and left arm down or darken it all. It's always something.

Tia's Farewell to Italia party was wonderful with so many friends that she has met over the 10 years that she lived here there to send her off!

July 29
It's really hot this morning, so we dress in cool clothing and drive up to church, while Sofi stays home in the cool house.

There is some confusion, for during this part of the summer there are religious camps for children, and Don Daniele, who is the pastor of the Catholic Church in Bomarzo and Mugnano, is busy with the groups. So Don Angelo is also busy, taking over many of Don Daniele's duties.

This morning, Rosita tells Phillipe and those of us who are members of Coro in attendance, which hymns we will sing, but they do not follow the hymns in the program, just handed out by Livio. I take a program to give to Phillipe, who is practicing right nearby on his portable organ, and Rosita shakes her finger at me. "NO!" As President of the Coro, she has selected the pieces we are to sing, and does not want him to have a copy.

What about the congregation, I wonder? Are they to remain mute while we sing, or follow us, ignoring the leaflets passed around? After mass, I walk into the sacristy and ask Don Angelo if a copy of the leaflet can be given to Rosita each Saturday, to let her know the pieces chosen by Don Daniele earlier in the week so that we can all be in concert with one another.

He tells me that during this summer period, things are a bit confusing. So I let things ride. Phillipe is so dear that he tells me he can usually just follow along, and today's music was not too difficult for him to recognize.

There we go again; judging and not judging others. It's a mantra I follow, and wish there could be a way to make life less complicated for others, and more loving in this particular situation. Let's let things be for now. If there is a Coro prova (practice) soon, I'll ask then.

We drive to Il Pallone and shop and soon afterward are back home before noon. This house; this property, are heaven to me.

What is more like hell follows...a migraine, and it looms soon after pranzo, when I'm about ready to take a nap and Dino is immersed into watching Lewis Hamilton win the Formula-1 race in Budapest on TV.

I sew for a bit instead, adding seam binding to two sides of the second tablecloth for dear friend May, before running out of it. The next time Dino wants to drive to Viterbo, I'll join him and pick up more of it. At €0.20 per meter, it's great to have around.

I stop sewing after about thirty minutes, for my head is reeling. The migraine difmetré cocktail (with 1000mg. of Tachiprina) is supposed to help, but a bit later I head to the freezer to pull out an ice pack for my neck and head, but mostly to cool my body down, which feels like an oven.

It's almost 9 PM before I get up and eat a piece of cold cocomero (watermelon). The Jazz Festival is not in the cards for us tonight. Sorry, dear Dino.

I find the following online: "Here in Italy the most common brand of indocine for migraine is DIFMETRÉ. It's a mix of indomethacine, caffeine, and anti-vomit. I don't know if there's something similar in the U.S. I'd ask for it as the mixture of the 3 substances seems to work better and reduce the stomach issues." After watching TV with Dino for a couple of hours, we turn in, and I'm careful to bring an ice pack from the freezer to bed, wrapped in a thin towel. I hear a ringing in my ears, competing with the cicadas outside the window for noise, but perhaps the ice pack will help the ringing to stop and cool me down. Hope all is well with you.

July 30
My headache just about gone, I'm up early and showered before Dino, ready to face a new day. If Dino can test hang one of the newly sewn panels for the inside of the balcony and the measurement is correct, I'll finish hemming them and check that off the long list.

With more piegole (seam-binding) needed for May's second tablecloth, there's no hurry but if Dino wants to drive to Viterbo, we'll pick up enough to finish, perhaps tomorrow afternoon. In the U.S., there are many places where one can purchase seam binding in packages, but here, everything is measured out by the meter, which is a bit less than a yard. What I need costs &euro0.20 a meter, but I think that's more expensive than the same product purchased in the U.S. No matter. Yes, fa niente!, dearest Mary. You say that phrase so well!

Let's talk about the words seam-binding. It is a length of material, with an equal fold on each side, continuing the length of the material. In Italian, it's referred to as:

* cucitura vincolante (a pleat), although...
* per quanto, a piegatura is a fold. Close, but not exactly the same is:
* piega ( bend; crease; pleat, crimp; wrinkle, turn);
Then the verb piegare means:
* to bend, or
* to wave, when referring to hair;
* a crease; pleat; wrinkle; turn.
How about: prendere una cattiva piega (to take a turn for the worse). There's more:
* piegatore.trice is a folder; folding machine
* piegatura is a fold, or crease;
* piego/ghi is a bundle of papers, or folder. That all makes sense, Va bene? It's enough of an Italian lesson for today!

Dino waters the tomatoes tonight, as he tells me he will every night, but with only two picked out of three dozen plants, the crop does not look promising. Perhaps it's the oppressive heat this summer.

Dino and I hang the white drape on the rod, and my measurement is just right. So while he's out doing errands, I check in with you and get ready to sew the hems on the pair of drapes for the inner balcony. Later today, they should be finished, and we've only to finish the inside painting of the walls and under the mezzanine to be finished with yet another project.

We watched a bit of the Olympics in London earlier, but it was the highlights of yesterday's events. This afternoon, we'll surely watch more. Aren't you?

July 31
Will the summer heat ever end? On yet another hot morning, we drive to Orte Scalo for a pedicure with Giusy, stopping in Bomarzo for prima colazione(espresso for me and cappuccino and a breakfast brioche for Dino).

Sofi and I wait outside, and when the food and drinks are ready, we both sit outside with Sofi at my feet. There's always a neighbor or two to greet, and on this morning it's Roberto Pangrazi, the geometra, who is always kind to us.

Dino and Sofi drop me off at Giusy's salon, and drive up to Amelia to pick up Dino's sandals at the shoe repair shop. Dino tells me that when I am not in the car, Sofi is silent. Whatever does that mean? I'm surely a pushover for her. When I'm in the car with her, she has plenty to say, not much of which I understand, even though I've read the great book about understanding dogs, The Art ofRacing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

Giusy asks me if my pedicure can be a test of a new product, and I jokingly call her Dottoressa Frankenstein. Evidently the base coat is quite strong, and we'll see how the polish lasts. I have my Kindle with me, but she's so much fun that it's more fun to laugh with her than for me to ignore her and read while she works. I do love her.

We pick up special rosetta rolls from a panificio in Orte and I fix tuna salad sandwiches and the usual caprese, using the only two tomatoes that have matured from all the seeds I so lovingly grew into tiny plants this year. How sad! Wonder what I did wrong. We'll see if the other plants survive, and perhaps it is the extreme heat this year.

After a nap, we leave Sofi here in the cool house and drive to Viterbo for a doctor's appointment for Dino and to pick up seam binding from the fabric store I frequent.

We like our doctor a lot. He trained at Yale in the U.S., and will certainly be invited to our next pizza night, where we'll introduce him to some of our friends, including a couple of new friends who taught at...Yale! I wonder if they already know each other.

An email comes in from Ancestry.com, asking for our opinion about the site. I'd like to return to researching our roots, but there are so many other things to do, especially in the warmer weather.

Russia, Canada and England feature in my ancestry on both sides. Both parents were first generation Americans, my mother from Canada and my father from Russia, now the Ukraine.

I do read in the NYT online that the same site traced President Obama's slavery roots through his mother. The story is interesting. Wish I knew more about mine and also Dino's.

I can finally say that I'm truly happy here. I know Dino is. I view every thing from my eyes as a possible photograph, a window on life here in its many forms. So living vicariously is what I'd want to do if we did not live here, I'm sure. From my earliest recollections, I have had a joyous outlook on life; it has been the challenges I faced when growing older that weighed heavily upon me. No longer. I blow those old challenges away with a kiss, as if they're a butterfly on my open hand.Addio per sempre!(Goodbye forever!)

Now that I'm an aging woman of sixty six, I'm freed from work; freed from family fighting and in-fighting and full of delicious projects to paint and sew for others and cook for dearest Dino and Sofi and friends and most of all...free to dream. That means I am a sognatrice (dreamer), but you know all that if you read much of this journal.

Dino is a project kind of guy, full of things to do, and enjoys and does them well. So we're a good pair in that respect, added to the joy of truly loving each other since the moment we met on that fateful night in December 1980. We've been blissfully married since September, 1981.

Continued migraines and my weight are my only burdens, and rather than beat myself over the head about them, I take medicine for the headaches, try not to concentrate while doing any one thing for more than two hours at a time to avoid stress to my back and neck. I take walks with dear Sofi when it is not too hot, eat moderately and enjoy almost every minute of every day.

We love this village enough to have purchased our cemetery plots here. Since we'll always be here, except for a few weeks a year in San Francisco with our son and his dear family, we participate as often as we can in local activities, including the church and the Festaroli committee when it is our year (every ten years on the anniversary of our birth).

We know just about everyone in the village and enjoy spending time with them, especially when we're able to speak with them in Italian. Bit by bit the language is growing on us, as if it has been absorbed under our skin, and for that I am particularly grateful.

Why do I write this journal? It's clear to me that my memory for many things is no longer very good, although I can remember arcane and remote bits of information from decades ago. So when it has mostly disappeared, we can read back upon it and find out what we did and when we did it here. Come no? Luckily, Dino's memory is still good. I'm not sure about Sofi's. You'll have to ask her.

We post the journal twice a month, due to so many people wanting to live a life vicariously through us in the Italian countryside. Each month we receive more requests for adding new friends to the list of recipients. Just email us and let us know if you want to be added, too. Yes, life in the cities and in other countries, especially the U S, can be quite overwhelming. So enjoy living vicariously and become a sogniatrice (dreamer), like me. If you let yourself dream along with me, you'll find that it's close to heavenly.

Come see us when you're nearby, and email us whenever you have questions about our lives here or the area or want to comment about the journal itself. We're happy to help when we know the answers to your questions, or to refer you to others who might know more than we do about a given subject or place here in Central Italy. Thanks for reading.

Oh. This is a reminder for us to say the words, "Rabbit! Rabbit!" as the first words out of our mouths tomorrow, as well as the first day of each month. It's a superstitious thing, but one I try to follow, just for fun. It's just another fun thing to add to your memory bank.

August 1
We did it! Just after the stroke of midnight, Dino looked over at me and whispered "Rabbit! Rabbit!" If superstition serves us correctly, we will have good fortune all month. I've tried to follow this for years, and sometimes I even remember to say the words out loud. Now Dino will try it as well. This is a great use of the phrase Come no? (Why not?)

We're up a bit later than usual. I sit out in the sun to try to get a few rays while Sofi gambols nearby, her tail swishing back and forth like an angry ruler, her nose under one plant after another. Lizards, beware!

Dino tells me I lasted in the sun for about fifteen minutes, and I'm hopeful that will add a bit of sun to my face. To me, my face looks a bit sallow, and what's good about that?

We watch the highlights of yesterday's Olympic games; then I come upstairs to catch up with you and look up recipes for Apple Oatmeal Crisp to use with our three Granny Smith apples. We also have dried cranberries, and since I am known for not sticking to recipes, always trying something a bit new, will add some to the mix.

Is there time to paint? No, but I surely will this afternoon. By writing this down, it's to shake an imaginary fist at me if I do not paint right after pranzo. Since we now have the seam binding we need for May's second tablecloth, the fabric sits there for me to do.

But even more exciting is the two meters of beautiful lavender cloth and tiny flowers we purchased yesterday to make costumes for the nipotini(grand daughters, and they are GRAND!) A design is forming in my head, and perhaps there will even be some embroidery in this or another one of the things to make for them. Marissa and Nicole, you are so very dear to us!

The cookies are a big hit, especially with the children from Paris: Wolf and Joy and Lisa, who come down for tastes and bring back a bit one for Papa to their house in the borgo.

August 2
Boring, but yes, another headache. I take a medicine cocktail and rest for an hour or two with an ice pack and Sofi by my side. What a good doggie!

I have been painting, although I should probably not. I can't seem to resist the paintbrush, and have turned Cesar around to face forward, although he looks to his right, with the sunflowers brimming out of his backpack over his left shoulder. Come no? I'll surely work right up to the last minute (August 7th) before taking the painting to Aqualoretto for a mostra. Or will I take another painting, one that I've finished before?

We watch some of the Olympic Games, and will surely watch them this afternoon for the gymnastic competition. Right now, we've finished our pranzo and it's time for a nap. Sofi loves naps, too!

I don't sleep much, nor does Dino, and are back watching TV in the kitchen for the day's gymnastic Olympics. Gabby from the U.S. wins the gold medal, but it appears that an excellent Russian athlete is not happy with her silver medal, seemingly behaving as if she should win the gold.

I look up the statistics, and another Olympic athlete from the US does not medal, but comes in 4th, although it looks as though her score is the same as the Russian athlete who wins the bronze. It must have to do with some of the other events. Regardless, a win is a win, and a medal is a medal. I am not one to judge, but you know all that. And you already know what I know about the coverage, since you probably watched the coverage, too.

Let's not dwell on anything unless it's wonderful. Dino waters the poor tomatoes, and I look up the possibility of a late season blight, but perhaps the plants are just hot. We remain hopeful, although Dino buys tomatoes from the market for our midday caprese as part of each midday meal.

We're wondering if Sam and Lisa and Alicia will arrive this afternoon, as expected, and, because of Sofi's anxiety issues, I'm holding my breath that we won't have to take care of Alicia, their dog, for a few days. We were asked, and Dino hated to turn them down. We'll see.

The temperature remains very hot, and we're using lots of power for both air conditioners, but that can't be helped. When catching up with you, I decide to turn Cesar's body a bit more to his right, but let's hope I don't continue to bore you for much longer with the details. Tomorrow I should finish the basics, and the next few days will just be adding more light and definition to the sunflowers.

We spend the evening quietly together, as we do most evenings, happily with Sofi by our side watching TV, then later reading in bed before nodding off to Dreamland .

August 3
We drive to Viterbo, where I pick up more of what I think is piegole (seam binding) to finish May's second tablecloth. I'd love to buy more, but just a lavender cloth and some trim will do it for now.

It's a quiet day, with me working some more by painting the tufa wall behind Cesar's back on the canvas. His face looks dismal. It reminds me of Andy Murray, coming from behind in the Olympics. There is hope, and it's not worth worrying about. I'll probably exhibit another painting in Aqualoreto, perhaps even MoonaLisa, but have a few days to decide.

August 4
After sweet dreams, we're up early on this sunny morning.

Dino's first project is to straighten the mirror on the pole across the street. It's aimed up the hill toward the borgo, to alert Dino when he's driving out of the parcheggio to any cars driving downhill in front of our property so that we won't be hit.

The mirror has become distorted, and he's intent on finding why. After taking it down with the help of a ladder, he brings it up to the terrace and lays it upside down on the table. Prying it open from the back he finds... a long dead nido(wasp) nest! Thankfully he knew that these critters were getting into the structure and sprayed it some time ago. I'd hate to think of him exposing a nest full of live ones! Yikes!

While he's up on the ladder, Francesco stops and asks if Dino needs help. He's become a good friend; what a difference fifteen years makes from our first encounter with him! We like his family a lot.

So what caused the distortion in the mirror? Dino tells me that it was not properly installed in the first place, so he sits it in the sun to reshape it while I put in a load of laundry (energy costs are less here on weekends).

While he's working on it, I dry the dishes from this morning's colazione(breakfast) and catch up with you. Earlier, when walking out on the terrace with Sofi (She waits for me before venturing out early in the morning, seemingly afraid at first,) I notice a tiny hummingbird lighting on the pink flowers in the wisteria planters to feast on their pollen. I think about taking a photo, but its wings move so quickly it looks more like a dust ball...

Dino shows me how to pay bills online while I'm sitting here at the computer, for I've not done that before. He thinks it's important to do, especially since having a cancer scare with his neck pain, which turned out not to be a problem at all. What's this about a cancer scare, he asks me? Perhaps it was all in my mind. Speriamo.

The painting of Cesar is looking grotesque this morning. I certainly must work on him, but I also need to get some sun on my face. I'm looking a bit sallow, but feeling fine. So before making corrections to the painting, I iron the sheets for the today's bed change and then sit in the sun for a bit. The painting will wait. Sofi sits by my side for all of it.

The ironing happens later. Instead, while sitting in the sun to catch a few rays and read a bit, Paul and his tiniest daughter Lisa arrive for a visit. He is here for the whole month, and what joy to see him/them more often.

This morning, for once he is not in a hurry. We make coffee and sit on the balaustra (balustrade) by the front door in the shade of the wisteria. I give darling Lisa a special glass to drink juice from, and she's so very polite. Then I sit her up in front of the conch shell with paper and colored pencils and she draws while the adults gab a bit.

Paul has to do some shopping, and I offer that she stays with us, so he asks her and si, certo!, yes, she'd like to stay.

So while Paul and then Dino drive off individually to do grocery shopping and other errands, Lisa and Sofi and I play and draw outside, and then watch cartoons on TV until the men return. It's an opportunity for me to resurrect some scattered French words from high school lessons long ago at Thayer Academy in Massachusetts.

After pranzo and a nap, there's time to work on May Elin's tablecloth, while classical music wafts through the room, with Sofi lying in her basket at my feet.

We're invited for an apèritif at Paul and Marie's house this early evening, and later there will be music in the borgo. I look forward to many visits by our dear friends during the next month. Perhaps I'll even sew some things for the children while they're here. Come no?

Wolf did all of the food and drink preparations for le apèritif this evening. He is so proud of his Olympic like display of glasses!

Paul and Marie are becoming quite good friends, and we're so enjoying their entire family. The young girls call me by name now, and since I've taken their measurements (Lisa, Joy, Beatrice as well as Mama Marie), costumes for the four of them are in their very close future. You know that means I'll be creating and sewing for the next week, and why not?

Sofi did not attend the little brindisi (toast) at the Mann's home, but we returned home and walked her up to the borgo, where she was given lots of love by the children, including Lisa, the youngest Mann child. Lisa, dressed in a very special Spanish flamenco costume, paid a lot of attention to our little dog, who did not seem to mind the attention at all.

We did not linger in the borgo, but walked home under a full moon while music and dancing continued under the stars. How wonderful the Ecomuseo folks are to organize so many events for all of us in the village during the summertime.

August 5
With fifty people in church this morning, our little village is at summer strength, with relatives visiting and part time residents here for some summer fun. Ecomuseo has planned events for nearly every evening for the next couple of weeks. Good for them!

Six of the regular Coro members are in attendance at church, with dear Paul joining us with his marvelous voice and wonderful music played on his portable organ as we wait for the mass to begin. No matter how disorganized the Coro can be, Paul rallies and figures out which pieces to play, and when to play them. It's a joy for all of us.

Wolf is the altar server, and is so reverent that it's obvious he is not just doing it because he was told to. He's a dear boy, as is his brother Leon, who sits with his mother behind me in the third row.

Dear Don Angelo is our priest, and afterward Dino reminds him of the pizza night here we hope he will attend. He will call Dino to confirm. Va bene! After Mass, Paul, Wolf and Dino compare stripes!

Sofi stays at home in the cool house, while we attend church and then drive to Il Pallone for caffé and food shopping. With many local people at the beach, grocery shopping is still crowded, for many people from Rome consider this area their vacation place. With a new larger store to open soon, we're wondering when???

Back at home, Sofi is fine, and has been a good girl in our absence. We give her an Advantix treatment on the back of her neck, to keep fleas away, and put the proper medicine in her chicken to guard her from Leishmania, which is very dangerous for dogs at this time of year.

Tonight we'll attend the Guardea Gnocchi Sagra, which is famous and well organized. We attend up to several times each year, and this time have reserved a table for eight to include: Candace, Frank, Sam and Lisa, their daughter, Mahalia, and a friend and of course, the two of us. Will Sofi attend with us? I'm not sure.

I have designed a dress for Blondine in my head, and although I have princess dresses to sew for Lisa and Joy, want to work on this one first. I promise to spend at least an hour painting Cesar's face as well, and if that were not enough, hope to take a nap as well. In the meantime, we'll watch the Olympics and sauté involtini to have with caprese and a peach crumble with ice cream for dessert.

