January through March, 2013

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

Benvenuto Due Mille Tredici!

January 1
Could today be a day just like any other? Why not? We watch several movies and prerecorded TV shows, do some work on the terrace, and May Elin and Olav come by for a brindisi (toast) to the new year. We make plans to have pranzo together soon, but since I don't feel all that well it won't be at our house. I'm a bit sad for that, but it's not a big deal.

January 2
Today is lovely and clear after a morning of fog. It's a quiet day, since I don't feel that well. Is it possible that the pains in my right arm could be a premonition about a heart problem? My heart feels a bit funny; no real pain, just a discomfort. We'll be sure to monitor it well. Please don't worry.

January 3
It's another clear and cold day, although it's mild while on our South-facing terrace. After doing a bit of cleaning of the gravel, with the remaining leaves from the wisteria gathering on it and giving me a challenge to retrieve them, I give up for now and change for pranzo. We're going to our favorite place, NonnaPappa in nearby Soriano with May Elin and Olav and dear Sofi.

If you're wondering why Sofi is invited, well, old friends know that our little female dog had her first sexual experience at this restaurant under a table with Filippo, one of their little dogs. It was only later that we realized what had happened, but no matter. We had her fixed to prevent a litter of puppies and all has been well with no puppies in the picture for her or for us.

Fidelia is not at the restaurant, but her sister is, and we're treated with the family's usual kindness. Loving the food, three of us order saccotini cone pere e noce (little sacs of pasta filled with gorgonzola cheese, pears and hazelnuts). It's so divine! Oh, my!

The others order second courses, but I'm happy with grilled vegetables. We order a bottle of their red wine, which is excellent, and enjoy the meal and conversation with our friends, while Sofi lies under the table by my feet and later meanders around outside.

While May and I chat non-stop, Dino and Olav figit with their iPhones.

Our friends will remain the village for a couple more days, and since I found the tablecloth I have promised to sew for May, it will give me the time to finish it. With not much to do, we may be able to give it to them this week. Speriamo!

Back at home, it's naptime.

January 4
Pea soup skies and cold air greet us when we awake, but no matter. Sofi continues to not be able to tax her spine, waiting for me to pick her up, instead. She is so sweet. I put on her little maglietta (sweater)... pink and brown wide stripes with a big white bone design on the middle of the back of it and a turtleneck. She loves wearing it; how sweet she looks!

Dino drives to Viterbo for shopping and errands, and although I think I need only do a bit of finish sewing for May's tablecloth, I realize that if it is to be used on either side, we'll need to return to a shop in Viterbo to purchase more decorative binding for the opposite side and I'll need to sew it on before it is finished. Now the opposite side looks too unfinished. I can't ask Dino to buy it now, for he won't know what to choose. It may be Spring before we can give it to her. I have no choice, so there's no reason to beat myself over the head over it. Sigh.

Instead, Sofi and I meander out on the terrace. I spend my time picking out wet leaves from the gravel, area by area, and celebrate the little victories, of which this is one. But where is Sofi? She's managed to scale the two steps to the front door and waits for me just inside.

The good news about having gravel with wisteria is that there is just one time of year when this leaf cleanup is necessary. Soon little buds will appear, and from Spring until Fall we'll have leaves and lovely pink and white flowers in the Spring cascading down above us. In some years, there is even a second burst of flowers in the early Fall.

Did I mention bees? Oh. The flowers are so sweet that they attract bees, so perhaps that is why having pranzo on the terrace during the warmest part of the day in Summer time is not a great idea. Bees depart as the sun begins to set, however, so cena is a good meal to have outside here then, with lovely views of the Tiber Valley and the bees returning to their hives to sleep.

Sofi and I return to the studio to catch up with you, I log in some more books, and now there is not much to do except possibly iron some sheets before Dino returns. Sofi sleeps near me in her wicker bed while I watch news on TV.

While checking email, I learn that tuition for one year at the school I attended from 9th to 12th grades (high school), Thayer Academy, is $37,000! Yes, thirty-seven thousand dollars! It was $900. (Nine hundred) dollars when I attended in the late 1950's and early 1960's. So much for prep school...Who could afford to send their children to private school these days?