A new friend to the journal, Malinda, writes and talks about her heritage in Montefranco. We're not familiar with the town, although Dino tells me that we drove through it the other day in the Val di Nera. Searching for one's heritage is a wonderful adventure, and we wish her well. Her husband Jeff is a fan of Formula-1 racing, so she and I share a number of things in common, including sadly, migraines. Oh, for a permanent cure for all of us!

We take a nap, and it's as good a time as any to tell you about our bed. After a glance at the photo, you'll probably think it's quite preposterous, that is, unless you've rested upon it. Here are two friends that have!

It's high enough to store bins below, reminding me often of the dreams I've had as if I were a real princess, with my Prince Charming by my side.

This is a small house with not much room for storage; hence storage below our bed. Windows are tall, but the view is mostly the upper reaches of our vista from a regular bed. So we've designed a bed with a simple frame of iron, made by a local artisan. The two mattresses sit on top of it. How high is it? Well, it's high enough to store two rows of plastic tubs below it.

Since I'm just under 5 feet tall, (tall? ha!) I have to stretch my left foot and use it to begin to roll up onto the bed as if I'm a gymnast, but am used to that. At first, I used a foot stool, but these days don't even think twice.

Once I'm up, and of course Dino has no trouble at all on his side, the view of the garden and off to Bomarzo is marvelous. I recall that when Bomarzo has their fireworks display once a year, we can watch it from the bed, and it's silly and fun. Yes, and quite dreamy.

After today's nap, I look up Montefranco, and it is not too far from us. Actually, it's just North of Terni, above the Val di Nera. Small world, isn't it?

We leave Sofi at home while we attend the Guardea gnocchi festival and I'm wondering if that was the right thing to do for her, so conscious of the little training we are getting from experts around here.

We find Dino's table and it's in the very best area of the Guardea Sagra. Soon our friends all arrive and we'll have a lovely few hours under the tiny white lights hung in swags to give us light for the evening. Everyone arrives all at once, and the food is good. It's always good food at a Guardea sagra, with so many people, especially young folks, working the tables while wearing special commemorative t-shirts.

The sagra earns lots of money for the local soccer (Italians refer to it as football!) team. This year, it's also to raise money for earthquake victims stricken a few years ago elsewhere in Umbria.

Sam and Lisa's dog, Alicia, has been shorn short and is very sweet; she's silently lying under the table all the while we are there. I wonder if Sofi would behave the same if we had brought her along. We drive on home and are met by an anxious Sofi and chaos everywhere.

This is the last time we can leave her alone like this. She cannot handle being kept inside with no one around and it breaks my heart to see her so anxious. After a good bit of hugging and petting, she calms down and is happy to be by my side.

It's a very warm night, and we'll see how she does in our bedroom with the air conditioning on to cool us all down. Tomorrow we'll see about taking her to the trainer again. The situation is serious, I'm so sad to say.

August 6
With Sofi on the top of our agenda, she seems better but we will watch her closely before making any sudden move. Dino puts in a call to dear friend Angie the dog sitter in Rome, to see what she has to say before doing anything drastic.

In the meantime, there is Cesar to paint, but more important, we need to take a painting to Acqualoreto for the mostra (exhibition). Dino suggests the painting, "Hildegarde", and that's fine with me. He puts it in the car, and Sofi and I join him on the one-hour trip. Acqualoreto is located near Todi, and hopefully there will be lots of folks to see the paintings.

This painting is a personal favorite of mine. It brings back memories of my dear mother, whose given name was Hildegarde. Well, she was named Hilda and hated it, so added the "...garde" to the end of it and changed it formally when an adult. Her friends always called her, "Billie".

She was a very good oil painter and took lessons from a dear friend of hers. I cherish one of her paintings, which hangs right where I can see it when I sit behind the desk in the studio; it is a landscape of a bluff overlooking the beach and water at Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Cape Cod had special memories for her, as it does for me.

Don Salter is to arrive for a vacation on Thursday, and on that day we also have the artists' reception in Acqualoreto as well as the sagra in Cereto. So let's hope we can pick him up and he can join us for both, along with Candace and Frank.

As today wears on, Sofi seems back to her old self, although acts a bit forlorn. Dino thinks medicine will help, but I want to hear back from Angie to see what she thinks first. She knows Sofi so well, and as a professional dog sitter, knows lots about dogs and their behavior.

I make a list of things to buy and fix for pizza night on Wednesday. Tomorrow morning I'll begin to cook the toppings. Not to stress...

Upstairs in the studio, Cesar's face is coming around. There's always so much going on here, despite the surroundings and simple lifestyle we think we have. Ha! We love it here just the same and love the projects. Just wish we had more time in the day, proving that the afternoon naps are really essential.

With a call back from Angie, Dino learns of a daily pill to give dearest Sofi to help calm her. We continue to watch The Dog Whisperer on TV and learn a lot from each program. These days, when I arrive in the house I don't pay attention to her. Instead, we put down our purchases and when everything is put away, I sit on the couch; then it's time to spend with Sofi. Just this one thing works quite well. I think she's quite adaptable and will thrive. Tomorrow Dino will pick up the pills.

Tonight I walk up to Coro practice. It's to begin at 9 PM, but takes a half hour for everyone to arrive and stop chatting. The prova ends at 11 PM and I'm so wound up I can't go to bed, so we watch a program on TV until midnight and call it a day.

Sofi is quite calm. It's almost a miracle.

August 6
We are up early, and on the way to Viterbo. Dino stops the car at Vezio's pharmacy to order Sofi's pills; then we stop in Bomarzo for caffé and drive on to Viterbo to shop. We agree that one of us will stay in the car at all times with Sofi, unless we find some real shade.

A few times, we use Cesar the Dog Whisperer's snapping of his fingers and "ssst" to Sofi to stop her whining, and it works!

I pick up a pad of paper for watercolors, for I will experiment with water coloring, a craft of which I am not familiar. I imagine that I'll enter the Ecomuseo activity later, and this will give me a chance to practice beforehand. Wonder if I can paint still lives as well as the ones we see on the Internet. Although I really detest competition...

Back at home, Dino wants pasta with cozzimussels, and they are frozen, so we'll see if they're any good, soaking the bag in cold water first. I make a broth with white wine and shallots and garlic and butter; then add the mussels. Come no?

Dino thinks the cozzi (mussels) taste fresh, especially with a squeeze of lemon juice and chopped presemelo (Italian parsley) on top. It's served over thin tagliatelle noodles and even Sofi has a mussel or so and a bit of sauce, although Dino gives me a bad time about giving Sofi anything extra to eat. I'm learning to tell him I appreciate his opinion. Period. Her weight is just perfect.

I so love harmony; but I'm learning that harmony at the ongoing expense of one's true feelings is not a good idea. Sigh. It's not a big deal, but seems important that I stand up for myself even with the man I love. I'd rather be a dreamer...magari! (If only that were so!)

I print out a Walnut Plum Cake recipe to try, and if it is any good, I'll credit the author, who is the same woman who wrote, A Castle in the Backyard: The Dream of a House in France.

Dino sleeps and reads while I catch up with you and then begin the preparation work for tomorrow night. If I do some sauté work this afternoon; then make the pizza dough tonight and put it in the frigo, there will be less stress tomorrow.

Everything to sauté for tomorrow night's pizza festa has been finished by early evening except for two peppers, and we'll buy them and I'll fix them tomorrow morning.

I'm mindful that I'm the Alpha Dog of the house as far as Sofi is concerned, and it takes a bit of work. I'm really a pushover, but it seems she thinks taking direction from me is a good thing. I really should do a giro (walk around the loop below our house), leading her early tomorrow morning, so we'll see how early I want to get up. Weather is so very hot these days.

Since it's still early, I work just a bit on the painting, trying to open the boy's eyes in a surprised expression and open his mouth the tiniest bit, just to show a smidgen of teeth on one side and the beginning of a smile, as if he's in wonder at what he is doing.

Is it like a dream for him, thinking how his mother will feel when he presents the sunflowers to her? It's difficult painting him with his black eyelashes and black pupils as well as the transparent cornea of his eyes; but then, I enjoy painting people to look, well, real!

When we were in Viterbo earlier, we stopped at KLIMT to pick up some acquarello (watercolor) paper and a couple of brushes. I know that I dabbled in the medium before, not really liking it. But since Ecomuseo has an acquarello painting competition soon, it's worth a shot to at least become more familiar with it. I do have paints here somewhere, an inexpensive starter set, but where? Oh. It's right where it belongs.

Outside, Dino is clipping, clipping and watering a bit. What a guy! Earlier we mused about how to make the front of the property easier to care for, and a plant we really love is ceanothus. It spreads, but does it have enough height to be viewed well in place of all the boxwood flanking the front of the property? If you are an expert on ceanothus, please email me and clue me in. Hi, dearest Sarah Hammond!

It's time to stop painting; time to make the pizza dough and put it in the frigo, then just relax until we turn in. Yawn!

The dough is mixed...two batches in two large mixing bowls. After a half hour or more, they're each covered in cling wrap and put in the frigo. Tomorrow afternoon they'll be put into rounds and left under wet towels until I'm ready to form them in to pizza rounds for our friends, beginning at 8 PM.

We sit and watch a bit of TV, then turn in at around 11 PM. Dino tells me he'll be up at 6 AM tomorrow. If he's up early, we'll be up early, taking a giro below the house and then have breakfast together.

August 8
There's sausage meat to pick up from Pino in Attigliano; otherwise we have almost all that we need to buy for tonight's pizza. A red and a yellow pepper would surely be a good addition to one of the pizzas, and Dino has them on his list when he shops.

All the sauté work, except for the peppers Dino buys this morning, was done last night, leaving only peppers to sauté and the dough to take out of the frigo right after pranzo to let it have its second rise in a cool room until each one is ready to stretch and form by hand.

I no longer use a rolling pin to prepare each pizza, realizing that forming the dough with my fingers works better. Thanks to Mauro to showing me how to do it with my hands flat on the dough, doing the work with my fingers. I'm looking forward to it!

As if the day were not busy enough, I'm so in love with our lives here that I have decided it's time to write that book about just that. If you're one of the journal followers and have any appropriate contacts with which you'd be willing to share my idea, I'd love that. Email me anytime with your thoughts. Thanks so much.

Perhaps today's giro (walk) around the loop below our house with dear little Sofi has something to do with my love of living here. Thanks so to Dino for the prompting about the time.

Dino had set his alarm for 7 AM, so that he can blow the leaves on the gravel into an area where he can scoop them up for a cloth barrel, set-aside just for that. Any later and it would be too hot. The sun is already blazing.

I hear him working outside the window, and just then Sofi starts making her little noises, hoping I'll bring her up onto our high bed with me. Not a chance! Let's get up and take a walk instead!

We're not alone...It's customary for Italians, especially the older ones, to rise early and be out doing their errands or daily tasks before the heat of the day sets in. So on our way, Terzo beeps on his motorino behind us and we wave to each other. Why is his name Terzo (Third), you wonder?

This sweet neighbor was born before WWII and was either the third child or the third son born to the family. I'll have to look up our genealogical information on his family to find out who the others were, but let's call that enough for today. Do you have any friends named Terzo?

I have Sofi on a tight lead, attached to her lightweight harness to not cause stress to her neck. Based on advice from Cesar, the Dog Whisperer on TV, I give her a "ssst" and snap my fingers once or twice, and she's instantly by my side, not rushing ahead. The softie in me wants her to gambol about. Dog trainers tell me it's a bad idea to let her be free; that she needs to follow me. I must assert myself as her leader. Sigh. If it's good for Sofi, so be it.

I feel wonderful doing this walk, and hope that this will be the re-launch of our morning giro. Sofi seems so happy to be by my side, letting me lead her.

When we are back at home, I have plenty of energy. Dino picks up the red and yellow pepperoni (peppers) and I sauté them, along with the sausage meat from Pino's market in Attigliano. There is enough sausage meat to save some for another night. Come no? I've made more pizza dough than we need for tonight, so perhaps we'll have a pizza or two tomorrow, with the pizza oven still hot.

Dino drives off to do a project, returning for pranzo, while I clean up a bit of the gravel and leaves dropped into the large planters on the terrace. If one has a garden, the work never ends. It's lovely to spend some time outside this morning.

I don't remember our pranzo, but the afternoon passes quickly, with a bit of painting, a short nap beside dear Dino and then his heating up the pizza oven while I take the dough rounds out of the frigo until our guests arrive.

Dino sets the table outside with mats made from local historical maps, as well as plates and the menu while I continue to work inside. Candace and Frank arrive an hour early to watch the recorded opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, so Dino sits with them and I join them for some favorite snippets.

Since our good doctor Stefano calls and tells us he will be late, we begin to welcome everyone who arrives before him with a beer or a glass of wine, or whatever, and relax a bit. We're well stocked.

Realizing that if we begin right at 8 PM, the evening will end too soon, we slow things down, and the tempo takes care of itself, our guests meeting new friends and enjoying each other's company. I'm happy to be mostly in the background.

When everyone is here we talk and drink some more, then sit down and begin to enjoy the pizzas. Here is a montage of what we serve and eat.

The first pizza stars red and yellow pepperoni (large peppers). Do you recall that the three letters at the end of a word "oni" mean large? So of course the three letters at the end of the word "ini"mean small.

Stefano, who is a bona fide Italian from the heart of the Etruscans, tells me that this first pizza is the best he has ever eaten! What? Just before, he asked me what kind of pizza we were making: would it be American or Italian or what? I let him see for himself. The crust is thin, what I believe to be Roman style.

Everyone seems to like all the pizzas, although the conversation is so animated that it's difficult to tell. Here 's the menu:

* Red and yellow peperoni, buffala mozzarella, Edamer cheese, thyme, Parmesan cheese
* Caramelized red onions, herb cheese, kalamata olives, wild fennel, Parmesan cheese
* Sausage, buffala mozzarella, chives and garlic, caramelized onion, sliced mushrooms, Parmesan cheese
* Baby shrimp, beschamel garlic sauce, buffala mozzarella, red onion, wild fennel, parsley
* Caramelized pears, gorgonzola dolce, Edamer cheese, cinnamon, walnuts and hazelnuts

After the five pizzas, we take a rest, with an extraordinary dessert provided by Candace: a lemon meringue pie. It's divine. Sorry we don't have a photo. It's delectable.

With plenty of beer and wine to drink as well as water, the conversation is certainly animated. These are some of our favorite friends met while living here, and I'd love to have them for more pizza nights this summer.

The evening ends before midnight, with us wondering if any of the guests will see each other again before we do. While Sofi sleeps on the couch in the kitchen, we clean everything up before going to bed. That makes it about 1 AM but no matter. It was certainly a memorable evening.

August 9
This email just came in from Jim Charney, a guest and friend last night who came with his lovely wife Diane: "Welcome to Dino and Eva's Institute of Inspiration"! We look forward to seeing Jim and Diane at their home soon for pizza, too!

Today we pick up dear friend Don from the train. Poor guy, he's hours late due to train delays, but instead of taking him to his house, we drive to Acqualoreto to an artist's reception (I have been asked to exhibit a painting and have chosen "Hildegarde", one that the host especially likes. We took the painting to him a few days ago and it looks great, fourth in from the door on the right wall.) The paintings will stay up for at least another week.

Poor Don is so jet lagged, up since 3 AM, but he bravely "soldiers on" with us, chatting with folks at the reception. After the reception there is yet another sagra; one that the three of us and Sofi attend. This time, it's in Cereto, and tonight is their final night.

This sagra is all about what you might call a sandwich, but it's a tasty unleavened pita type bread filled with marvelous ingredients. I eat salsiccia e rugghetta (sausage and arugula) and it's wonderful. At our table is a couple which live not too far from Don here. I sit with them while Don and Dino wait in line for the food; then the couple leaves for the dance floor.

Marino sits on the same bench with me, his darling wife Celeste, facing us with Sofi on the ground below the table. He wants Sofi to sit on the bench, and after I take her up, encourages her to sit closer to him. He loves animals; he and his wife are so charming and friendly tonight. They sit with me so that I won't be alone while Don and Dino wait in a long line for the delicious food.

It's a bit sad that Don is so tired; the table mates and a visiting woman who comes by for a couple of minutes are from the same neighborhood as Don's house here; it would have been wonderful for them to spend a bit of time getting to know one another, especially since he's alone here quite a bit. We'll keep in touch with him, inviting him to come by often while he's here working on his house this trip, and perhaps he'll get to know his neighbors anyway. Speriamo di si.(We hope so.)

We drive Don home and he has the house to himself, while Sofi and Dino and I travel home to little Mugnano. It's been a long day; a long evening, but fun.

August 10
I remember so many things to add to the journal when we're out driving somewhere. But then, when I'm sitting here at the computer, I have no idea what they are. Perhaps I need a little device to keep with me that I can make notes with; can't imagine using an actual paper notebook! Can you?

The other evening at our house, Stefano told Dino of a great place in Viterbo to buy mozzarella, Cioffi, especially the bocconcini (little individual bite sized ones). We drive there to pick some up and then back to the Bomarzo post office so that we can pay a few bills there. While Dino waits in line at the post office, Sofi and I check out the shop next door, and find lots of homecare products, but nothing we can't live without. Do you know that in Italy bills of a recurring nature are often paid at the post office?

For as long as I can remember (ha! That's a funny phrase in itself, since my memory is now terrible), I have loved to shop, especially in the buying-crazed United States. But now, thankfully, I don't want to buy a thing, unless it is a product that I can use to make something for someone I love (fabric, sewing supplies, paint, an artist's canvas). How wonderful is that? I just don't want anything for myself, unless it's you by my side, enjoying little Mugnano with us. Thanks for reading the journal.

So would I like to sell a painting or two? Yes, for we live so frugally these days that extra cash would help. But I don't stress about that any more.

I've decided that we'll frame Hildegarde and I'll repaint two smaller canvases of equal size to flank the painting of her for the salone, a room we never use. "What will the subject matter be?" Dino asks. "Natura Morta"(still life), I respond. Va bene! Come no?

We arrive home and there is no mail delivery yet; it's still early. Will my pending Italian citizenship approval ever arrive? Let's not stress; instead we heat up the two large pieces of artichoke and Parmesan pizza made a day or so ago and serve it with caprese, made with the new mozzarella from Viterbo and tomatoes from James and Diane's garden. Unfortunately, none of our tomatoes survived this summer's heat. Sigh.

We're going to take out at least two of the three messy nespola trees here, replacing one with an apple, and Dino wants to replace the second with a weeping willow. He finds out, however, that they become enormous and for the present sets that dream aside. I continue to dream about what trees would be wonderful here, finishing with a nap after pranzo.

In Facebook, which I hardly ever view, dear friend Michelle shows a little doggie friend, a male, who looks just like...Sofi!!! She and I will SKYPE later today and we'll learn more about him then. His name is Otto. Perhaps he'll be a soul mate for Sofi. Now it's time for pizza!

The rest of the day is mellow, with painting and watching the Olympic Games on TV and doing a bit of sewing. I love these days, with nothing we have to do.

August 11
We wake to very hot skies, so I've resigned myself that everything is finished for the summer in the garden, perhaps except for the ceanothus, which is a real winner in our dry Mediterranean climate.

Yesterday Dino and I had a serious talk about redesigning the property outside to acclimate better to the hot summer months. Unless we have a hard frost in the wintertime, ceanothus seems to be what we will replace those boxwood with, bit by bit. It will fall over the front stone wall a bit, will have some height, and spreads itself. We'll see.

I cut a white linen shirt down and sew it to wear when it's hot as today, then work a bit on Cesar. He and I will work together for months and months. He never seems to be finished. No matter.

Perhaps I'll put him away for a bit in a while, to do two still lives to flank the painting of Hildegarde that will hang on the back wall of the salone, a room we hardly ever use, but one I like a lot. Is it strange to you that in this little house there is a main room we hardly ever use? Or is it the same with you?

I'm looking forward to SKYPE-ing with dear friend Michelle this afternoon, but for now lets take down a jar of last summer's prepared tomatoes from the larder and fix a sausage pasta for pranzo. Come no? It's really delicious.

Oh, how I'd love to attend the meal with George Clooney in Geneva, Switzerland at the end of the month. It's given by Democrats Abroad and George is definitely a "swoony". Perhaps I'll refer to him as George Swoony from now on in the journal until he loses "that certain something"...

Years ago in Boston, a columnist named George Frazier penned "duende" as "that certain something" that is a certain charm, but also a characteristic difficult to define, although you know it if you see it. Clooney certainly has that.

George is such a silly name; it's difficult to imagine someone wanting to name their baby George unless they are naming the child after someone specific. Good thing I have not had any babies. They'd probably all be named George!

Cucumbers, lime, vodka and soda are a mixture blended and served in a pitcher with ice, I'm told is great for summer enjoyment. Sound strange? I'll try to figure out the various amounts and let you know.

The SKYPE conversation with dear Michelle lasts almost an hour, and it is wonderful to catch up with her. Since so many of you have suggested that I write a book about our lives here, I do want to do that, or at least update our website to make it more user friendly, and Michelle is an expert at SEO (search engine optimization).

We can't really afford to pay a lot of money to someone to help us to achieve that short term, so for now we'll do the homework given to me today by Michelle and share the information with her. That's another task to add to the list. So be it!

It's Saturday night, and I don't wish to walk up to the borgo for pizza. Dino agrees, and we stay at home. Outside, children and adults walk by on the street below our property, and we can hear them laughing and enjoying themselves. Perhaps some of them are sitting on the stone benches we've put up on the path for our neighbors next to the parcheggio. We'll hear tomorrow about how wonderful the evening was. Sorry we don't have photos to share.

August 12
It's Sunday, and Dino wants to put Sofi in her crate while we're in church and shopping at Il Pallone. Perhaps he'll drop me back at home instead after church. I hate to see her alone in a crate, especially for a few hours. Since she wreaked havoc when left alone last week, we'll try this new tact. Sigh.

We do put Sofi in the crate, leave the fan on, but come home instead of driving to Il Pallone for breakfast. She seems fine, after only a bit of anxiety.

The highlight of the day is little Alessio's baptism with our friendly priest, Don Angelo. Alessio's parents, Mario and Fulvia, have the most wonderful dispositions; they're so kind and sweet, and their son Alessio seems to be about the same. He's happiest in his father's or mother's arms, asleep. They so adore him, and treat him gently and lovingly, without a sign of stress, even when he fusses a bit.

The French contingent, with all their children, gets together and sings special French songs to Alessio near the end of the service. They have certainly been practicing, and sound wonderful. Here are some photos of the entire church service:

After this morning's mass, we say hello to Tiziano and Alessia and their adorable girls, and Tiziano's hair is just a bit grayer. I think he's happier than he's ever been, albeit tired. It is another joyous family, that's for sure. Alessia surely looks beautiful.

Tonight at Peppe's garden will be the reception for Alessio's baptism, and we'll take Sofi with us, for Peppe loves her and she loves him. In the meantime, we'll have a quiet day here at home.

Before we know it, it's time to walk up to the borgo, where we see friends we only see during these summer days. But it is Mario and Fulvia and little Alessio that touch our hearts, for they are such a sweet little family.

Miriam, Gino, Luca, Stefano, Nadia, Ivo, Andrea and on and on they arrive. It is a moment of reflection all at once, for the children are growing up and still great friends, although they may only see each other once a year. Some of the adults look the same, some a bit older.

Only one or two seem really worn out. Even Vincenzo has spirit, although he is one of the oldest people in Mugnano. It's always a joy to give him a hug. He is so dear.

Tonight in Peppe's garden, there are hugs from him for us and especially for Sofi, but mostly she rolls around in the beautiful grass on her back and looks up at me. We keep her tight on our new lead, and led her on the way up here and back. She no longer gambols ahead of us. It's better for her, better for us.

Here is a photo of the party taken with Dino's new iPhone app "Photosynth"...

We remain strangers to most of the people born here, although are here more than most of the folks who spend time here only in summertime. No matter. Paola looks great, with a new wild hairdo, and life for her is the same; I think quite wonderful. She still works in Rome for a travel agent. We remain in the garden for an hour or so, eat a bit, then return home where it is cool and quiet, to watch the end of the Olympics on TV.

Only when we are home and darkness descends does Sofi bark a bit outside, but returns inside when we call her name. Summer visitors love to walk by and sit on our stone benches, made and placed just for them, and come no?

August 13
I've invited neighbors to stop by, but who will come to visit us without a specific invitation? If I am awake early enough and do a giro with Sofi, perhaps I'll invite someone up for caffé. Opps! I overslept!

Today is mellow, with some painting, some sewing and some reading. I have not put the painting of Cesar away, but have darkened the center of the sunflowers and adjusted his expression.

Dino and Sofi walk me up to the borgo late tonight for Coro Prova (choir practice). As expected, the session does not begin until 10 PM, but I'm home before midnight. It appears we all sing the pieces well enough to rehearse any later and I copy the list to take home so that I can rearrange my book, to make Wednesday's night's singing easier.

It appears Sofi sat on the front step waiting for me for the entire time she and Dino were home waiting for me. How dear she is!

Here's some distressing information about health care in the U.S.:

Ambiguity in Health Law Could Make Family Coverage Too Costly for Many- By ROBERT PEAR
Rules proposed by the I.R.S. could leave millions of people in the lower middle class uninsured and frustrate the intent of Congress, which was to expand coverage.

We study the information available, and realize that we could not afford the mandatory and expensive medical insurance coverage in the U.S. It is coincidentally another reason why we choose to live here and take part in the excellent Italian medical programs.

Yes, life is simple here, but less angry, less judgmental. Simple things, natural beauty, are appreciated so much by the people in our tiny community.

We could not imagine how difficult it would be for us to pay for proper medical insurance if we lived full time in the U.S. What a sad state of affairs. The United States Government is so generous in so many ways; just not in this one. And if it were, who would pay for it?

Under Romney's plan, it appears certainly not the wealthiest Americans; and is there any reason they should? We have no idea, seemingly living in another world.

I almost wonder if giving airline tickets to our family to come here would be better than making our annual trip back to visit Terence and Angie and the girls, but that subject is for another day; another year.

A headache creeps up, but perhaps will wait for another day to lunge upon me like a demon. It is very hot here today, and instead of putting a foot outside, I research fruit trees, for we're going to plant two in place of the two front nespolatrees on our terrace.

"What will we do for shade in front of the conch shell?" Dino asks. "An umbrella!" I respond. "Si, certo!" Apples or peaches or one of each may be the solution. After researching trees online, I conclude that our friends at either Michellini in Viterbo or Margheriti Brothers in Chiusi are the answer.

Buying trees online from England winds up to be quite expensive, although they do have many excellent varieties. The last time we ordered a tree that way, the tree died before it arrived here. Never again, I hope!

My recommendation is that we visit both vivais (nurseries) soon and after making our choices ask them to keep the two trees for us until the next month or two. In the meantime, we'll contact robust Mario of Attigliano to take away at least two of the nespolas, including their large roots. We're so sick of cleaning up after their mess. Perhaps we'll have him take out all three!

Dino has found two canvases that are the perfect size to flank Hildegarde's painting, and they are paintings of women that he does not particularly like. So I'll paint still lives over each one, and probably that means I'll set Cesar aside for a while after working for just one hour on highlights of the girasole (sunflowers).

I am a bit sad that my brother did not like the painting of Hildegarde, for I had intended to give it to Marti and him. The more I see it, the more meaning it has for me and yes, there is some of me in her expression.

I hope Mike and Marti are well; we do not communicate often, and I am sad about that, but the sadness passes unless the subject comes up, so let's think of something else. I cannot do much about it these days, or I surely would.

I paint more on Cesar's sunflowers; then take a nap. It's time to let him dry somewhere and take out the smaller canvases.

The weather is for scattered thundershowers this evening. I'm not looking forward to walking up to Coro practice in the midst of it...But there is nor rain and Dino and Sofi walk me up to the borgo. When I return home (before midnight), Sofi is still waiting for me on the terrace and welcomes me home.

August 14
Last night there was a treasure hunt in the borgo and the neighbors surely had fun. This morning all is quiet. I sew up a tablecloth from beautiful fabric from France, while Dino works on the family tree project. I'm hoping he'll be finished with it by fall, but as soon as he is, it will be time for me to paint it on the wall of the community center. What would we do if we did not have all the projects we love to do?

We can't seem to get rid of ants crawling around the travertine marble surrounding the kitchen sink and covering the counters, and Dino buys traps for them. I'm only aware of the problem in the summertime; perhaps they hibernate in the wintertime. It's just another thing to deal with, although we could have the same problems anywhere.

The heat continues. As much as I love warm weather, I'm staying out of it because it's so hot. At least there's a breeze at night and during the early morning hours. I must be showing my age; it's difficult to get up at 7 AM to take a walk with Sofi, although I could do that and go back to bed where it is cool. There's always tomorrow.

I sew a bit, paint a bit and read a bit. Tonight is the contest of the dolce in the borgo. For the first time in memory I am not submitting an entry, nor are we going up for the cena.

But Dino sees Don Angelo drive up to the borgo, so has someone died? He drives up himself to see. Perhaps our priest is arriving for the cena instead, and wouldn't that be wonderful? The report is that all is fine, so "Buon appetito!"

I'm hopeful Dino will decide very soon whether or not we'll upgrade our software program for the Mugnano family trees project we are doing for the village. There is still more data to gather from neighbors, and we have decided to wait to end the research until September, when the "iron days of summer" have passed. Often, temperatures drop markedly right on September 1st. We'll let you know.

In the meantime:

Italian Journalist Mary Pace Sues U.S. Government for $25 Million bin Laden Bounty -

Italian investigative journalist Mary Pace has filed a law suit in Rome against the U.S. Government as well as the Italian Interior Ministry for the $25 million dollar bounty promised by the U.S. government to anyone who provided information leading to Osama bin Laden's capture or killing.

In August 2003, Pace revealed to the Italian authorities that a source told her that bin Ladin was "in Pakistan, in an area of 30 square kilometers between the cities of Wah, Gadwal, Samiwal, and Havelian, the latter being in the district of Abbotabad".

Bin Laden's death took place on May 2nd, 2011 in Abbotabad, Pakistan during a special forces helicopter raid. Unfortunately for Mary Pace, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated during a press conference that the U.S. government would not pay out the $25 million bounty because no one intentionally provided it with useful information.

Pace has stated that if the Italian ministry neglected to pass her information on bin Laden's whereabouts to the Americans, Pace will hold the Italian ministry responsible for the missing compensation. There has been no statement from the U.S. government on the suit, which will begin hearings in Rome on the 13th of May, 2013.

Wouldn't you think she'd give the information directly to the U.S. Government as well as to the Italian Ministry? It seems strange to me that she would rely on the Italian Ministry to pass along the information.

To her credit, for more than thirty years Pace's investigative journalism has shed light on some of Italy's most mysterious crimes, including: the Piazza Fontana bombing in 1969, Carmine Pecorelli's murder in 1979 and the pursuit of Nazi fugitive Erik Priebke.

We're sure there will be plenty of follow-up to this story, and we'll let you know when we do.

August 15
This is it, "Ferragosto", or "the iron days of summer". In addition, and more importantly, it is the Feast of the Assumption, when it seems all of Italy stops working.

This festival has elements of both the ancient and Christian worlds. First proclaimed by Emperor Augustus in 18 BC, the feriae Augusti originally lasted for all or most of August.

It was a time when everyone relaxed after the hard work of the harvest. The Romans feted the gods of agriculture and those associated with the change of seasons, although cooler weather is not expected for another month or so.

The festival evolved from being a month-long event to an event celebrated during the second half of August. Later it became a one-day celebration. And yet in some parts of Italy there are echoes of the ancient past with shop owners often in the habit of not reopening their shops on August evenings.

Christians also began to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on that day, the 15th of August, and so even today we have the ferragosto (iron days of summer) as well as the Assumption to celebrate.

On this day, people leave the cities and towns to gather in the countryside or in their houses with relatives and friends to celebrate. At night in many towns and villages one can be treated to a firework display.

Here in little Mugnano in Teverina we will have a mass at 9 PM, followed by a procession and probably fireworks. We have special pieces to sing as Coro members and it should be joyous, albeit very hot. For darling Sofi, who is mightily afraid of the noise and will be alone in the house during the mass and procession, it will be terrible. For dear Dino, dressed in Confraternity garb, it will be quite hot. Tonight's procession after the mass is an important one.

I notice when sitting at the desk that Cesar is looking good, except that his face and neck color are too red. That will be easy to fix. Outside the birds are full of sound, hating the cannon roar just a little while ago. Birdies in our little village are not used to lots of noise.

Sofi was a bit frantic in the morning, but did calm down, as long as she stayed by my side. We had something in the freezer to heat up for pranzo, so we're obviously stranieri (strangers) by not having a special meal with relatives on this day, even if Dino is already a citizen. Sigh.

After a calm afternoon, we leave Sofi to guard the house and walk up to the borgo for mass and a procession. It is truly hot inside the church, although a breeze does exist outside.

There is a new priest named Don Luca (he will be ordained on September 8th, and he appears young and sweet and smart.) I welcome him after the procession, and look forward to getting to know him. Does that mean that Don Angelo is no longer the usual priest here?

Here is a photo recap of tonight's Mass and Procession:

Dino thinks there are a lot of people in the procession, and we wish the happiest of holidays to all our neighbors. For us, the day ends back at home, where we're greeted by our sweet little Sofi and take out a drink for Dino and a frozen juice treat for me.

We look forward to spending more time with our neighbors and their relatives as the month progresses and send our good wishes to you for a happy summer.

August 16
Relieved that last night has ended, we're wondering if stores will continue to be closed in Viterbo. Since we want to return to the shop that sells the delicious little bocconccini (little bite sized balls of mozzarella), we take Sofi, stop in Bomarzo for prima colazione (breakfast) and then drive to Viterbo for errands, including picking up a new hair dryer/wand for me to replace an old one which has given up the ghost, dry kibble for Sofi and a new toy and treats for her. We finish at a particular LIDL; one that has a bakery and wonderful choices of bread.

Back at home, it's so very hot. We hide inside for the rest of the day, finishing the journal to post for the first half of August, resting and reading. Just before 8 PM, Dino does a bit of watering on the terrace.

There is a soccer match between France and Italy in the borgo, but we don't have the energy to walk up. Paul and Marie have lots of house guests, so will provide the entire French team; the village supplying the Italians, si, certo!

There is still no sign of my pending Italian citizenship, for perhaps there is no mail distribution either. Might as well give up for now. I'm actually tired of waiting for it.

I'm too tired to paint tonight, but the flowers next to Cesar's frame are looking quite good and perhaps tomorrow morning I'll paint more, that is, if we don't drive to Aqualorello to pick up the painting of Hildegarde. I look forward to having it back home.

There is a Spanish word, "duende"; one that has had a special place in my heart from my childhood. I wanted to write a bit about it for you, imagine it's worth using it to describe certain memorable people you meet during your lifetime.

"Tener duende" ("having duende") can be loosely translated as having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, often connected with flamenco .

But when reading about it in Wikipedia, I was completely freaked out.

Thanks to Wikipedia,

Duende is a difficult-to-define word used in the Spanish arts, including performing arts. From the original meaning (a fairy- or goblin-like creature in Spanish and Latin American mythology), the artistic and especially musical term was derived.


August 17
On this hot morning, Sofi and Dino and I drive across Umbria on the shore of Lake Cobara to Aquapendente to pick up the painting of Hildegarde. Both framing places in Amelia and in Orvieto are closed for the rest of the month, so Mom will spend a couple of weeks back up on the wall, unframed.

It will also give me a chance to work on her face, not that I don't have many other projects in the works.

Back at home there is pranzo, and then a nap. Tonight we'll drive Leon and Lisa and Joy to the camp site where the Ecomuseo cena will be held, while the rest of their family hikes up. This time, Sofi will attend, too, Come no?

With "Prince Leon" in the front seat, we drive to the campground while most of the folk hike up there. We can see the place where the event is held each year from our property, and look down upon our house and the south side of Mugnano once we reach it. It's a lovely evening, with a beautiful view of Central Italy.

Young Valerio was the first of the hikers to arrive at Sasso Quadro, he said (in English), "I am the winner!"

Here we all are, having fun!

August 18
I feel guilty about not doing enough sewing for the French children's garments, so that's what I'll do this hot morning: sew!

All painting is set aside until I finish the clothes for Beatrice, Joy and Lisa, the girls from Paris. Last night, Lisa asked how I was doing on the sewing, which makes me feel guilty. The good news is that I love all the projects I do!

Lisa's outfit is almost finished by the time Dino scolds me that I've obsessed about sewing. It's early evening and very hot, so I'd better stop until tomorrow. I now want to make little princess crowns for at least Lisa and Joy. We'll show you when they've modeled for us.

I also have Beatrice's to do, but have the fabric and also the design in my head for hers. Joy's will be the next outfit to make, and we'll take another trip to Viterbo to check out my favorite fabric shop here for the touches, and perhaps a new fabric, but that will have to wait until at least Monday.

It continues to be very hot, so we sit inside and watch a movie before going to bed. Thank goodness for air conditioners. They're not characteristic, but give us the comfort we need during these "iron days of summer". Hope it's not too hot where you are.

August 19
Dino awakes very early, for he's agreed to pick up dear friend Don in Tenaglie and take him to an early train. Dino will be back in time for church, and we expect it to be hot.

Piano, piano (slowly, slowly) we drift about on these stifling days. Oh, for a dip in a cool pool! There's always nearby Hotel Umbria, where we can swim and hang out for €5 a day per person. I don't think Dino would like it, but I surely would not decline if he asked me to join him there...

On this very hot morning, we drive up to church and of course, Dino finds a place to park, although friends and relatives and people who actually live in the borgo full time all have their cars squeezed in wherever they can find room.

I've come up to catch up with you as soon as we open the front door, to let you know how moved I was by Don Daniele this morning at mass. He was surely ill, with a voice so tiny the microphone was surely pressed against his lips.

We know he has problems with his throat, but on this day did not skimp on his homily. Wolf, his altar server, looked over at Don Daniele as he turned away from all of us to cough. I wanted to go to him after mass, but what could I have said?

Paul was his usual magnificent self, playing his portable keyboard/organ and singing. At one point in the mass, his family stood and sang a hymn in French. How dear the family is, and what a wonderful contribution to our little village!

After mass, we drove as usual to Il Pallone, for caffé and shopping. I'm still not sure why we do this on Sunday mornings. Perhaps the market is stocked full for the many people who shop there on Sundays.

Why, you might ask? Well, grocery stores throughout Italy are closed on Sundays. For some strange reason, perhaps the brilliant mind of an entrepreneur owning the local chain, this grocery store is allowed to stay open on Sundays. So of course it's jammed with people.

Sofi has been at home alone all morning, and greets us with her usual joyousness when we return. It's still early, before noon, and I'm anticipating a quiet day, although for Dino he's worried I'll do too much concentrating on the sewing for the French girls' garments.

We grill for pranzo with the usual caprese salad, watch a bit of TV, then take a long nap.

I'm itching to sew, so work on an outfit for dear Joy. Lisa's is set aside until she tries it on; only then will I embellish hers. I have a lovely piece of embroidered white cloth to use as a panel to turn pants into a long princess dress but only after she tries on the pants and we agree on how the top will look, will I continue.

I have the fabric for a lovely blue dress for Beatrice, and will work on that soon. I suppose it's better that the girls try on what I've done already instead of finishing each one first. So Beatrice's dress is next on my list to begin.

While he's hand watering the front of the property, Dino greets Annarita and her son Stefano, who are sitting on the stone benches we have fashioned for our neighbors as they walk up the steep part of the Mugnano hill to the borgo.

Annarita wants to look around, so although we are disorganized as you can imagine with all our projects, Dino invites them up and walks them around the property. I greet them and walk around with Sofi meandering nearby.

Annarita asks me if I'll do a painting of her. Come no? We know we'll see them again, perhaps here for pizza one evening in September, although we've agreed to slow down considerably on pizza nights here as the work is exhausting for me, albeit a lot of fun.