I can't really believe it, so look up some stats online and yes, tuition at good private schools is very expensive, with the top 50 rated private prep schools running $40,000 or more a year. Yikes!

It's enough to make me happy to be alive while in my mid 60's and yes, there is plenty to be thankful for. I am so very thankful for these years and for our lives here.

For those of you who yearn for all things Italian, friend Anne Robichaud will be in the U.S. this Spring and will be giving cooking classes. She may also be willing to do cooking classes in homes. Here's her info in case you'd like to have her come to your house and you live in the U.S.:


Skies clear, and we look forward to spending time on the terrace in just a bit.

This just in:
If you are planning to come to Rome and want to include a visit to the Vatican Museum, do be prepared to pay for your tickets in cash. They will not take credit cards or electronic transfers in payment.

Why, you ask? Well, the government is trying to clean up any possible money laundering. What! Yes, if you have read any books, and there are many, about illegal money and more, this may not be news to you. Spending time in Italy has always been a bit of an adventure, and shrugging your shoulders as a reaction is a good thing. It is the only thing you can do if you want to enjoy yourselves here. Remember our friend's mantra: "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff".

Miffed at me for writing this? Sorry. It's a reality that is just about impossible to ignore. Since I am a dreamer it's not much of a problem, although I can't speak for dear Dino. "Don't shoot the messenger...please".

Skies clear before noon and we return to the terrace while waiting for Dino to return from Viterbo with a roast chicken for pranzo.

Dino returns and agrees to take me to Viterbo tomorrow so that I can finish May's tablecloth before she leaves this weekend. What a guy!

January 5
We get up and decide to have breakfast on the road, including Sofi, so stop at our regular place in Bomarzo while Sofi waits outside. A woman who lives here has a little bulldog, which comes here with her each day, but it sits patiently by her side. I don't think that is a good idea for Sofi, and we're only there for a few minutes.

We're back in the car in no time, and with Sofi on my lap when she is not on the back seat between us, we drive to the little shopping neighborhood near our dear dottore, and I choose a lovely trim for May's tablecloth. That done, we stop for Metano (natural gas for our car) at a new place that is quite convenient for Dino and then return home.

For the remainder of the day and evening I work on the tablecloth, fashioning it so that May Elin can use it on either side. There are a number of places that need reworking before adding the new trim, so I take my time and do it correctly.

Since she's going to attend church tomorrow morning, followed by a visit with Dino to look over her garden project, I'll give her the cloth then. Come no? I'm so relieved to have this project finished.... Finalmente!

We watch some old movies on SKY, including Dr. Zhivago, which we have not seen in decades. It holds up, although is almost 4 hours long. No matter.

Sitting by a lovely fire in the fireplace and watching TV is a good afternoon and evening activity for us. We turn in late, knowing that we'll be rising tomorrow early for mass.

January 6
It's Epiphany! We dress and walk up to church while Sofi minds the store, and I sing with a few of my Coro buddies, but there are not many: Rosina, Rosita and I hold up our aisle, with May sitting further in back with Dino. Before the mass, I hand dear May Elin the bag with her finished tablecloth, uttering "Finalmente!" with a smile.

Dear Don Angelo stops to shake my hand on his way up to the altar, and he moves me so. What a dear man. Although Don Daniele is also there, he is Don Angelo's superior, and leaves after giving Don Angelo some instructions, I imagine.

After mass I walk home alone to a grateful Sofi, and work in the kitchen making a chicken soup and vegetables with yesterday's roast chicken, to use as broth for today's pranzo. Dino wants risotto, and it is one of my signature dishes, so...comé no?

Dino returns and I fix pranzo for us, then muse regarding whether or not I will join him for this afternoon's blessing of the reliquaries in our church. He will dress in his Confraternity costume and stand at the altar, participating with other Confraternity members and the priest and dear old Vincenzo. I love this service, but it's not sure whether I will attend. I have attended many of them in the past.