It's almost 9 PM but still so humid and hot. Oh for a pool to take a dip in! It's not worth the work, even if we had the money to put one in, especially after hearing of Tony and Pat's problems with water loss every day in their pool in nearby Lugnano, not to mention the problems getting it built. Perhaps we can stick our feet in the fountain instead, once it's water tight.

If we are here tomorrow morning, perhaps Marie will walk down with little Lisa and Joy for fittings for their garments. In a few days, I hope to be ready for Beatrice, too.

August 20
It's difficult for me to remember what day it is, so when we awake I ask Dino if he knows. He does. Writing in the journal is another way to remember the days, although they pass from one to another with nothing much to worry about, each day more pleasant than the last.

There does not seem to be Coro practice tonight, and for that I am happy. Today is mellow, although I'm sewing and creating princess costumes for the three lovely French girls in the village. We ask the two youngest to come for a fitting, but they have an outing with their Bomarzo relatives, Andrea and Marie-Laure and their baby, I think. They'll let us know later when they can come.

I want Beatrice to decide the style of her dress before I begin, for as she's almost a teenager, think that's important. She's really a beautiful young girl; but then, everyone in the family is great looking. Even more, each one is fun and polite. They are a joy to be around, and soon they'll be another pizza night for them all here.

We eat pizza for pranzo, for there was one portion of dough left from last time that we saved, covered in the frigo. With artichokes and buffalo mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, what could go wrong? It's not bad, considering the fact that the dough sat for a week in the frigo before we cooked it, and we cooked it inside in our regular oven.

I sew some more, completing most of Lisa's creation, but need a bit of finishing touches, which we will purchase in Viterbo tomorrow morning. Joy's pants need to be taken in and hemmed; otherwise they're fine. The rest of her outfit's design is in my head. I'm looking forward to making Beatrice's blue dress, now that we've agreed on that design as well.

August 21
Observations on this day are many. Dino drives Sofi and me to Viterbo, mainly to visit the tessuti (fabric) store to pick up notions for my current sewing projects.

On the way we stop at Dino's favorite Bomarzo bar, and run into Roberto, the current sindaco (mayor). I ask him how he is and he tells me he is good, now that he sees us. A very kind man, Dino tells me that he's just that. On the other hand, nothing much gets done in the Commune!

A subject for an Italian Notebook story, but one not complementary to the Italian lifestyle; and so not to be written there...is the garbage people blithely throw out their car windows. It's mostly plastic, but one can see some food garbage, or some paper mingled in with it lying on the side of the road.

What is this all about? Well, I know that Italian children are quite spoiled. Parents, especially mothers, let them get away with most anything. The term mammone means a child spoiled by his/her mother, known in the English speaking world as a "mama's boy". These children can do no wrong. So when they grow older, there is less respect for other's property; hence garbage thrown from car windows.

Dino tells me this practice is most prevalent in summertime, when windows are open, and people are having fun outside. He thinks people don't open their car windows when it is cold outside. What?

We pick up the items I'll need and do a bit of food shopping; then return home and it is still before noon. I catch up with you and then return to sewing, a project I love. But then, I love doing something creative as a gift for someone I love.

Thanks to CNN,

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported 943 women were "killed in the name of honor" in Pakistan last year, an increase of more than 100 from 2010.

Rights groups blame the increase in 'honor' murders partly on what they call an ineffective justice system in Pakistan that too often allows killers to go unpunished.

Despite his videotaped confession to CNN and an earlier confession to police, prosecutors say Ismail can soon be a free man if his victims' family agrees to accept compensation for the killings.

Receiving blood money is an option for victims in many conservative Muslim societies under the Islamic principal that mercy is more noble than revenge.

But women's rights activists complain that in patriarchal societies like Pakistan, 'honor' killers regularly bully and threaten the female victim's family into accepting blood money.

"When it comes to the crime we have a natural reaction of shock and horror, but when we see the justice system not work, our heart breaks," said legal advisor and rights activist Bushra Syed.

According to human rights lawyer Zia Ahmed Awan, victims' families in Pakistan are also at a disadvantage because 'honor' killings often take place in male-dominated communities where women are often viewed as property with few rights to defend themselves and little access to legal aid.

"In parts of the country there is hardly any legal help for women," Awan said. "This crime is growing because the courts and laws are not responding to the cries for help."

Awan said police, lawmakers and judges in these communities are too often either corrupt or lack the proper resources and power to investigate and prosecute crimes. Instead they regularly defer to a traditional system of justice where powerful tribal leaders and male heads of families rule on disputes, he said.

In 1999 Awan set up Pakistan's first hotline for female victims of abuse and families who lost loved ones to 'honor' murders. He called it the Madadgar Help Center. Today Awan has help centers in four cities, providing thousands of victims and families shelter, legal advice, and medical care, often free of charge.

How incredibly sad is this? I'm reminded that I'd surely give up my life if that act could make a difference in this world. What is a life worth? I'm not sure I really know, but for as long as I am able, I want to continue to do what I can to make or fix things that will bring pleasure to those I love. For me, that is something I can do; that is, until or if I am called upon to do so much more.

Back to our lives here, Dino agrees that later today we will decide the menu for our next pizza evening and he'll buy whatever we need. He is always so wonderful about shopping and fixing things that need fixing. Today he's fixing a lamp; the switch had a "short" when he was reading in bed last night. Bravo, dear Dino!

I spend the afternoon sautéing things for tomorrow's pizza night and also sewing little Lisa's outfit by hand. After a fitting, there are adjustments to make, and I'm ready to do all of them, hoping to have most of everything done before the family arrives for pizza tomorrow night.

Tonight we're invited to Bella's home near Amelia , for cena and it's wonderful. Sofi is invited, sharing bits of the delicious pork roast with au jus while she waits under the table.

We meet new friends, including a young violinist whom I look forward to getting to know better. She's a lovely young woman, and I have hopes that she'll be able to take her love of violin playing to heavenly heights.

In the meantime, the family is invited to visit us and she's invited to play Uncle Harry's special violin. It's for sale at €7000 and is worth every penny. He also thought so, and planned his will accordingly after it was appraised. What a dear man he was!

We're home before midnight, the dough is prepared and sits in the frigo to set overnight and the vegetables and sausage have already been cooked. So there's not much to do tomorrow except to make the beschamel sauce and a few other things to prep for the evening, including Dino lighting the fire in the pizza oven and getting it hot.

Time to say, "A domani!"

August 23
Hooray! I'm at home inside when at just after 9 AM the phone rings. "Pronto!" I answer, rolling my eyes as I wonder if I'll understand the person on the other end of the line.

"Signora Diner?" the man asks. "Si!" I answer.

It's a professional sounding man at the Prefettura, and the call is for me! Everyone except President Napolitano has signed my necessary documents for Italian citizenship! I had no idea the president of Italy approves all new citizenship applications.

He asks me if I am content. I tell him not really, but agree with his comment that although it is too bad that it has taken this long, it is better to have the document signed late than not at all!

I'm somewhat relieved. When he asks if we'll be here in September we tell him we're always here and will always be, and that we even have our cemetery plots in the village cemetery! I'm emphasizing our seriousness about living here. He's a bit shocked, for Italians hate to speak about death, as if it's a superstitious thing. Va bene. I am learning.

Andrea and Marie Laure and little Milena won't be here tonight for pizza, and I'm a bit sad but relieved again. We were going to have a difficult time fitting everyone in. Now we can slow down a bit.

Slow down! I'm working in the studio to finish the outfits for Lisa, Joy and Mama Marie. Beatrice knows I have not started her dress, but I'd surely love to. We'll see how many of them I can finish before they all arrive for pizza tonight.

So what's this about retiring in Italy and sitting around on benches just gabbing about life in general?? Oh, to sit on a bench with our dear neighbors! We really don't know how to slow down, although we love every thing we do...or most everything.

Stefano Jr. arrives and works on the intonico (plaster) for the serra, the room that used to be my studio until I realized it's too hot in summer and too cold in winter to work out there. We test three colors and agree on one. He's finished with the intonico inside in the upper hallway, and Dino has only to sand it down and then we can re-add the chair rail and repaint.

As if that were not enough for today, David has begun to build the main entranceway to our property. Yesterday, he and his crew did the trenching for the electric and water for May Elin's garden property, so she will be happy, too. We look forward to her arrival and to seeing her and Olav again.

It's back to sewing, with Lisa and Joy's outfits to be finished by the time they arrive for pizza. I'll also try to begin Beatrice's lovely blue dress. Perhaps I can finish enough so that she can have a fitting. Better get back to the sewing machine...

Dino is having more trouble with his left eye, and drives to Attigliano to get an eye appointment sooner rather than later. Magari! (If only that were so). It's very difficult to get medical appointments under the Italian medical system. His glaucoma is continuing to advance a bit, but he is well otherwise. Let's not worry.

Although we're exhausted afterward and don't get to bed until 2 AM, the pizza night at our house is lots of fun. There are pizzas to serve to the four youngest children that are made first, and they sit at their own table, complete with paper and colored pencils so that they can draw when they are not eating.

And, Joy did get a chance to model her new dress that I made for her...

Don Angelo and his friend Lucia join us for the first time, and are welcome additions. It is good to see Don Angelo out of his regular church vestments and relaxed. The pizzas are all well received and we finish with a chocolate cake and ice cream. On this hot night, the cold ice cream is a treat.

August 24
David has been working on the entrance ramp, and will add eight steps. He finished May Elin's trenching in one day, so we have him until our front entrance stairs and entryway are finished. Francesco, our Vigili Urbani comes by and confirms that we must use tufa instead of harder bricks, for this is a protected area, and tufa is a characteristic stone. Let's not worry about it. There will be eight steps with gently sloping rises in between. We'll have photos to show you before we post this next time. Speriamo

I have finished Lisa and Joy's dresses and shawls, but Lisa was a bit tired last night and would not model her outfit. Joy did, and was so happy that she wore it home, hoping everyone in the village would be out to see how wonderful she looks while wearing it. This makes me so very happy. She is very dear.

Poor Lisa. Today she'll probably be fine. I need to move a closing on her long skirt, so there is more to do for her. Marie arrives for a fitting with Beatrice, and both dresses look promising.

The good news is that I am to slow down, and when the family returns in October I can present the dresses to Beatrice and Marie and Lisa then. They tell me there is no need to rush. That is a good thing, for I'm just exhausted.

Let's end the day in front of the TV. I'm looking forward to vegging out. Tomorrow the muratori (what we in the U.S. refer to as contractors but here as stone masons) will return to work on the path.

And so as hours and days turn to weeks and months and then years here in our little Italian village, the tasks we once took for granted back in the United States take on special meaning.

Last night, when putting away the table on which the children used to eat their pizza, moving it back into the summer kitchen, I was reminded of the many nights we have served pizza here to small groups of friends and neighbors. Each time we have come to follow a simplified set of orchestrations.

We so appreciate each of these evenings here, and even though we're so tired at the end and have to drag ourselves upstairs to bed after everything is cleaned up and put away, the expressions of joy on the faces of our guests bring us so much joy.

Almost each thing we own here has a story to tell. And it is the sum of all of our adventures so far that carries us aloft on our dreamy cloud-like existence. Sure, many things go wrong. The bureaucracy continues to frustrate us, albeit less so. The less we judge others or the system, the more we are freed up to enjoy those things we love.

And it is with that thought that I bid you a good night, a peaceful and restful sleep, and dreams that make your heart soar. A domani.(Until tomorrow.)

August 25
I sleep in a bit late, and we view David's work on the new path to our front gate. In a week or so, it may be finished! Stefano Jr. did a great job using intonico on the front of the back wall of the serra. It's color is softening as it dries.

Dino orders the tufa bricks for the new project. Unfortunately, we can't use pepperino, for the area is protected historically. Sand (to mix with the cement) is delivered and dumped at the bottom of the ramp, and on Monday we hope they'll make good headway.

Dino and I drive to the hospital in Orvieto, where he has an appointment regarding his left eye. Blood has been found in one retina, and on Monday we expect a phone call to give him an immediate appointment for treatment. I don't know what that means, but Dino does not act concerned. I remain by his side, no matter what. Apparently it is not related to the Glaucoma.

We meet new renters in Tenaglie and drive them to their rental. Perhaps we'll see them tonight at the wine fest in nearby Lugnano.

After a late nap, we awake to a breeze and while Dino waters the garden, I do a bit of genealogical work on our family histories. There is never enough time to complete all of our many projects, and for that we are content, plugging away when we have new information and are ready to work on one or another. It's surely a great life.

There is an interesting event this weekend in Lugnano, a nearby town. We take Sofi with us and walk around its lovely borgo while tasting samples of wines from three local wineries: Le Crete, Trenta Querce and Sandonna and purchase one bottle from each. It's a great way to sample wines, and at each tasting there is a little sampler of tastes for each person. Much of it is quite good.

Sofi has a good time and behaves, and the walk around the borgo is good for us to do. The night is clear and starry and fragrantly mild. We're home by 10 PM and Dino watches the World Series of Little League Baseball while I catch up with you and turn in.

August 26
It's Sunday again. Although there was no Coro practice this past week, none of us are nervous. We know the words and music to the hymns, and enjoy singing, although it is hot this morning in the church. Don Angelo stops on his walk to the altar to shake my hand; what a dear man he is!

Sofi rests at home in the cool house while we drive to Il Pallone for a snack and food shopping. We're expecting big crowds, for this is the countryside and with few exceptions, no grocery shops are every open on Sundays except this one.

But there is plenty of parking space in their lot, so although there are many people inside, the numbers do not compare to their usual Sunday traffic during cooler parts of the year.

I'm somewhat tired, so although tonight there is a children's concert in Orte, I don't know if I'm going to be up to it. Our dear friend Tiziana has a music camp for children from all over the world, and although the borgo will be quite crowded, if we do go we'll surely find room. Tiziana is my former violin teacher and a very dear woman.

Although I'd rather stay at home tonight, it's important to show up and support Tiziana. Sofi will stay at home.

As the afternoon progresses, a migraine headache looms, so we wind up not attending after all. I send her an email apologizing, but she'll be so busy she probably won't notice. We'll miss seeing her dear parents, too.

I sleep for most of the afternoon and keep the headache at bay, but am thankful that we are to stay at home tonight. I'm still quite tired. Dino, on the other hand, is fine, and his eye does not bother him, although his sight is not perfect in one eye. Sigh. We are getting older, although we act as if we are children most of the time. Come no?

Late this afternoon Andrea, Marie-Laure and baby Milena come for a visit before they return to Paris. She is such a happy baby!

August 27
Without a cloud in the sky, David and his worker arrive quite early, laying the cement layer over the rete (rebar mesh) for our new front steps and path. After we've had coffee, Dino and I walk out to look at the work and they are finished laying cement except for the bottom landing. When dry, they will add the characteristic tufa bricks. How lovely it will be!

Dino leaves for projects and tells me he will return before pranzo; that is, if he does not receive a call from the doctor in Orvieto, telling him when the appointment will be. He'll need to come home to pick me up if it's this morning, for I will surely need to drive him home afterward.

Pasta for pranzo? Come no? Italians eat pasta all year long, and since it will be cool inside and Dino loves pasta, there's no reason why not. I'll lovingly prepare a simple tomato sugo (sauce) for the pasta. Here's another Italian language lesson:

sugo/ghi is juice or gravy.
Non c'e sugo means it's not fun. Huh? It also means "there's nothing to it". This is another Italian phrase that means two very different things. What's even sillier is: senza sugo means it's pointless, or dull. It suggests that pasta or meat without any kind of sauce is pointless. Ha! Don't you agree?

Have you ever met an Italian without a sense of humor? It appears that storytelling is what has helped millions of Italians get through tough times. The economy here now is still not good, but the citizens soldier on...

I work on the special blue girl's dress for a bit, but don't have a lot of energy. This is one complex design, but will be lovely if it all comes out right. Speriamo de si!

Outside there is a breeze, but the muratori work in full sun. David wears a shirt, but his helper is bare-chested and tan. Their work is exceptional, and the entryway will be everything we hoped for and more.

There is a second step to be added on the way to the mangiatoio (ancient feeding trough carved out of tufa), and when I remind David about it he tells me he has planned for it, and the step will be made tomorrow. Va bene.

When all is done, we will add stone seats against a side wall for us to sit there in the shade. There is a light inside the mangiatoio that gives a lovely glow to the space. Even if we never sit there, it will be lovely to look at from the terrace.

David and his helper leave at 11 AM. With still no phone call from the hospital, Dino soldiers on with his projects in Tenaglie and Guardea and here at home I prepare to make pranzo. Of course, Sofi stays right by my side.

It's time for pasta, this time with a sauce made with artichoke hearts and caramelized onions. It's good, and we'll have it one more day as baked pasta with other ingredients.

After a long nap, I watch a baseball game with Dino, but am drawn to the studio to work again on the blue dress. I have finished most of the top, and want to be secure with that before finishing the bottom, which consists of three layers of gathered fabric.

Since the weather is still warm, I stop and return downstairs where Dino and I sit in front of the TV until we turn in. All is mellow.

August 28
Isn't today the anniversary of my dear Nana's birth? She was born in 1888 and lived to be 100! Blessings to you in heaven, dear Nana.

This morning is pedicure day with dear Giusy, and also the day the tufa bricks will be laid on the main entryway to our property. It should look wonderful for us, and for Peppe, whose orto is on the other side of the path.

The tiles look wonderful on the landing just outside the gate, and I approve of the grout color as well as the arrangement of the tiles. Perhaps by tomorrow they'll be finished. I especially like the curve of the steps, ending just on the other side of the outside wall of the parcheggio.

I'm reading the most delightful book about the Italian language and the country's people, Bella Lingua, and recommend it highly. What I most love about it is that I know almost all the words it mentions, and the longer I am here, the more I understand.

That harkens back to the astrologer I visited years ago who told me, "You will feel more comfortable living in a country other than your own". At the time, I could not imagine such a life. And now, I can't imagine any other. How strange and wonderful our lives have turned out to be!

August 29
I think this is dear cousin Cherie's birthday, and do think of her often. She also has been considered my big sister, for I did not have one and she was always so kind to me, including me often in her events with friends.

The weather is a bit cooler, and it's lovely outside. It appears that David may finish the steps today, and wouldn't that be wonderful? I'm standing on the street at the bottom of the stairs and landing when Luigina walks by, on the way back from feeding her gallini (hens). She has two eggs in her plastic basket, but tells me the hens are laying little and having trouble in the heat. Purtroppo! (Too bad!)

Dino waters outside and supervises David; then brings them caffé and a merenda(snack). I walk down with Sofi in my arms and both muratori agree that the entry is beautiful. The tufa bricks are so characteristic, and should hold up well. Speriamo.

We're having baked pasta from yesterday's leftovers, and it should taste great. The addition of artichoke hearts has been a big hit. I've also made a frozen lemon sorbetto, for dessert. It will have three hours to freeze, and that's plenty of time.

Tonight we are invited to Yolanda B's house outside Rome for cena, including Sofi. She's a lovely woman and GB's (of Italian Notebook fame)'s mother. We look forward to spending an evening with her.

The pranzo is wonderful, with raves from Dino. Sofi even gets a taste of pasta. The sorbetto limone for dessert is good on such a warm day.

Since the muratori continue to work after our early pranzo, Dino putters around and Sofi and I go up to take a dolce fa niente (sweet nothing, or afternoon nap). Dino thinks they won't finish today and will need to return tomorrow. They leave a bit early, but it does not matter either way to me...the work is wonderful. Let's not forget the step toward the mangiatoio that needs to be made before they consider their project done here.

I read online that dental care is being dropped from medical benefits for retirees in the United States. Add that to the list of reasons why living here is better for us than it would be if we lived in the United States. There are oh, so many reasons. I just can't imagine living anywhere but here, no matter the silliness of the bureaucracy.

We drive South, stopping at the outlet at Ponzano Romano to pick up a few white goods for the house Dino manages, since there will be two couples arriving this weekend.

We drive on with Sofi to Yolanda B's house past Monterosi, and it's the last night she's staying at this house swap. How dear of her to invite us!

We have a lovely evening on the terrace of this very nice home; a home where a couple of Italian generals lived during WWII. After doffing our hats (imaginary) to the bronze statue of one of them, we spend our time chatting and munching on delectable treats. How we'll love getting to know this dear woman better.

We're back at home quite early, and ready to turn in.

August 30
I almost hate the thought that summer is about at an end, although fall is really lovely here. Not to worry; there are so many projects to do that fill me with joy.

I work on the blue dress after looking at the entryway project with dear Dino. It looks great, and perhaps will be finished this afternoon. No matter. It's wonderful.

The project will finish tomorrow after all, and we're so very pleased with the work. Now friends can walk safely to our main entrance gate.

August 31
David and his worker finish the project this morning, and even the neighbors tell us their work is beautiful. What do you think, Sofi? Here are photos of before and after:

We are expecting rain for the next five days or so, and as the morning progresses, wind whips up (I like that phrase) and Sofi stays right by my side. Dino has left to get doctor's prescriptions for his eye exams and procedure and blood test and go to the bank.

The wind portends that hurricane season is here, although we don't have much in the way of hurricanes here in Italy; thankfully they're mostly in the U.S. As we pray for our friends on the East and South Coasts of the U.S., through a crack in the shutters I watch leaves of the cachi (persimmon) tree wrestling with each other. Recalling the days of my youth, when Hurricane Carol wreacked havoc all up and down the East Coast, I view a colorless sky where clouds abound.

I work on the blue dress for our teenage friend from Paris, and before the day is through we'd like to have photos to send to her and her family of the finished costume she has patiently been waiting for. But it still needs a zipper, and for that we'll have to drive to Viterbo. I don't think I'm particularly adept at putting in a zipper, but will do some internet research to show me how.

I'm hoping there is enough blue fabric for a similar dress for grand daughter Marissa, for we have lavender colored fabric for Nicole's dress and Marissa likes the color blue.

Will we lose power here? There's no telling, but we've plenty to read, candles and a gas stove, so not to worry. As the day progresses, only one short thundershower descends, and in not more than five minutes we've some lovely sun. I take advantage of that by grooming the Santolina growing in front of the studio, and finish about half of it before Dino returns; the farmacia has not opened for its afternoon hours.

It's time for a nap and some reading. Dino rises in an hour or so to leave for appointments, so Sofi and I get up, too, moving to the studio to catch up with you and take another look at the the blue dress.

Dino has taken the old Panda to Giorgio, for it is time for its bi-annaul revisione, but it needs some brake work. Giorgio fixes it and then arranges for its revisione, so by the end of the afternoon it is ready and can be driven for another couple of years. What an old workhorse this 1986 Panda is!

The day ends with most of the chatter on the news about the Republican political convention, but we're not really interested. It's been amazing how judgmental our North American friends seem to us now. Life in the U.S. is so very complicated that as friend Tom once said, "Don't sweat the small stuff; and it's all small stuff".

That's how we feel about most of the issues in the U.S. news these days. We're learning that politics, even here, is something to be ignored unless we can do something about it. Since I am still waiting for my Italian citizenship, I just happily soldier on...

And so another month ends, hopefully waving goodbye to the incredible heat. Speriamo di si! (We hope so.)

I bet you wish you had the complete collection! (no fees were received for this.)

September 1
Right on time, today's temperature is decidedly cooler, buoyed by lots of wind. As Mill Valley friend Mary commented years ago, there are plenty of dancing trees right outside our window. Hope we'll see her later this fall.

Sofi stays by my side, no matter where I go, and when we're outside on the terrace after Dino leaves for his appointments, I wave to dear Luigina, who walks down Via Mameli toward me to feed her gallini (hens) and probably also her pulcini (chicks).

She touches me so by her many kindnesses to me and to us. On this morning, she asks, "Tutto a posto?" (literally, is everything in place?) meaning, "Is everything all right with you?"

I tell her yes, everything is fine. Here's an Italian bit for you:

It's customary when greeting or walking by a neighbor or friend in Italy to ask them how they are. One of the most common questions is: "Tutto a posto?"meaning, "Is everything fine?", but literally it means, "Is everything in place?"

The usual response is: "Si! Tutto a posto, niente in ordine". That phrase translates to: "Yes. Everything is good, nothing is in order." Being a very organized sort, Italians like to laugh at themselves.

I do a couple of loads of laundry, for it is the weekend when costs for power are less here. With the wind, I move the drying rack back against the balaustra (balustrade in front of our door) to protect it a bit, after my first effort resulted in the whole thing falling onto the gravel beneath. Perhaps the next load will sit on a drying rack in the cucina estate (summer kitchen).

I'm in a new mode with the change of another season, albeit a bit early. September is a lovely month here; often it's the best weather month of the year, although new renters in Tenaglie for a week may not agree.

We've not eaten tuna salad sandwiches all summer, so why not today? Dino likes the idea, too. I recall tuna salad sandwiches being favorites growing up.

Speaking of the past, could you imagine that on Sept. 1, 1939, World War II began as Nazi Germany invaded Poland? Why is it that on any date you name, war rages in some part of the world? I suppose that won't change during my lifetime, and how sad is that?

Dino arrives home and we have pranzo together as usual. After all these years together, we still enjoy each other's company. How fortunate we are!

The Formula-1 racing season is back after the being on hiatus for the month of August, so Dino gets ready to watch the pre-race trials on Saturday; a time in which the first ten drivers will be chosen in order. This is a special race weekend for Michael Schumacher, for it will be his 300th race. For so many years, he reigned supreme; these past several he has not fared so well.

I'm very tired; perhaps it is the weather. So Sofi and I take a nap while Dino remains downstairs in front of the TV. In a bit he'll meet a couple in Attigliano to take them to their rental apartment in Tenaglie. Sofi and I will remain here.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, prominent Vatican figure, dies at 85 - By Livia Borghese, for CNN
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a prominent Vatican figure and one of the more progressive voices in the Catholic Church, died Friday at age 85, the Archdiocese of Milan announced.

Martini suffered from Parkinson's disease and died at his residence in Milan, where he had lived since 2008, when the disease forced him to leave Jerusalem, the archdiocese said.

A public viewing was scheduled for Saturday at Milan Cathedral and the funeral for Monday.

Pope Benedict XVI sent his condolences to the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, remembering his "beloved brother that served with generosity the Gospels and the Church."

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, called Martini "an expert and passionate in the Holy Scripture." Martini was born in 1927 and entered the Society of Jesus at age 17.

Pope John Paul II appointed him archbishop of Milan in 1979 and proclaimed him cardinal in 1983. In 2002, at the retirement age of 75, Martini moved to Jerusalem to dedicate himself to Biblical studies, according to his official Vatican biography.

Martini was known for his progressive position on some of the Church's most controversial issues, including priestly celibacy, the use of condoms, euthanasia and homosexuality.

Even after his retirement, Martini raised "subtle though crucial objections" to the Church's opposition to all cases of assisted fertility, distribution of condoms to AIDS victims, and so-called right-to-die cases, Time magazine reported in 2007.

He "politely challenged" the pope's strong condemnation of an Italian government proposal to legalize civil unions for homosexual partners and voiced support for the ordination of women as deacons, Time reported. Italy's ANSA news agency said Martini was considered one of the more liberal high-ranking representatives of the Catholic Church.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano remembered Martini's "innovative paths in the inter-religious dialogue," as well as the "enlightening and concrete suggestions" he received from the prelate in each of their many encounters, especially on social themes like immigration.

Martini was one of the papabili, or papal contenders, at the 2005 Conclave that elected the current pope.

Now that he's in heaven, is there another "liberal" cardinal alive? Will the College of Cardinals turn even more into itself, or is there hope that a flame still burns to light the way toward more openness in the future? It's worth a prayer or two from this lowly Catholic...

Dino leaves to greet more new renters and take them to their flat, while Sofi and I turn in to read and take a nap. By the time he returns, more clouds emerge, but the temperature remains mild. I've been able to do two loads of laundry and hung them out on the drying rack with no problems.

Later, a headache emerges, and after a dose of 1000mg Tachiprina a loud ringing in my ears remains. I take a difmetré while Dino goes to the farmacia and we'll have a very quiet evening, for sure. Dear Sofi remains right by my side.

We've confirmed another pizza night here on September 10th, with Don, his daughter Katie, granddaughter Lily Grace, Simona and Jamie and their two children, Thomas and Emily and of course, dear Giuseppe and Steven. It will be fun, and if there is rain, we'll reschedule. It's not fun making pizza outside in the rain.

September 2
How insane is this?

For Arizona women, pregnancy now begins two weeks before conception. What?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer helped pass the draconian "Women's Health and Safety Act" bill into law. It has neither a woman's safety in mind nor does it define health in any medically sound way.

Beyond ignoring common sense by making a legal pregnancy start two weeks before a biological pregnancy, it drastically reduces the timeframe in which a woman can legally obtain an abortion. Under the new law, by the time Arizona women find out their baby has a life-threatening illness, they are too late to choose to end the pregnancy. Women could be forced to carry their child to full term just to have it die in their arms hours later.

This has proven traumatic and shameful for many women. Arizona seeks to punish women rather than consider anyone's safety or health -- mental or physical.

Tell Governor Brewer to repeal this invasive and medically unsound law and trust that women make responsible decisions!


Back here in little Mugnano, it's Sunday morning and the weather is decidedly cooler, with a colorless sky warning of inclement weather. Not to worry.

We drive up to church, and I take my place with my Coro members and sing away. Don Angelo is the priest, but does not see me as he arrives, for he is a bit late and MarieAdelaide is on the aisle of the second row where I usually sit. No matter.

I am so amazed that I can understand most of what is said on this morning, and take everything in seriously. But when we sing Madre Fiducia Nostro, there is a noise and a gasp behind me and dear Augusta faints. Daughter in law Laura takes over immediately, lays her on the bench and raises her legs. Someone rushes out to get something for her to drink, for she has fainted before and has problems with diabetes.

As others take care of her, Laura is consoled away from the action by Gigliola, and I walk over to her and hug her. In the meantime, her son Mauro is on his knees in front of his mother, as she opens her eyes and tries to get her bearings.

Don Angelo ends the service on the spot, and many of us stand around. I'm particularly moved by the woman who mostly stand strong and hug each other when they need it. It is particularly strange that this dear woman waited for her month to end, and now that it is September 2nd, she seems to lose her strength.

Dino and I leave and the village is silent, in prayer for our dear neighbor.

After a trip to Il Pallone and a merenda(snack), we return home to Sofi and I continue with a bit more laundry. It will surely rain, so the third load is put on a rack in the summer kitchen.

After pranzo, Dino watches the Formula-1 race in Belgium, while Sofi and I return upstairs to make the studio/guest bedroom ready for Don Francis, who is to arrive for the night.

Our dear friend arrives, and we have a sweet visit. I love seeing him so positive about life. The project about Saint Peter the Martyr is not dead after all, and in the next weeks hope to settle the matter. There will be at least one painting for the ceiling, one that I can paint here at home on canvas and can be applied to the ceiling with an ornate border/frame to be done by another friend and artist of his.

We'll all leave by 9 AM tomorrow; Don Francis to visit friends in Assisi and the three of us to drive to Rome for a date with the dentist for cleaning. Sofi will wait for us in the car and then we'll drive home. Since the weather is decidedly cooler, we're not worried about her.

September 3
Sorry yesterday's post was so long.

We're all up early, and leave as planned. Don Francis drives North while we drive South, and the weather is cool. We arrive in Rome early, and are taken early by our dentist, so we're out of there before noon, driving back and arriving home mid afternoon after a long walk to find the church where the painting of St. Peter the Martyr is to be seen.

The church is right near the Pantheon. We buy a postcard of the painting to study, and have a long walk back to the car. All is mellow here, so we take a nap. We're all really tired. Sofi has had plenty of exercise in Rome, with her little feet doing double duty to keep up with us. Based on lessons learned, she no longer rushes ahead, but walks by my side. Since she's my shadow, it's wonderful.

There's trim to add to the tablecloth I've kept unfinished for dear May Elin, and tomorrow we'll drive to Viterbo to pick up more trim for it. Once we've determined the correct size, I'll add the trim and finish it...subito! How sad. Tonight is the annual Macchina di Santa Rosa in Viterbo, and it might not happen if streets are slippery or it rains. Don't know what that means. In either case, we are not going there. Once a lifetime is enough. There are just too many people.

Follow this link to see photos and the story I wrote a couple of years ago.


September 4
We awake early to rain, steady and mellow, and look forward to seeing May Elin and Olav. Dino and Sofi stay at home, and neither of them are too happy about it. I'm sorry, but the trip won't take long.

May and Olav pick me up, and Olav drives us to Viterbo to my regular fabric shop. May has never been to this shop before. I show her around, delighted that she's wide-eyed with astonishment at the variety and quality of the fabric choices. After a bit, we find the trim she wants for her tablecloth, a tablecloth I am sewing for her. Once she decides if she wants the cloth to be square or a rectangle, and the exact size, I will finish the trim and return it to her.

I so love doing things for people I love, and these two are certainly included in the group. On this day, I pick up one roll of blue thread, which May insists on buying, but that is all. Dino is pleasantly surprised when I arrive home to Sofi and him and return all the money I've taken with me. These days I keep no money of my own, for I'm hardly ever without Dino in a store, and he likes to act as the family banker.Come no?

Here's something I have taken for granted for as long as I have been cooking. In Italy, there are not as many things to buy as there are in the consumer-hungry U.S., and substituting knowledge is helpful. Here's one:

Baking powder Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake making. It is made from an alkali, bicarbonate of soda, and an acid, cream of tartar, plus some kind of filler like corn flour or rice flour that absorbs moisture.

The powder is activated when liquid is added, producing carbon dioxide and forming bubbles that cause the mixture to expand. For this reason, it is important to get your cake mixture into the oven quickly once the 'wet' ingredients have been added to the 'dry' ingredients.

Self-raising flour is made from plain flour combined with a small amount of baking powder.

Prepare it

To make baking powder, combine half a teaspoon of cream of tartar and quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. This provides the equivalent of one teaspoon of baking powder.

To make self-raising flour add one teaspoon to 110 grams of plain flour.

Store it
In an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Va bene!

I hear a familiar sound, and look outside the side studio window to see neighbor Peppe's orto covered with nursery cloth. His fall and winter vegetables and lettuces have been planted precisely in rows and are tented so that they can grow with plenty of room around them. It's a wonderful sight. Bravo, dear Peppe!

We've eaten pranzo and Dino has left to meet with a woman to show her some properties in a nearby town. The weather remains a bit dismal, so Sofi and I take a nap until Dino returns.

There will be three evenings with friends beginning tomorrow. Tomorrow will be movie night here, and for that I will make cheese scones to have with the risotto. I've emailed Candace to request that she bring one of her famous lemon meringue pies. If she does not see the email, no problem; we'll have something else to serve after the risotto, and perhaps a salad in between.

September 5
There's fog this morning when Dino arises. He has medical appointments at the hospital in Orvieto early, so Sofi and I stay in bed for an hour or two.

We spend the next couple of hours in the studio, searching for files of Saint Peter the Martyr and finding a binder about the project. But there is so much to look at, that I spend another hour moving and sorting folders and art inspiration and books. We certainly have too much "stuff", and much of it needs to be sorted and/or thrown out.

Let's not fret; sun appears and it's time to enjoy a bit of it while we wait for Dino to return. He returns and tells me that his EKG results were fine. In typical Italian fashion, he had to wait and wait for procedures.

Giving up on the blood test at first, he traveled to another part of the hospital for the EKG and waited and waited. Once that was done, he returned to the site of his first procedure, and would you know it that his number had just come up, probably two hours after he took his number! He was given his blood test and that only took a minute. Welcome to Italia.

Pretty weather continues, but it's not too hot. Those days have probably passed. I give Sofi her monthly dose of medicine (drops on the back of her neck) and it makes her lethargic. She's not happy with me at first, but rallies when we eat, and is very happy with me when I give her my plate with just a bit of pasta and sauce on the bottom.

Tonight is movie night here with Candace and Frank. I'm feeling lethargic, too, and looking forward to a nap. Later I'll fix zucchini fritters and perhaps stuffed zucchini flowers. Perhaps there's no reason for risotto; a salad will work just as well. With a red pepper dip for chips, we'll snack the evening away. No need to get too serious.

But what Dino wants is my risotto, so risotto it is. No fritters, but we have enough zucchini flowers for two for each person. I use some of the special breadcrumbs from France after dipping each one in egg batter, and stuffed with tiny bocconcini mozzarella and an anchovy, they are delicious.

Our dear friends arrive and we eat first, finishing with Candace's spectacular lemon meringue pie. She finishes the pie here by whipping the egg whites with a whisk (!). How strong her right arm is to do this by hand! I'd need to use a mixer.

I preheat the oven high, and she puts the pie in to cook the whipped little white mountaintops on top of the pie. It's more than delicious. We're fortunate that she leaves us two pieces for tomorrow.

The movie we watch, "Le Comiche" is a movie only Italians or Italophiles would love. It's boffo, and silly, with two policemen and their adventures.

I took a medicine cocktail earlier, feeling a migraine coming on, and the medicine seemingly did the trick. Candace and Frank leave for home and we clean up the kitchen, so that it's immaculate in the morning. It's terrible waking up to find a kitchen full of dirty dishes.

September 6
We wake to fog, but by 9 AM there is sun. We're up early to go to the parrucchiere (hairdresser) in Attigliano, but there are two women being waited on and another three or four waiting. That means they would not take me this morning. So there's no reason to wait. I ask if I can be the first person this afternoon, and they tell me to come at 2 PM...sometimes a bit sooner. So I'm hopeful we'll arrive there at 1:30 or so.

Thursday morning is market day in Attigliano, so we all visit the market, with Sofi by my side. Dino finds a couple of pomodori that are sufficiently ripe, and we meet a number of people we have not seen for a while, including Cristina, who we'll have do some garden work for us perhaps later this month. She is a very good worker and quite friendly.

Back at home, Dino cleans up leaves dropped from the osmanthus plants growing on our wall side of the new path to our main entrance. He's so in love with willow trees that I agree that we can buy one this autumn to grow in our far property. He's happy.

I continue to clean up books and papers in the studio while Dino receives a call from David and drives off to supervise something in May's garden property. We need to leave early for Attigliano this afternoon, but don't know what will happen, depending on whether Dino is delayed. Either way, a long wait for me at the parrucchiere is certain. No matter.

I check the spelling of the word parrucchiere and am getting more adept at the Italian language. I only miss one of the first "r's" in the word.

Back in the U.S., the Democratic Convention has heated up, although it's difficult for us to become excited. Yes, we'll vote for Obama, but life there is so frenetic. I suppose we're getting older, although we're always as busy as people much younger than we are.

I spend five hours (!) at the hairdresser and Dino is patient but understandably miffed, as am I. It takes more than three hours for me to finally sit in a salon chair, although I'm somewhat happy with the results.

I have five minutes at home to change and put on some makeup before we leave for James and Diane Charney's home outside Orvieto...way outside Orvieto. The white road is so rough that we're wondering how anyone could buy a property so difficult to reach. But once we are there, the company is great and the setting is just beautiful. We spend several hours there, then drive home to a sweet doggie.

I'm worried about Dino's eye, and in the next days will make a major effort to begin to do a lot more exercise and be strong for my dearest one. It's after midnight, so I'll get back to you after a night's rest.

September 7
Is there a cena tonight? When Sofi and I take a giro around the loop below our house this morning, some neighbors say no, some say yes, some say they are not going. When we return home, Dino thinks there is a cena tonight, but we will see. The exercise makes me feel great, looking forward to more of these on an ongoing basis.

While I catch up with you in the studio, Sofi lies content in her wicker bed next to me...eyes closed and gently dreaming. Dino wants tuna salad sandwiches in the lovely rolls made in Bomarzo, so drives off to pick them up when he visits our pharmacist, Vezio, to ask about the calming medications for dear Sofi.