I've just read that in the U.S., insurers are allowed to pass on any rate increases to those they insure, so it's another reason to be relieved that we are not to be included in that group. Our Italian medical insurance is covered here, and we feel well taken care of. After all, we are both Italian citizens, in addition to being American citizens. This helps.

Dino takes a short nap, but with the blessing of the reliquaries shortly, he'll probably just read a bit in bed. Should I join him at the blessing? I take a nap, too, and get up when he does. Of course I will walk up with him and join my Mugnano neighbors and Coro members at this special service.

Tonight is the blessing of the relics, of which this tiny village has many. The relics are embraced by busts or arms or crosses, and they are quite special. Dino takes a few photos of them in the sacristy to share with you.

Don Daniele is the priest tonight, and is wonderful in his loving role at this special service. After the service, in which 92 year young Vincenzo chants the words and names of the saints that refer to each of the relics, I learn that Vincenzo has been doing this chant at this service for more than 80 years (since he was twelve)! Oh, my!

I give him a big hug and although he tells us he is old, I tell him he is young. I ask him his birthday, and it is in early November, the 6th. Oh, how I hope he lives on and on and on!

Tomorrow, all the Christmas decorations may be taken down and put away for another year. For me, it's a harbinger of spring. What? As each month ends, we become closer and closer to the lovely weather here, although tonight is clear and skies are a gorgeous dark blue. A bit earlier, skies turned from blue to pink to purple before turning dark blue. How fortunate we are to be alive!

January 7
Time to take down all the holiday decorations and put them away. But not yet...

After watching some recorded American Football, Dino leaves to pick up something to grill for pranzo along with the leftover risotto, which will be heated in the oven.

This morning I see a couple of little bricks of lievito in the frigo, so come up with a recipe for making a kind of peasant bread, and the recipe calls for two loaves. It's fun to do, although there are several risings recommended. For the last rising, the dough sits in the pans it will be baked in on top of two chairs placed right in front of the fire. That way, the dough will rise with a bit of added heat from the nearby logs.

I have no idea if the bread will turn out well, but if it does, it will become a staple here and of course I will add the recipe to the site. No matter. It is another Italian adventure, and is much more fun that cleaning up after our holiday decorations have been put away for another year. We need Dino's expert hands to begin that, especially to orchestrate the taking down of the lights of the outdoor tree.

With nothing we have to do these days, everything is fun. We have made our little house so complicated (American style?) that there are always projects to do, both inside and outside.

While Sofi sits on the terrace and warms up, I look up at the wisteria and am confident we will have a wonderful season of pink and white blossoms cascading down this spring, probably in April. Yes, at every season there is something to look forward to, although sharing our lives with each other makes every day a lovely one.

The bread recipe a great success, I'm happy to include it in the site. I also notice that we have a small container of persimmon pulp that we have not used, and may make a batch of chutney with it to serve with grilled meats.

Each time I've meandered outside on the terrace these days I've heard chirps from tiny birds. Is it a happy sound, or are they fleeing possible hunters? I'm not sure, but the latter is probably the case, as it is hunting season. Sigh.

Dino takes down the Christmas tree lights on the terrace, and in the next days we'll pack everything up and put it away for next Christmas. He also spends some time on the wisteria, making sure it's groomed the way he wants for spring. Now it looks like a lot of bare branches, wound in and around each other while it floats over the top of the front terrace in front of the house. There's so much to look forward to.

After a simple pranzo, I check in with you while Sofi cleans her paws while lying in her little wicker bed next to me. Dino takes a nap in the next room.

Let's put all the sewing things away for the winter, so that I have no excuse not to return to Don Francis' painting. I am pretty excited about it, giving myself just two days to finish anything on the top part of the painting before we roll it over the top of the structure and let it dry further out of sight while I work on painting the figures of St. Peter and his murderer on the bottom section. I'm also wondering a bit about the center section, so will first work on that, although there is not a lot of activity on that part.

Skies are that lovely cerulean blue, and I suppose what I should be doing each day is taking a walk on the Mugnano loop with Sofi. Perhaps tomorrow, late morning, before we drive to meet Peppi and Steven at Il Fontanile, Sofi and I will do just that. Writing it down helps to push me ahead; there's so much and yet so little for us to do these days.

January 8
We wake to fog and cold temperatures, but Dino toasts the bread made yesterday and it is really tasty as toast, too!

Here is the recipe for Italian Peasant Bread:

2 cups lukewarm water
1 package dry or one cube of refrigerated yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour or all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
Melted butter

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved. Stir in bread flour, then turn the dough out onto a large floured plate.

Clean the bowl and grease it with butter. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle it with 1 Tbsp. of cornmeal. Flour your hands and divide the dough into 2 parts, shaping each into an oblong loaf; do not knead. Place both loaves onto the prepared baking sheet. Let the loaves rise another 45 minutes until almost doubled. The shape does not really matter...just be sure you have enough room on the baking sheet or sheets to fit in the oven side by side.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter and bake 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake 20 minutes more.

While the loaves are still hot, brush with more butter and serve. If there is any left the next morning, the bread is luscious sliced and toasted.

We take a good-sized piece of one of the loaves with us, along with the recipe, to give to Peppi and Steven when we meet them for pranzo at Il Fontanille.

Sofi waits outside in the car for us, for she's already had her pranzo and travelled with us to Tenaglie to check on a few things. Time for her to have a rest while we have our pranzo inside.

We love these guys, love getting together with them whenever possible, and have a wonderful time laughing and sharing stories. How well they get along with each other! It's a joy to spend time with them.

Back at home, its cold and overcast, so might as well sleep a bit under the warm covers. Sofi always likes sleeping by my side, even if it is on her bed somewhat lower to the ground than our bed.

I love these days; with nothing specific we have to do. Yes I have Don Francis' painting to complete, hopefully by the end of Spring, but for today, let's relax and stay warm.

It's difficult to get up from our nap, for it's quite cold. Dino rises first and takes a whining Sofi downstairs so that she can go out. It's enough to prompt me to rise, for it's almost 7 P.M., dress warmly, and join my pals in the kitchen in front of the fire Dino has built.

The rest of the evening is mellow, watching movies and enjoying each other's company. A domani.(See you tomorrow.)

January 9
Weather is cold, grey, foggy, but so what? Dino slices some of the bread I made the other day and it makes really great toast. Since it's not difficult to make, I'll probably make it often. Comé no? Yes, we've included the recipe here earlier in this month's journal.

We realize that dearest Sofi is just slowing down, but there's no real need to visit the vet with her. She does not take the stairs, except for those on the front terrace (there are only two of them), but sits patiently waiting for us to lift her up and put her on the couch or carry her up or down stairs.

I've returned to painting in the studio, wearing the paint coat we purchased in France years ago and yes, I'm a slow and methodic painter. I hope to finish it so that it can dry before it is stretched on a wooden frame and installed on the ceiling of Don Francis' church in Isernia, but don't want to stress about it. Let's just be consistent, spending three or four hours a day on it when I can.

For now, it's too early to move the canvas up to paint the middle or bottom sections of it. I want the detail throughout to be as realistic and authentic as possible, although do admit the face of the original little angel was not pretty and I have altered it a bit to result in a more realistic and pleasing image.

The original right hand of the larger angel is also not very realistic, so I do some work on that as well. An artistic interpretation is what we'll have, and I'm confident it will be an excellent painting. Let's hope Don Francis approves...

Sempre Avanti! (Always Forward!) is how we folks in little Mugnano in Teverina respond when asked how we are. Oh, how I love being an Italian citizen. If you are a long time journal reader, you may recall that an astrologer whom I respect told me years ago while still living in the United States, "You will feel more comfortable living in a country other than your own!" What a strange comment, I mused at the time. How true it was! Don't worry. I will always be an American Citizen, too!