The weather is lovely, with a pale blue sky and warm temperatures; but not too warm. Back at home, I don't have a lot of energy but spend time in Dino's absence to do more organizing of the many files in our studio/office.

Dino arrives home and after using freshly baked local rolls from Orte known as rosettes (because of their shape) and the tuna salad I have just made, we eat them with caprese and take a nap. There's plenty more to file away in the studio, but did we save enough file folders to turn inside out and reuse? Can't seem to find them.

There is a cena tonight after all, for those full time Mugnano residents, after the summer folks have left. It's held on the side of Lake Bolsena at Isola Blu Ristorante, and although there are only sixteen of us, we have a good time and there is fish course after fish course after fish course plus a green salad and dessert and plenty of wine. We know everyone and it's a casual and friendly group, with couples from two former enemy families even sitting near each other and conversing. Life has settled down, we believe, for everyone.

The strangest sight is the moon on the way home, looking like a slice of orange the size of a half moon. I think it will spend the night right over our village, but as we drive home on curvy roads we view it to our right, then to our left, and it never quite seems to sit on top of little Mugnano.

We took Sofi with us, although she had to stay in the car during our cena, but we walked and fed her first, and although she barked at the beginning, settled down in a bit. When we took her out of the car, she was happy as could be, and sat on my lap all the way home, with kisses for Dino and for me.

Arriving home just at about midnight, I spend a few minutes catching up with you and then we all settle into our beds, with Sofi right next to my side of our bed, albeit quite a bit lower. Our bed is quite high; high enough that I have to rise myself up to my full height to climb aboard, but no matter.

September 8
We all drive to Viterbo this morning, with a goal of picking up a special collar to calm Sofi from Vezio our pharmacist on the way, and a new gabbia (cage) for her; one that she can enter and exit from the side. The one we have has a broken latch; one she has worked on and pulled a bit out of place. No matter.

We find both, and the special collar works almost right away. She is calmer and a bit sleepier. The cage is now in the kitchen, with a folded entrance that leans on top, so she can rest there on a pillow to make it more comfortable for her. Speriamo.

Dino picks up a few ripe apples from the Tenaglie property and we'll try them later. The black figs, although gorgeous, are not that sweet, so we don't bring any home. Perhaps it was the unrelenting heat this summer that starved the fruit of its natural sugar.

On the drive, I see painting after painting in my mind, as if I'm a photographer clicking away. These days, I have much less energy, and painting in oils takes a lot of time, so my ability to paint lots of subjects is just not realistic, although my dreamer self enjoys each "frame".

Earlier in Viterbo, we picked up a zipper of the perfect shade of blue for the dress I am making that needs one. I also see a large remnant of a gorgeous shade of emerald green, one that will be perfect for Nicole, and I pick up matching thread, just in case. I'm not sure just what I will fashion for her, but it will be special. Perhaps I'll sew a few rows of my personal gathered ruffles just in case we'll want to use them.

We speak with May Elin and her friend Margaret, who are relaxing on their balcony, they'll come by later.

She now has the measurements for her tablecloth, and I'll take out the sewing machine and possibly sew the border and the trim for it either tonight or tomorrow. I'd love to give it back to her almost right away so that she can enjoy it while she's here. She is so very dear to us.

After pranzo, Dino watches the Formula-1 trials, while Sofi and I come upstairs to take a nap, and perhaps to read. These September days are a joy. Our ballots are in for the U.S. Presidential Election in November, so we'll fill the out and mail them this week. At least there is somewhere where I'm welcomed to vote!

It's still summer here, and while surfing the net I come across what looks like an easy cold dessert. Let's try it!

lemon mousse
Let's try using yoghurt!
Serves four:
* 250 grams of natural yoghurt,
* 200 grams of sugar,
* 50 grams of butter,
* juice of five lemons and
* four eggs (separated).

Beat the egg yolks. In a heatproof bowl over boiling water, melt the butter, add the lemon juice, sugar and yolks. Heat for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. When done, remove from the heat and let cool.

In the meantime, beat the egg whites until peaks are formed. When the lemon mixture has completely cooled, add the yoghurt, then fold in the egg whites.

Using four small cocktail glasses, divide the mixture and leave it in the frigo for at least two hours. When serving, try a little grated lemon rind on top.

September 9
On another lovely morning, we awake and drive to Il Pallone to shop for tomorrow's pizza night after attending mass at our church in the borgo, while Sofi tries out her new gabbia (cage).

Don Daniele is our priest, and leads us well, as usual. I feel particularly close to the spiritual side of my life these days, and take in all he has to say during his homily. Amazingly, I understand most of it.

Although Sofi is on my mind as we drive to Il Pallone for caffé and shopping, we do not stop to check in on her. We arrive home to find Sofi doing fine, although there are signs that she did try to escape while we were gone. We pronounce the cage a success, although we're not sure about the collar. As the day rolls on, she seems calmer, as long as she is near me.

This is a Formula-1 race day, with the race in Monza, so Dino grills steak for our pranzo, I fix a baked potato mixture, and we have a bit of dolce before he takes his place on the couch. In the meantime, since tomorrow is a pizza night, I spend a couple of hours sautéing vegetables and separating them, each in its own container. That way, when it's time to fix the pizzas, everything will be right where I need it.

Sofi and I take a nap, and Dino follows us after the race has ended, with Lewis Hamilton taking first place. After a couple of hours, I feel a bit rested, and return to the kitchen after catching up with you to make the dough and put it in the frigo overnight to rise.

I've made two batches, enough for eight pizzas, although we may not make them all. We have yet to hear from Simona, for she and Jamie and their two children have gone camping, and that means that the four of them may or may not come tomorrow night. We won't know until tomorrow, so I make sure we'll have enough dough either way. It's not a problem.

September 10
With pizza on my mind, what's more important is what's going on with Dino's health, so we drive to the hospital in Orvieto to pick up his test results. The dough sits patiently in the frigo.

With good test results at the Orvieto hospital, Dino walks over to the section where the eye experts are, and is given eye drops for his left eye, drops that work almost immediately to reduce the cloudiness in his eye.

We drive home, where I prepare for tonight's event, taking the pizza dough out of the frigo and separating it into rounds; then putting the rounds on sheets that are covered with wet cloths, so that the dough won't form a hard crust on top.

Simona and Jamie and their two children are not coming, so Dino invites a different Simona and her husband Ken. They are staying for a couple of weeks at one of the rental properties in Tenaglie and happily are available. We suggest they liason with Don and Katie and follow them. Va bene.

What a lovely group tonight! There are pizzas galore, and I admit I've fallen in love with Lily Grace, looking forward to making a special outfit for her soon. Yes, there's always something new to add to the list; a new project I'll look forward to doing.

We finish with chocolate cupcakes in little glass dishes split open with lemon and strawberry and peach ice cream on top. With a number of the guests from the same part of England, we're happy to have introduced them to each other.

Here are some photos of the pizzas and the participants. Enjoy!

It's past midnight before we've put everything away (there are three uncooked pizza rounds ready for another meal or two or three) and done the dishes, but we're not about to go to bed and leave a mess for the morning. I feel some stress in my neck and back, but no matter.

September 11
During the night a headache grew and grew, despite taking a medicine cocktail before we turned in. So I'm up taking a cold shower and washing my hair as steam seems to rise from my head. How the temperature of my head rises when I have a headache!

In a kind of fog, I go about the morning and it is a lovely one. Dino, sweet and concerned about my health, prepares caffé and we eat slices of a delicious apricot torta brought by Simona and Ken last night.

Dino wonders how many pizza nights we've had this summer, and by going back over the menus, it appears we've had them nine (!) times this summer. Basta!

Rosina calls down to Dino as he gets ready to do a bit of shopping for pranzo, and through the window opening I think I hear something about coro practice tomorrow night. I've been thinking about dropping from the group, and perhaps it's time. Yes, I'm slowing down...

Dino reminds me that staying in coro is reaffirming my attachment to the village, it's traditions, its beliefs, its people. So for the present, I'll relent.

After pranzo, Sofi and I return upstairs, me with an ice pack. I'm still not feeling well. If one could be described as "Out of it", that would be an apt description.

A few hours later we're awake, watering and cleaning up the garden before settling in for an evening of TV watching. I'm still groggy but so what?

Dino talks with Terence and we're looking forward to spending a few weeks with him and of course seeing some American movies later in the year. Angie and the girls will be a treat to spend time with, especially for me, and with a sewing machine at the house I'll probably sew up a few costumes, but not as many as in past years.

September 12
I'm awake early, and under what seems like overcast skies, take a shower and plan to do plenty of sewing this morning; that is, unless dear Dino has something else in mind. There's always tomorrow. Hi Mom!

Do you believe that those who were once close with us and are no longer on this earth can hear us? I do, especially my parents, so now and then speak to each of them silently with a smile on my face.

Yes, yesterday's date has changed so many of us, and with an overcast sky I'm thinking of a changed world.

Dino needs to buy metano for the car and we need a couple of plants for the new planter that he mounted on the outside of Peppe's wall, facing the front gate.

He suggests Pinzaglia, the vivai (nursery) on the Bassano road, but I am doubtful. Of course I agree, but after we've walked around, see nothing but uncared for plants. The owners and operators are lovely people, just don't seem to have the help they need. And so, we drive down to Orte to see if a little shop might have two pretty plants.

It's also time we stop for a caffé with Alberto at his new bar inside the borgo, and I think it's called La Colonna, named for the small piazza across the way where people can sit on plump cushions and have a merenda (snack) while they relax.

Yes, do visit him. He speaks English and welcomes us heartily. It's as if he's experiencing a new life, and this one agrees with him. If you're in the area let us know and we'll show you how to get to the bar. Tell him we sent you for a welcoming response.

We stop at the little shop below the borgo and pick up two lovely plants named Erica, then set them in the planter when we arrive home. Tonight when there is no sun shining upon it, Dino will add stones to the bottom and more soil. It's a lovely addition, although it may not survive a cold winter.

Perhaps then we'll plant tiny cypress or something else that will survive the cold and rain.

Back at home, although I'm realizing I have less and less energy, I'm going to try to finish sewing the trim on May Elin's tablecloth, especially since the machine sits right out on the table waiting for me. Come no? I'm thinking that if it rains later this afternoon or tonight that I won't go to Coro. I really am a kind of a hermit, although I also love being around people. I suppose I'm always in one kind of dream or another...

Dino wants pizza for pranzo, and we have two left, so why not? The pizza is delicious, and we'll still have one more left after today's meal. I understand I can freeze unmade pizza dough, but wonder what the quality of the finished pizza will be. Perhaps we will try it sometime. Just not now.

I finish sewing trim on the tablecloth, and it will be waiting for our dear friend when she returns next month. I'd like to do a trim on the opposite side of the cloth so that she can use it on either side, for the fabric is a bit different in color on each side. But there's a lot to do now, so better set it aside.

After a short nap, I am told that I have an important new commission to do a very large painting for a friend's church located an hour or two below Rome. The painting itself will be about two meters wide by almost four meters high...It will be the copy of a religious painting hanging in a church in Rome.

Tomorrow we'll drive to Rome and study the painting. I'm told I can paint it here, and our ceilings are 3 meters high, so perhaps I'll turn either the studio or the salone into a work room.

I'm quite excited about it, especially for spiritual reasons, and with Dino the expert project manager in charge of the specific details regarding size and stretching and mounting before I actually paint, I can just dream, which is what I do so well. Our friend tells me to roll the painting up when it is finished and he will pick it up; then have it mounted and attached to a special cornice that is being prepared to frame it for the ceiling.

Dino's eye is much better, so perhaps those drops he was given yesterday did what they were supposed to do. We're both relieved, so please don't worry. Thanks.

With wind outside blowing around, Dino thinks we'll have rain. We need rain, so perhaps it will rain while we sleep. I forego Coro prova, for there's too much going on in our lives to walk up there at 9:30 at night to practice. Sorry, pals.

A domani.

September 13
We're a bit late leaving the house, but arrive in Rome in a bit of rain and walk around a bit in more rain, but mostly it's clear. We visit the church (Santa Maria Sopra Minerva) where the tall painting that I am to copy for Don Francis' church is mounted on a wall. There's time to also visit the art store, so by the time we're on the drive back home, we've picked up the canvas for the large painting project and some art supplies, plus a few gifts for the nipotini and rest of the family in America.

We're really tired, but happy to have had a successful journey to Rome with Sofi by my side for most of it. She's happy, too, but tired as well.

September 14
Rain, rain, rain. Finalmente!

Dino leaves on the early side for a trip to Viterbo by himself. Of course he's going to a FIAT dealer to check out the new cars and colors. I'm hoping he'll purchase from our friend Mario, but one never knows. I gave Dino my choice of color, but we'll see. It really doesn't matter.

I'm hoping he'll also visit our friends at KLIMT, the art store where we purchase many art supplies, to see if they know of anyone who can build a backing for the canvas on which to paint the Saint Peter the Martyr for Don Francis' church in Isernia, south of Rome.

While he's gone, Sofi and I spend the morning in the studio, where I find a file he has been looking for and do some sewing on a couple of garments for folks we love. I cannot find the zipper attachment, unfortunately, but it is around here somewhere...

There's so much to file and put away! Perhaps I can convince Dino to work with me this afternoon to do just that. Since I'm not able to begin the commission, I might as well work on the painting of young Cesar, and perhaps finishing painting the sunflowers he's carrying, sticking out of his backpack.

But it's noon already and time to slow down for a bit. In this small house, places to file things need a creative reorganization. And still no sigh of the zipper foot!

After a nap and a bit of studio reorganizing, Dino searches online for a projector to use for my painting project. He's so great at these details. I continue to search for the postcard we picked up in Rome and can't seem to find it.

Outside our window, rain continues and the earth needs it. Let's hope that does not mean that the earth will have trouble absorbing the moisture. Since the rain is a gentle one, perhaps all will be fine.

September 15
Sun! Wow it's wonderful!

Sofi chases her favorite lucertole outside on the terrace and it's like old times. Cristina arrives to give us a melon from her garden and a lovely image of the Madonna in Bomarzo, sewn on a little hanging. She is a dear woman, and perhaps we'll have her take out the boxwood here and there that are ready to be pulled out. She's gentler than Mario and seems to love it here.

I am having trouble coming up with an image of Saint Peter the Martyr from the church in Rome that is large enough that it can be blown up to size so that I can trace it with carta carbone (carbon paper) to use as a guide and determine just where the images will fall.

Instead, Dino searches for a digital projector online, thinking the image can be projected better for me. He's determined that we buy a projector, and we hope we can find one at a good price.

We eat Cristina's melon with our pranzo. I return to the studio to attempt to put in my first zipper, this time for the blue dress, since I've found what I think is the zipper foot.

After fooling around with it, I see that I can put it in myself, but have to take it out again, for it is not positioned perfectly. It's a good experience, for I've wondered for years if I could do this. Check one more thing off my life list of things to accomplish.

Dino wants to drive to Viterbo to price projectors this afternoon. He still needs to make the frame for the back of the canvas, so I'm tying up loose ends of projects here and there. Once I begin to paint, the room will be reorganized and that's all I'll be able to do...

Life is good; it's time for a nap, and then a drive to Viterbo. We look at three stores, but cannot find the right projector. Dino will continue to look online. In the meantime, we take the image to a shop that will blow it up and have it ready on Monday morning, so we'll return then.

We stop at KLIMT, our friendly art supply store, and pick up grafite, which we are told is better to use than carta carbone (carbon paper), in that you can use an eraser on it. Dino asks them for an estimate for making a telaio (easel) in the size I'll need, and their price comes in at just under €200. (That's so much better than the €900 from the shop in Rome.) We pick up several pieces of grafite, and drive home.

So Dino will make a cavaletto (easel) for me to use that is tall and strong. On Monday morning I hope we'll pick up the blowup of the image. In the meantime, we'll rearrange the studio to make it work.

At home, I take the zipper out of the blue dress I have made, and at least now I know how to put in a zipper. Tomorrow I'll re-sew it correctly and set it aside, trying to finish any unfinished sewing projects before Monday. It's all very exciting.

September 16
We awake to a lovely morning and put little Sofi into her new little gabbia (cage); this one with plenty of space and a large grate on the side that allows her to see a lot. She handles it well.

In church, Don Daniele is particularly wonderful, and I sit with my buddies in the second row and sing my heart out. We're not perfect, especially with a few pieces that are quite old that I've never sung before.

Although I don't have a great memory for many things, for a few things I have an outstanding memory, music being one of them. I can recall a piece of music in some cases with only one or two notes from the introduction. So I recall the pieces, having heard them before, and enjoy singing them a lot, especially with dear Vincenza by my side.

I ask Rosita when we'll have Coro prova this week, and she does not know, so I'm relieved. The only thing I'm not crazy about is walking up there for it late at night and back home close to midnight, but no matter. Life is so sweet here.

Outside the church, I find Dino speaking with Michel and Cecile, who are Marie's parents. They are here for a few weeks and are a joy to be around. We invite them to come by for a brindisi (toast) any afternoon, but since they are expecting guests, we're not sure if they'll come.

Michel does tell me he wants to steal the painting of Felice from us, and I tell him I'd be happy to do a painting of him in a cardinal's garb, for he tells us in his dreams he's the cardinal of Mugnano!

After pranzo there's plenty of time for a nap, and then work to prepare the studio for the painting project, including installing a zipper in the blue dress. But shouldn't I put a lining in it, as well as the beige damask dress? Let's wait until we drive to Viterbo to pick up lining from my favorite fabric store here, and finish them correctly. Come no?

September 17
Lovely weather continues. How fortunate we are!

We're up early and drive to Viterbo to pick up the blowup of the painting, this time in two sections that are each the entire length but a bit more than half of the width of the image.

We also stop at a particular LIDL store, one that sells marvelous bread and has a bread ovens right in the store and pick up all three loaves of the delicious bread made with wheat flour. We've eaten it before and it is excellent.

There's time for Dino to drop Sofi and me off at home, then drive to Attigliano to pick up dear friend Annika at the train station. She's arrived from Sweden, and after she drops her things off at their Mugnano house nearby, she comes up for pranzo on the terrace.

Today the meal consists of: grilled and dressed zucchini with menta, as well as grilled pork chops and a salad of sliced tomatoes, sliced bocconcini (little balls of mozzarella) and fresh basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

How long has it been since we've eaten pranzo on the terrace? I just can't remember, but it's wonderful and relaxing, with platters passed around and glasses of red wine. How better to be re-introduced to life in Italy?

Annika returns home, and has the use of our old Pandina for the next few days until she meets up with her dear husband Torbjorn and a group of medical professionals from Sweden, here for a tour of Italian medical facilities and a sharing of expertise.

Dino opens the ENEL bill for our electricity this summer and lets out an exclamation of horror. I had no idea the cost of using our wall air conditioners was so expensive. At €500(!) for three months, it was more than €170 a month to keep us cool. We'll remember that next year, for sure. As the euro keeps rising against the dollar, it now costs us $1.35 for each dollar we spend. Remember we live on dollars, but buy in euros.

After a nap, Dino builds the giant cavalletto (easel), or should we call it a cavallone? (big horse!) Do you know that if we changed the word to a cavalletta that it would be a grasshopper? What?

The wooden structure is more than the width of the painting and as tall as it can be in the room with space to drape the finished part of the painting over the top. After the painting has been finished and taken away, dear Dino will dismantle the structure and use the pieces of wood for other projects. I suggest to Dino that we leave the structure up and then I can use it to paint the Mugnano family tree. How long I've dreamed about that project, too!

I'm somewhat in awe, for am just realizing how huge the painting will be and what a challenge I have ahead of me. I do think that this structure will be a good backing for me to use to outline the image atop the canvas using the blowups and carta grafite, although moving around it while it is on the floor will be a bit awkward. Sofi now lies quietly nearby, staring at me with the most serious of expressions. Good girl, Sofi!

Dino rightly tells me that I am nuts; we can use an outside table to trace the images and it will be far easier for me to do. Va bene, Dino!

We turn the wood end for end so that Dino can add another length of wood; there is more measuring and moving pieces around, but it looks great! I'm somewhat wide-eyed; this time realizing that after this painting is finished I CAN begin to paint the Mugnano family tree! Boh!

We still have not settled on a projector. I suppose I can move forward without one, in the event we don't find the right one for this project soon. But then, anything's possible!

Back to the terrace, Dino turns madcap inventor, using two orange plastic drainpipes bought from a nearby hardware store. Each is cut lengthwise in two pieces; one piece to hold the unpainted rolled up canvas at the bottom and the other for the top of the structure so that the finished painted part can be slid over the back side with a gentle curve to protect the canvas from forming a line or a fold. He then hoses them off and we're finished for tonight.

Tomorrow I'll use a long table that we use outside for parties as a base on which to lay the canvas and then the carta grafite and lastly the blown-up image to do the drawing of the image upon. Let's hope the great weather holds up for another day. Inside all is ready.

Time to relax. Oh. Tomorrow we're driving to Todi to have pranzo with Pietro Cittabella and Helga. We'll see if there's time and I have the energy to do the tracing in the morning.

September 18
I'm not feeling terrific but no matter. The day is lovely. So let's pass on tracing the image and sit in the conch shell and read a bit while Dino continues to add to the cavalleto.

He has a new plan, intending to make a rigid structure rather than hinged legs so that it can stand on its own. On the way back from Todi this afternoon, we'll stop in Terni at Castorama or another hardware store to pick up additional things he tells me he'll need. He so loves these projects. What a guy!

While I catch up with you, Sofi lies behind me in her basket, just staring up at me. She's a wonder. With plenty of sun and plenty of lizards to chase, what's she doing inside with old me?

I slide her basket around and she's happy.

Dino speaks with Pietro and the restaurant in Todi is not open today, so we'll change plans and have pranzo with them in Todi tomorrow. I'm just as happy to be home with dear Sofi this morning while Dino drives to Viterbo to pick up the items he needs to finish his cavalletto project. That means that today we'll set up a long table on the terrace and I'll trace the images on the canvas.

With so much hate in the world, I continue my silent prayer for that hate to be transformed somehow to peace and understanding. But then, judging my fellow man/woman is not something I believe in. It's just not worth the angst.

Whenever you catch yourself judging your fellow man/woman, try to snap yourself out of it by thinking of something beautiful you've recently seen, or your favorite image. Thanks from me, just for reading this.

Back here in little Mugnano, sun shines brightly although I can't seem to get the energy to finish painting the sunflowers. Perhaps that means I won't enter the art competition this year. But then, I'm not much for competition, anyway, choosing instead to cheer on any effort anyone undertakes to make even a bit of the world a little more beautiful.

We agree that we're going to have KLIMT make the tellaio (basic stretcher frame), but are going to wait until I've traced the blown up image with a ballpoint pen and a sheet of grafite underneath to make the marks on the canvas itself. In order to do that, the canvas and then the sheets ofgrafite and lastly the blown up image will be anchored with pushpins and heavy clips against Dino's cavalletto.

We've agreed that it will be easier for me to do the tracing of the image at about the same angle, as I will later be painting. Is this too much information? Sorry. I'm taking you along on my adventure. I'm certainly enjoying it and hoping you are, too.

So I'm wondering if I should begin at the top of the canvas instead of at the bottom, where it appears that at the beginning it will be easier. I'll begin at the top, for there is a curved structure at the top to hold material with which I have finished. If I will paint that way, I surely should trace the image that way, top down.

Did I tell you I'm under 5 feet tall? Enter another challenge. Will I need a ladder to stand on for the top of the tracing? Or will we find a ponteggio to raise me up, as if I'm a muratore?Ha! What would Caravaggio do?

Here are a couple of photos of the structure. Bravo, dear Dino for your meticulous work! Let's take a rest; it's almost 8 P.M.

We watch a movie on TV; that is, Dino watches it while Sofi and I come up to bed after seeing the first thirty minutes or so. It's a WWII film with plenty of killing, so it's more than I want to see on this lovely warm night.

September 19
Our pranzo plans have changed again. Pietro and Helga want to eat in nearby Soriano instead of in Todi, so we drive to Viterbo this morning with dear little Sofi to find some kind of structure to raise me up a foot or two in front of the painting.

OBI comes through. Amazingly, there are four choices of ponteggios (scaffoldings), and the cheapest is abbastanza (good enough) and at a great price. We take it apart and Dino will rebuild it at home in the studio. We don't have a projector yet, but I'm hoping to move forward anyway with what we have.

Before leaving OBI, we run into Diego Costaguti and his chef in the parking lot, and decide to have some fun on Halloween, since it's not really celebrated here and Diego is a fun kind of guy. He wants to show Dino some properties, so Dino will do that soon. Sofi will stay home and I will paint while our little dear one gives me loving support.

If you ever want to hold a wedding reception or large event an hour or so North of Rome, he has a spectacular location, including a church perfect to hold a wedding.


As an aside, his family goes back five hundred years or more and its heritage is closer to Italian royalty than any family we know.

There's time to rush home before we leave for pranzo with Pietro and Helga. Dino recommends NonnaPappa on the outskirts of Soriano and they agree, so we visit our old friends and of course they want Sofi to have a free range of the place.

The menu is always splendid here, and we're welcomed as if we've been there recently. In years past, we ate there almost any time we went out to eat. The menu is non-typical and full of invention. Don't miss it if you're nearby. The chef/owner is Fidelia Iascia


Back at home we begin the next stage of the painting project, putting up the canvas by unrolling it from the top and securing it with push pins, then adding grafite (tracing paper) and finally the blown up image on the right side.

Once that's done, it looks so great that we agree that we'll put up the left side as well before I begin to trace the image. It's huge! What a wonderful project for me, the sognatrice (dreamer) and somewhat obsessed painter in oils.

Time to wind down for the night. Tomorrow is the doctor's appointment for me, trying to locate a good gynecologist, but it won't be until the afternoon, so I'll have most of the day to work on the painting and it will keep me from worrying. Don't you worry, either. Promise!

September 20
Roy takes dear friend Annika to the train station at 9 A.M., and since we don't have enough carta grafite to trace the entire image, he drives on to Viterbo to pick up two more sheets. I then I spend the rest of the morning tracing the design on the canvas through the carta grafite after Dino helps put up additional carta grafite. Sofi stays by my side, as though she's there to quietly lend me encouragement. What a dear!

We stop for pranzo, and when we return to the studio I'm a bit out of focus with all the lines already drawn. Before we leave for my doctor's appointment in Viterbo, we'll be ready to move the image up and secure the bottom half of the painting so that I can trace that as well.

I'm now concerned. How can we have a telaio made for the painting and get it in the car, not to mention fitting it through the doors into the studio? Oh. Don Francis will come here when it's ready and take it with him while it's rolled up, then arrange to have a telaio affixed to the back and have it hung on the ceiling of the church. That's more like it! Fa niente. Not to worry.

September 21
I awake with a blazing headache, take a difmetré and then return to bed with an ice pack. In an hour or so I'm a bit better, and the skies over our heads seem to have a headache too! Under a pale gray sky, clouds are bright in spots, very dark gray in others, with a rumbling look to them, just like my head!

Looking at the dear photo of Fifi the giraffe facing me, the day ahead will surely be better. So let's get up and face it...all of it!

A pale blue sky does emerge, and we spend a lot of the morning moving the image in the studio down so that I can trace the bottom part and get ready to paint the canvas itself. It's quite a challenge, but by noon we agree that I'm ready to return to the scaffolding to finish the tracing. Unfortunately for me, Dino does not smile when he's concentrating on a project; it saddens me for I think he's angry, although I'm relieved to know that he tells me he's merely concentrating.

With an image of the giraffe I lovingly call "Fifi" taped to the backboard behind the computer screen, I'm encouraged to smile at it each time while I catch up with you these days. It's a photo taken by dear friend Michelle when she was in Africa.

This morning had me imagining happy images, especially the imminent painting of this canvas. Thanks to Don Francis, I will make a few additions to the original image and although the main scene is rather ghastly, I'll do all I can to encourage the viewer to concentrate on the less violent parts and realize the aim is all about spirituality.

After pranzo I have no interest in a nap, with all my concentration on the gorgeous day outside and the image to trace in the studio.

Dino takes a nap; then leaves for Viterbo to return to the FIAT dealer. I think he's going to decide if he wants to trade the car in for a Fiat classic model 2012. It's a man thing, as far as I'm concerned, although I'm hoping it's not going to be either bright green or purple-red. I think he's determined to get a new car, but what do I know?

Here at home, Sofi lies in her studio bed and slumbers peacefully, wagging her tail any time I move around. I'm able to finish today's work without getting up on the scaffolding, just with a short stepladder, and by the time I'm through, I've taken down both the carta grafite and blown up images, rolled up the larger images and decided to wait for Dino's return to roll back the canvas itself. It's his project to supervise, so I don't want to take this important part away from him. I smile at Sofi and Fifi's picture instead and put things away until he arrives. Might as well feed Sofi her cena

. Dino arrives after visiting two FIAT dealers and it appears he wants the car in yet another dealership, one that is on hold until Tuesday. We'll see what happens on Monday, when he returns to meet with the salesperson again. Va bene.

There's no reason to move the canvas tonight, so I don't even bring up the subject. There'll be plenty of time to do that tomorrow, since it's only Friday, and we have no plans for tomorrow.

Tonight is a movie night and it's a lovely clear one, with a sliver of a moon and fellows in Bomarzo practicing their drum music. Or are we hearing sounds from Soriano? Next month is when they drumming sounds are heard for real, but it sounds as if we're in the wild, wild West and natives are restless. A few strange sounding birds nearby are calling out as well, but I have no idea what they are. Perhaps one day someone can clue us in. Until then, it's time to turn in. A domani.

September 22
We're surrounded by fog when we arise, and that's also what my head feels like. After a dose of tachiprina and some caffé and cereal, I'm awake and Dino helps me to move the canvas down so that I can begin to paint.

In the meantime, while looking for my old oil paints, which are in a better range of colors to use, I find some wonderful fabric purchased from France that I'll use to recover our cushions in the kitchen. Dino loves it!

After painting for about two hours I'm somewhat out of focus, although when I sit down to catch up with you I see only dappled clouds over a pale blue sky outside the South-facing window. That's more like it!

I remember that I've been counseled not to paint for more than two hours at a time. My problem is that I concentrate so intensely that it easily brings on headaches. Let's stay away from all that!

I've found my old paints, and use a combination of old and new paints to begin to paint with the cartoon as a guide. There are so many lines that I'm not always sure, but I am sure of the body of the first angel, so paint away, especially the areas of shadow. Won't bore you with details, other than to say that after leaving the canvas for awhile, the colors seem to sink in and give added meaning. How I love to paint in oils!

I'm not totally aware of the day, other than to say I spend a lot of it lying down with a headache and general malaise. There are events in the borgo later, and although I think I'd rather stay home, Dino walks up for the first one and when he returns I realize I'll rally and walk up with him later. The change in weather must have something to do with my not feeling well, for it is foggy and cool, after some hours of sun.

We walk up with Sofi at around 9 P.M., and it's a lovely evening. After walking around and greeting folks for half an hour or so, we walk home and sit in front of the TV. Soon it's time for bed, and with crickets serenading us, look forward to a cool and restful night. Hope it's the same where you are.

September 23
It's Sunday, and that means church. It's as if the sky is covered with one huge cloud, thinner in areas where the sun shines through, wispy at the edges where sun is more pronounced. Darkest where it is thickest in a gloomy blot on the sky, forming fishlike creatures swimming along, its in-between visages not sure of their direction, it seems to lower itself upon us, as if we're fighting to hold back the night.

Dino waters a bit, for the forecast is not for rain for the next ten days. I check in on Fifi and the painting, knowing that this afternoon will be full of creative play on the canvas. I do so love the photo of Fifi, looking out at me from the back of the bookcase where she lives, her sky behind her more blue than mine.

Our voting ballots in the mail for the upcoming Presidential election, the news is all about the candidates. Somehow, living here makes me less interested in the judgmental aspects of life in the United States. What is that all about?

I'd rather focus on what's lovely and kind here.

ANSA.it > ANSA English > News Italy president calls for govt reliability
'Good of Italy, Europe depends on it' says Napolitano - 21 September

(ANSA) - Rome, September 21 -
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Friday that the euro region's third-largest economy had to maintain "a concrete degree of institutional reliability", not only for its own good, but also for Europe as a whole.

Napolitano said he was quoting a personal letter addressed to him by world-renowned sociologist Ralph Dahrendorf in 1998, adding that the concepts are as relevant today as they were back then. Dahrendorf's 1998 "warning" to Italy, or better still his "concern" that there could be a return to "the familiar context of a crisis", still holds true today, Napolitano said. He added that worries that "stability" could "crack" were relevant today, citing the British-German expert.

I certainly hope that he finds time to sign my citizenship documents while busy with these other matters. But it's become almost less important to me, accustomed, as I am to be waiting, waiting...

We drive up to church while Sofi waits in her new gabbia for us, and Don Angelo gives me a pat on the arm as he walks up to the altar. He's such a dear man!

We sing wonderful hymns and I am able to grasp a lot of what he has to say today. Then it's time to greet all our friends outside and give hugs all around. Michel and his wife get special hugs and we will see them here this week for a brindisi or two, we are certain.

Tiziano wants help with a translation document, and si, certo! Anything to help our dear friend. He tells us that his work in the 1,000 year old tower is interesting; they have found an ancient cisterna part way up, and it appears that was the water source for the village at the time it was built. Makes sense.

We invite him to come by anytime, and to view the painting in progress; we're looking forward to his visit.

We drive to Il Pallone for caffé and food shopping; then return home under partly cloudy skies, where Dino drops me off and drives on to Tenaglie to check on the renters. While he's gone, I prepare a baked pasta dish for pranzo, after which he'll be glued to the TV to watch today's Formula-1 race from Singapore; a race in which Lewis Hamilton has secured pole position.

I check in with you and then prepare the pasta, while Sofi waits nearby for her pranzo. This afternoon I'll surely paint my heart out!

NSA.it > ANSA English > News

Escaped giraffe tranquilized, then dies of cardiac arrest -
Circus animal led police on chase through Italian town

21 September

(ANSA) - Imola, September 21 -
A circus giraffe who escaped onto the streets of a town near Bologna is dead after being tranquillized for re-capture Friday. The giraffe eluded capture for several hours, running amok and damaging cars with its 920-kilogram body.

Witnesses spotted its long neck from blocks away as it galloped across the historic center of Imola, crossing busy streets in early rush-hour traffic. Police eventually cornered the animal in the fenced parking lot of a Coop grocery store and subdued it with two tranquilizers. Soon after his return to the Rinaldo Orfei Circus, the giraffe fell down dead of cardiac arrest.

I look across at the photo of dear Fifi with love, for her photo reminds me how much I love giraffes. This story is so very sad. I'm wondering if there is a "giraffe whisperer" the way there is a "dog whisperer". I'm somewhat whispering to Fifi right now; then Sofi and I will take a nap, while Dino continues to watch the Formula-1 race, with Hamilton in the lead.

Don't remember who wins, but it is not Hamilton. As Sofi and I get up from a nap, Dino gets ready to lie down for his. Va bene.

It's time to paint, and with Sofi lying on her back in the wicker bed with her paws raised and eyes closed, I turn on the classical music station and let the music serenade me, while leaves and clouds dance in the breeze.

The rest of the day is a fog, although we do watch the redo of the Alfie movie with Jude Law. Is that what it's all about, Alfie?

September 24
Dino drives off to make a deal with the car dealer who is holding a Panda for him in a shade of grey we like. Italian sensibility, I think, is all about joy and color; so grey is not something they'd like to drive around in any day.

With an ache in the back of my neck, I'm going to ignore it and paint again. I have not captured the face of the larger angel in the way it was meant to be painted, so will take another run at it. It's the smallest details that seem out of step that can make all the difference.

Sofi seems content to lie in her basket bed nearby, so let's put on our painting coat from France while a lovely breeze dances around with the leaves outside the front window.

Dino likes the pasta dish I fixed yesterday, although I forgot to put in the artichoke hearts until too late, so there's plenty left and I'll add the artichokes underneath the pappardelle noodles.

Alfredo's, Rome eatery with heroic past, delicious present Owners helped Jewish families during World War II
17 April
(ANSA) - Rome - Italians named Alfredo often hear the glib exclamation Fettuccine! when they introduce themselves to foreigners, especially North Americans.

Alfredo Di Lelio, a Roman chef and restaurant owner from the early 1900s, may not have invented pasta al burro (pasta with butter), but his interpretation, the iconic Fettuccine Alfredo, carries his name and has been savored worldwide since the 20s. Millions of recipes are floating around, including one in the classic U.S. cookbook Joy of Cooking and many believe that the creamy sauce is an invention of Italian Americans. ''Not so,'' the current owner of Rome's famous Vero Alfredo restaurant, Isa Di Lelio, granddaughter of Alfredo I, told ANSA.

''My grandfather Alfredo's pasta, made even richer with three parts butter instead of two, was prepared for his wife when she was pregnant with my father, before he added it to his restaurant's menu in 1908''. Yet Alfredo's rich and nutritious creation went on to feed much more than his wife and the paying public. ''We went underground in 1944 when occupying forces in Rome began to round up Jewish families,'' one of those people, 84-year old Donatella Limentani, told ANSA. ''We had no game plan, no extra food supplies, we just knew that our only chance to live was to go into hiding''.

Alfredo's son Armando, later known as Alfredo II, was a long-time friend of Limentani's uncle Bruno and did not hesitate to help the family, along with many others in need. ''The risks were not only imprisonment, but torture and even death. Regardless, they made sure we had food,'' recalled Limentani, her voice wrought with emotion after more than 50 years. ''In the worst of times, they may have only had two spoonfuls themselves, but one went to us''. Before the war, Armando and Bruno had been the classic, bon vivant friends, arm-in-arm, reveling in the finer side of Rome's social life. It was, after all, a time when Hollywood stars flocked to the city and entertainment poured from the city's many venues.

As early as the 1920s Hollywood personalities began to frequent Alfredo's. Among the first were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who gifted the golden fork and spoon to Alfredo that have now become part of the restaurant's logo. Upon returning to Hollywood, they gushed about Alfredo's culinary finesse so much that the restaurant became a ''must do'' on the list of stars and VIPs visiting the Eternal City.

Some 90 years later, the significance of the golden cutlery has become even more symbolic. Eliana Pavoncello, daughter of Donatella Limentani, told ANSA: ''I had been working with the restaurant for events, looking at the logo every day and seeing their cutlery, then, one day at my mother's. ''I realized that the knife I was about to set the table with was the same design as the one used at Alfredo's - identical to the original gift from Pickford and Fairbanks,'' she said, smiling. ''It was like a bulb lighting up. One of the cornerstone symbols of the restaurant came from my grandparent's store, Limentani's. ''Our families were somehow bonded even before they knew it''. To celebrate the daily sustenance they received as children in hiding, then 14-year old Limentani and her seven-year-old brother wrote a rhyme they would sing when their aunt Margaret would return from Alfredo's restaurant with their daily bread. ''It is a children's song,'' she reminisced. ''But it was part of our ritual that kept us hopeful. It let our minds feel free... hunger is a physical sensation, but also the lack of freedom was insatiable. ''In a time when it was hard to know who was truly your friend the proof of one family's friendship came to us every day wrapped in a checkered table cloth''. Di Lelio said simply that: ''my father was a generous person. I am moved by stories I hear about him to this day''. Fettuccine Alfredo is a ubiquitous part of Italian cuisine worldwide. Just as the restaurant on Piazza Augusto Imperatore, with its volumes of guest books and snapshots of stars, politicians and personalities spanning 10 decades, is engraved into Roman culinary history, so will Alfredo and son remain in the unwavering memories of the families they helped save.

Rhyme by Donatella Limentani while in hiding, 1944: Dring Dring Dring Di chi e' la suonatina Che sentiamo ogni mattina? E' la tua Margaretina Con la borsa col faggoto Tu di corsa entri in cucina E ci porti da mangiare Con amore Margaretina.

Translation: Jingle jingle jing Whose is that ring We hear every morning? It is yours, little Margaret With your purse and tiffin you rush to the kitchen And you bring us our food With love, little Margaret.

Limentani is a fun place to visit when in Rome's Jewish Ghetto area. We have not been there for years, but thought it quite an adventure to step down those steps to the entrance of what appeared to be a cave full of thousands of things.

There is so much wind today! It appears it is South-Southwest, and our conch shell tips backward into two cypress trees, pulling up its tie-downs and two large cement tiles with it. We right it when we walk outside to survey what's gone on in the afternoon, before taking a nap.

Dino recorded the EMMY program in the U.S. and we watch it for a while, but I'm not a real fan of the program and its self-aggrandizement, although millions are. Va bene.

What's that all about? Well, I've certainly settled into the Italian lifestyle, that's for sure. But then I'm pretty much of an outsider anyway, beating to my own drum and finding peace and contentment in creative things. That means I'd like to return to the painting this afternoon, but it as well as this morning's wet brushes needs to dry a bit first.

Let's take a nap and read. I forgot to mention that Sofi's "Thunder Shirt" is too small. Her chest measurement of 18 inches is right at the outer limit of the XS and I'd rather it be comfortable. So although she loved trying it on and was supremely patient, the next size up will be much better, I am sure. Dino orders it; we'll have it soon to try. Va bene!

After a nap, I get up and paint, while Roy rests. Later we'll clean up and water here and there on the terrace. Although I'm to remake a painting for a church, I'm not thrilled with the tone of the color of the angels; it's too reddish in tone. Perhaps I'll make the colors more lifelike than they are in the painting. We'll see.

After watching the usual U.S. TV programs on SKY, I'm a bit bored by the repetitiveness and turn in to catch up with you and do some reading.

With drums drumming in the distance, it's a sign of fall; I can't determine if the sounds are from Bomarzo or Soriano. No matter. It's part of the Italian culture and there is plenty of history in these local towns and villages; we love all of it!

September 25
Dino has found a gynecologist for me and the kind doctor calls us back and there is an appointment for me...this afternoon! With no time to fret, I'll just gather my medical records and see what he has to say about my health. It's been a number of years since my last visit, so it's good to take care of our medical business. Dino has a procedure on Friday, so perhaps this is our medical week as well as our anniversary week.

The day begins cloudy and cool, but lovely as usual. I'm in a sewing mood, but the machine has been put away and the studio is all set up to paint. So might as well put on my paint coat and do just that, while Dino drives off to pick up food for Sofi's pranzo.

While my mind is in dreamworld at the canvas, Dino returns and cooks slices of chicken for dear Sofi's pranzo. After two hours of painting, I'm a big bleary eyed and know I must cease for the day. Brushes washed and set to dry at room temperature, I walk outside to find Dino around the side of the house, clipping branches of a loquat tree.

"This pile is for attacking...this pile is for surgery" he shows me the two piles set up just for that, while clipping away with his forbice (clippers). I've noticed from the bed that the view of the cypress trees and San Rocco is somewhat obscured by high branches of this tree. So I suggest that he concentrate of those, although I'm happy for him and for us that he has an interest in doing any of this work. Bravo, dear one.

I fix a pasta dish, mostly more leftovers, and put it in the oven while it heats up to temperature. By the time he's ready to come in, we'll eat, and there is another large pomodori with which to make caprese to go with it.

Dino thinks we'll have time for a nap before going to the doctor's, although we agree we'll be in Viterbo right at 4:30 to renew our medical permits, for they're only open for one hour a day. My appointment with the gynecologist is for 5:30, so we're hoping we can fit it in before that. If not, we'll return another day.

Dino thinks the projector he's interested in can work on a Mac after all, with the addition of an adaptor. I so respect his relentless search for the best of anything we buy at the best price, and the projector is one.

Perhaps we'll look for an adaptor in Viterbo this afternoon, depending on how everything else goes. I'm moving on without the aid of a projector, and wonder if it's necessary, although my painting mentor, David McEwen, advises that it is.

There is still no notice from the Italian Government that it's time for my citizenship to be finalized. On other fronts, the doctor is efficient and friendly enough. He recommends that I get a pap smear every two years, but how long has it been? I can't find out in the medical folder, so it's a good thing to have behind us.

We've gone to ACI and renewed our drivers' licenses, too, and friend Angela gives us a hug over the counter. She still looks young and beautiful. We also run into Clive, and he also looks the same. All is well with him, too. There is a woman with him, and we invite them over for a visit any time.

The process, once we are in the office of the person who handles these things, takes less than two minutes. He has me read the eye charts, and when it is Dino's turn, he does not have to even close an eye; I suppose since he is a man it may not be necessary for him to read anything at all...Boh! There we go again. Welcome to Italia.

Things at home are mellow, for tomorrow will be an adventure for all three of us.

September 26
I've remembered to send my brother an email card for his birthday, and have perhaps overdone it. Forgetting that I sent one early, I find out that I can send him a rock 'n roll singing birthday card, so do just that. He's 70 years young today!

Today is the thirty-first anniversary of the wedding of Dino and yours truly. What a funny experience that was, and despite many things going wrong, it was a great day and we're still blissfully happy together. What more could anyone ask?

We leave early to drive to Talamone and Lido di Tarquinia , where we walk a beach, thinking we'll visit a couple of them, and finish in Porto Santo Stefano, where we eat against a cliff overlooking the lovely town, a town that resembles Bellagio in the way it curves around itself.

At Il Pescatore, there is a lovely table for us at the corner, and servers just begin bringing out platters of food for us. It's all marvelous, and perhaps because the season has ended for the year, all meals are about the same, based on what's fresh.

There's an anchovy and sardine and swordfish appetizer, followed by extraordinary mussels in a buttery wine broth, served with plenty of bread for "fare una scarpetta" to dip up the broth. We don't have dessert there, for want gelato at a street-side shop as we walk around. Sofi loves all of it. In the restaurant, she was given her own big bowl of water in a china cup, and shared most of the fish with me.

We walk around the town a bit; then return to the car. We've driven up on a leisurely route, so take a more direct route home. Skies have been cloudy and windy, but no matter.

Soon, Annika and Torbjorn arrive for a visit, and we take out our special champagne glasses that we bought in Lucca earlier this year, and open a bottle of Prosecco. They are here for a while, and their tour has finished. I'm sorry it's too late for us to get the pizza oven going again for the year, but they invite us for cena tomorrow, so the celebration will continue, whether or not my citizenship papers arrive.

Rosina calls out to me when we're on the terrace to tell me there is Coro practice tonight at 9:30. In response, I raise my lovely glass to her and tell her we are celebrating, so don't expect me. Her response is to turn her head as if she did not see me. I think that means, "No matter. I just want you to know," as in "Don't shoot the messenger!"

It's been a lovely day, and with a stop at the FIAT dealer on the way home, Dino has not given up on buying a new car. Or has he????

September 27
There is talk about a car, but Dino thinks the deal is not a good enough one, so perhaps we'll keep Giallina for another year. What I do know, is that the economy all over Europe is terrible, and cars are not selling, per the auto show in Paris.

Thinking the auto salesman will ask him "What will it take for you to buy this car?", Dino studies the financing packages and what's included, so that when he meets with the fellow again, he'll have the conditions it will take. He wavers back and forth about whether to try to put a deal together or forget it. Giallina runs well, and in another year we'll have it paid off.

We leave the house with Sofi and stop in Il Pallone for caffé, then shop for the essentials for today and for the dessert I intend to make for tonight's cena at Annika and Torbjorn's house nearby.

Back at home, I find a great recipe and begin to make the crust for a budino di riso (rice pudding/cake), famous in Florence and other Tuscan towns.

In the meantime, Silvia arrives to strip little Sofi, and she comes out with a very happy tail and less hair on her body. Wirehaired daushunds are "stripped"; that is, their hair is pulled with a kind of a comb with a razor attached to it. It does not hurt; it's more like a device to thin the dog's coat.

We've had pranzo while Sofi and Silvia worked away on the terrace, and after Silvia leaves and we go upstairs to take a nap and for me to paint a bit, rain suddenly appears with a gusto.

I realize the camera is on the balaustra, and one of the electrical connections is open. So I close the opened electrical connection, a portable one that just need to be turned over, and bring in the camera and wipe it off. Hopefully the camera will be fine.

Thinking I'll do a bit more painting, by the time I catch up with you for the last two days, it's almost too late to paint for today. Might as well take a nap. It is mighty humid; definitely not a day to do anything strenuous.

But then, there is the torta to finish for tonight, and I do, letting it cool off next to the stove. Sofi lies in her wicker bed on her back, paws raised and so happy to cool off after a strenuous session with dear Silvia. Her eyes glaze over, as if she's in dreamland.

I head to the bedroom for a bit of dreamland myself, now that there's nothing to be done for tonight's invitation at 7 P.M. and it's now 4:30.

The evening sitting under the stars with Annika and Torbjorn outside their house is delightful, the food is wonderful and the torta came out just right.

Unfortunately, Torbjorn would not stop pouring white wine into my glass, and on the way home Dino tells me unceremoniously how very angry he is at me. Yikes! No, I cannot hold my liquor; in other words, I have a very low tolerance for it. It makes me happy at the time, but lets let those days be just memories in my/our future.

Making Dino unhappy is the last thing I ever want to do. Angry? Never! I respond by saying...nothing, and slip into bed soon after arriving home to sleep it off.

September 28
Dino seems to have forgiven me; we don't mention it, although I'll never ever forget it.

We're up early and drive directly to the hospital in Orvieto, where Dino has an appointment to have a specialist look at his eyeball, where there has been a little bleeding behind the retina and his vision has been a bit cloudy. They do a flourangiografia test. It's diagnosed as not serious, but the doctor cannot tell him the problem's origins. He'll return in another week for another look at it. After all these years of driving, I just can't imagine him not being able to. Let's all think good thoughts. Thanks. Please don't worry.

There's a stop to make in Tenaglie, checking out the rental property of our friends, where we come upon neighbor Pietro and his tiny grandson Francesco on the road. Pietro helps the boy ride his three-wheeler up to Pietro's by nudging it with his foot; the thing has a little motor and when encouraged by the boy, moves along slowly. It's very sweet, reminding us again what a thrill it is to be a grandparent.

The day is pleasant but humid. Dino works on the terrace, cutting back roses and plants here and there. I have been thinking about plumbago; I love it's blue color, and it would be lovely near the house with its blue shutters. So let's have Cristina take out all the dead or near-dead boxwood this fall and replace it with plumbago.

Unless you're here when there is frost and cold weather, the sight of it is so beautiful. So whether it is cascading over the front wall or spreading its blossoms up against the front black iron fence, unless it is wintertime and frost has struck our property, killing all the new flowers, it will be lovely to behold. Let's have lots of it!

Today, there's pasta to fix for pranzo with a sauce made from special fixings from a macelleria in Lugnano (Dino thinks it's a ground mixture of mushrooms and sausage with herbs), a bottle of our tomatoes from the larder and the rest of the peppers from yesterday's pranzo. Dino raves about it, having three (!) helpings. If there's any left, we'll heat it up tomorrow to have with whatever we pick up for the midday meal.

I intend to paint in the afternoon, but instead do research on the actual dimensions of the top angel's left arm in the painting, while Dino sleeps. When Dino awakes, he takes a photo of my arm in the same position as the angel, and I realize that no matter what was shown in the actual original painting, I'm hoping that mine will be more lifelike.

Dino drives to Viterbo to meet with the auto salesman at the FIAT dealer in Viterbo and no, he tells me I do not need to go with him. I'd be happy keeping Giallina for another year. We've discussed what it will take for the sale to be made and do a bit of role-playing. He tells me he'll be firm, but I'm a bit doubtful. No matter. I'll go along with whatever he decides.

Let's try to paint a bit after all. After a couple of hours, I'm exhausted. I seem to pour every bit of concentration I am able to muster into painting the smallest detail. Since the painting itself is quite large, the small details matter here, although when viewed by people in the church, it will be so far away that they won't be noticed, other than by me, and perhaps Don Francis, before it is installed under the ceiling of the church.

There's been no agreement at the auto dealer. They need to see if they are willing to meet Dino's requirements in terms of pricing. So he returns home and the evening is quiet and peaceful.

September 29
I'm the first one to take a shower this morning, for I'm ready to return to the painting project. After breakfast, Dino spends the morning hacking away at the nespola (loquat) tree outside our bedroom window. We're no longer worried about privacy from above, so this winter will endure a major surgery to the tall tree. Dino would like to bring it down to a lower crown, until we win the lottery and have it taken away altogether, replaced by a tree of our choosing. Better yet, we'd replace it with a room facing the garden; a room that could also be a 2nd bathroom and a small salone. Oh, how I love to dream!

Everyone who has an Apple product is unhappy with the software upgrade, for it's new Map software only includes places on the map of its choosing. We'll open Safari and Google Maps until it is fixed. Yes, the President of Apple has apologized, so it's something to talk about.

Thanks to Wikipedia, Plumbago is a genus of 10-20 species of flowering plants in the family Plumbaginaceae, native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the world. Common names include plumbago and leadwort. Yikes!

Also known as the sky flower, it is an evergreen shrub and can grow six to ten feet tall (!) with a spread of eight to ten feet. I read that pest problems are rare, and that it has a long growing season. It's my favorite for our garden, for it compliments our blue shutters and seems to emulate the French style that I so love. Let's plant some more this fall, especially since Dino agrees.

What to worry about? We'll need to cut it back after the first frost and blanket the area with heavy mulch. Then in the spring, the plumbago plants will re-emerge to bloom from summer to fall. Do remember not to cut it back severely, or it won't bloom, and feed it each spring. Va bene!

As an aside, I also read online that adding Epsom Salts to garden plants helps improve flower blooming and enhance their green color...but where to find it here? There is a diluted form of it, also known as sale inglese (English salt) available in a farmacia, but the next time we visit a major garden shop, we'll ask. Good idea!

With further research, we find that it is known chemically as magnesium sulfate and is found in the Dolomites of Italy! Used for centuries for its medicinal qualities, it was once the most popular medical drug in England. Although users did not understand why, they used it to promote good health and a long life.

Magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt) paste is still widely recommended by doctors to help draw out impurities and poisons from the body. It is most beneficial when applied externally, because of its ability to draw waste (stored in the tissues) from the body through the skin. However, when taken internally in small doses, Epsom salt also acts on the kidneys. By increasing their action, they can get rid of more waste matter solution. I've ordered it from Amazon.uk so we'll see how it works. Wonder if the magnesium sulphate from the Dolomites is shipped to England!

We're to have baked pasta for pranzo, adding a bit of tomato polpa to yesterday's pasta, olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. There's a tomato, so perhaps a caprese, too. Come no?

Skies are overcast, and it's difficult to return to painting, for I'm not sure I like the arm I've worked on this morning. Dino, however, comments on his own that the arm looks quite good when I enter the kitchen to serve pranzo. I'll move on to another part of his body for this afternoon, returning later to refine it a bit more.

Pasta and caprese are what we have for pranzo, and it's tasty. We watch the first day of the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament between the USA and Europe while we eat (si, cattiva!).

I return to the studio to catch up with you and to paint some more, while Dino takes a nap. Outside, someone on a trattore works away in the valley, its rumbling sound one we embrace as a sign of life here. Later, Dino will probably return to hacking the tree, and we'll show you how bare it will be for the winter. Yes, this is the country, Italian style.

There is more wind this afternoon than usual, and we've hung three loads out on the drying racks on the terrace. Dino asks me if I think they're safe from falling over, and I've checked them. They are for now. Not to worry.

In another half hour, the wind will just...stop. It's like clockwork. So while we wait for that, I'll visit Dino for a cuddle. Oh. Sketches of Spain is playing on SKY's classical music channel, and I'm mesmerized. Has a piece of music ever done that to you? Not that it's a typical Miles Davis piece, although with the warm wind blowing around, it seems perfect for this very moment.

September 30
This is another short month, so today is September's final day, and it begins overcast and quite humid. It's a Sunday, so Sofi groans softly because she knows she'll be in her gabbia (cage) again this morning. I hate to leave her.

The studio is in chaos, with so many unfinished projects, and I'm wondering what dear friend Giuseppe will think when he walks up here with me later. We'll meet him in the borgo. Then, there will be a concert...or will there be one if it rains? No matter.

The mass with Don Daniele is interesting, especially his homily, where he speaks about abuse in the Church. Bravo to him for not ignoring this difficult subject. I still don't have a complete understanding of the language, but I am getting there, albeit slowly...

After Mass, before the concert, we chat with the Gasperoni family - here's a pic of the twins, Nonna and Mama:

We meet up with Giuseppe, but Sofi is still at home, so after looking at the art exhibit, I leave Peppi and Dino to listen to the concert in the courtyard of the Orsini Palazzo and walk home to a grateful Sofi.

Back at the art exhibit, I had to tell a number of folks that I forgot to participate this year. I am not a competitive sort, but if I were not concentrating on the San Pietro Martyr commission, I surely would have competed. There is always next year. I'm hoping I'll be finished by then.

There is time, however, for Dino to enter the photography competition and exhibit, with a wonderful photo of Felice and his dear wife Marsiglia that he took at our then front gate. We'll show it to you in next month's posting when it is exhibited. Since both dear friends have gone to heaven, it will be exhibited in a special category of their peers.

Dino and Peppi return from the borgo and tell us that the concert was quite good. We then sit around for a bit in the kitchen with Sofi, and recall that there was just one rain shower earlier. So the rain that we expected to surround us all day did not really materialize.

One of the things we speak about on this day is how wonderful our little village is. Living here is like being members of a loving family, and almost everyone gets along very well. We love seeing them; love introducing people to dear Peppi, and it's another time to reaffirm how much we love this place and its people.

I make a risotto with squash, but it comes out a bit sweet. If I had added pepperoncino, I think it would have had a bit of a bite to it. Nevertheless, it's not bad, and we follow it with a large salad; then slices of a blueberry crostada and ice cream. It's not an award winning meal, but I have a great afternoon sitting around with two of the all time great men of our time and enjoying their company.

I do love the chance to catch up with Peppi (do I spell his name correctly?) and Sofi loves him, too. Dino and I look forward to seeing him again soon once Steven arrives from Leeds, England, where they live together.

My mind still in dreamland, when our dear friend returns to his Italian home in Amelia, we take a dolce fa niente (nap). When we arise it is time to watch American Football...our favorite San Francisco Forty Niners playing the Green Bay Packers.

At every opportunity, we switch channels to watch The Ryder Cup Golf Championship, which is in its third (?) day. We cheer on the United States, although if Europe wins, we'll be happy then, too.

There is good news at the Vatican:

(ANSA) – Vatican City, September 28 – Pope Benedict XVI is to declare Saints Hildegard of Bingen and John of Avila Doctors of the Church on October 7, feast of the Holy Rosary. In Catholicism the title Doctor of the Church is given to a saint whose writings have benefited the entire Church and bestowed "eminent learning" and worthy of "great sanctity". The elevation of the 12th-century German mystic nun and the 16th-century Apostle of Andalusia to this level will take to 35 the number of Doctors of the Church, of whom Hildegard will be the fourth woman.

Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a writer, composer, philosopher, abbess and visionary who founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg and Eibingen.

One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama and arguably the oldest surviving morality play.

She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs and poems, while supervising brilliant miniature illuminations.

Hildegard has been held up by Benedict XVI as a model for the way Catholics should react at times when the Church is under duress.

I can't help wondering if my mother knew about this woman before she changed her name from Hilda to Hildegarde. My mother loved drama, almost as much as she loved my brother and me. I think of her often and wonder how she is doing in heaven. Hello, Mama dear.

So another month ends, and although I've received a second call that President Napolitano has signed my citizenship papers, they don't arrive, so I remain an "appendage" of Dino's for yet another few days.

All is well...Hope it is with you, too!

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