Sofi stays by my side as Dino drives off to pick up some things for me to fix for today's pranzo. She's wearing her "Thundercoat" and since we don't have heat inside the house at this time of year except for the kitchen fireplace, it is a good thing.

January 10
Skies do not clear by noon, so we expect to spend a lot of the day either taking a nap or watching TV in front of the kitchen fireplace. Dino posts the November journal and asks me to recheck the wording. Perhaps this afternoon, he'll post December as well. Why did we wait? Well, we were travelling to San Francisco for the end of November and beginning of December, so he wants to post photos of our trip with the November posting. Va bene.

January 11
Wet tears fall over little Mugnano in Teverina at 5:30 A.M. when dearest Candida Baiocco, aka Nonna, passes beyond. We're met by fog when we awake, not realizing yet what has happened. But when Dino walks out to the terrace, Rosina tells him from her balcony that Nonna Candida did die earlier this morning.

If she lived one more month, she would have died at age 91. It's amazing that she lived to be ninety, and that's a grand old age. We hear from dear Paola when we walk up to visit the Fosci household (this is customary in Italy) that her grandmother died of lung problems, having trouble breathing during the last several days. It was a blessing.

I hold Paola in my arms and tell her that we are here for them, but she appears to be doing all right. Tomorrow morning at 11 A.M. will be the funeral. Afterward, the funeral cortege will travel to Montecastello di Vibio to bury her, but we will not join them. On this day, I walk up to Candida lying in the front room in a lovely pale silk draped casket and blow her a kiss goodbye. How I have loved knowing her!

By now, Dino has posted December, so he's up to date. He has an appointment with our good doctor in Viterbo this afternoon, but all stores are closed in Viterbo on Thursday afternoon, so he won't do any shopping. Fa niente (no matter). We have plenty to see us through until tomorrow.

With yesterday's brushes washed and left to dry in the summer kitchen, I return to paint after we eat the rest of our homemade bread for toast at colazione. Sofi wears her sweet little pink and brown striped sweater while she lies in her wicker bed nearby in the studio.

The wood was to have been delivered yesterday, but this morning Pietro called to ask if the wood would be delivered to a cantina. It is wet, for yesterday there was rain, and if it sits in a closed cantina it won't dry.

Dino tells him not to worry. We have a cover over our parking area where the wood will be delivered and an open sided shed where the wood is to be stacked. Will Pietro stack the wood in the shed? One can only hope. He's to come today "prima pranzo" (before lunch) and although it's foggy and the extended forecast is for rain, rain and more rain, if he takes the time to stack the wood, we'll be in good shape.

Since we almost always have a prepared dish or two in the frigo, we'll have one of them today, so there's no need to shop or for me to make a pasta sauce from scratch. Va bene.

Let's paint!

Pietro the shepherd arrives with 10 quintale of oak fire wood, and it's cut to the perfect size, although it's wet.(NB - a quintale is 100 kilograms, so 10 quintale is 1,000 kilograms which is about 2,200 pounds). He stacks it inside the parcheggio inside the little shed Dino built for it, and since we have a covered parking area, the wood should stay pretty dry. Unfortunately, weather reports for today and the rest of the week are for rain.

At least it's a warm rain, for the lemon tree sitting above the parcheggio has not yet been wrapped, and if there is a freeze, the tree will die. Dino does not take well to my suggestions about wrapping the tree, but he'll surely wrap it this afternoon, or tomorrow at the latest. What will be, will be.

I fix basmati rice and the prepared fish for pranzo, along with a salad and profiteroles for dessert. All is well. After watching a bad American movie on TV about gangsters, I return to painting, and the major angel's right hand on the canvas looks better already. It's interesting to see how paint sets by itself, in only an hour or so, sometimes taking on a hue that helps it to look more realistic. There's more work to do on the hand, but I'm hopeful.

Back to the firewood, I think Pietro will be our guy going forward to supply us with cut firewood, although the wood we have now may last us for the winter. It is good that Dino has made the connection, and it's an important one. The previous supplier was more costly. In addition, he delivered much larger pieces of wood, too large for our needs. That made our use of wood less logical and more expensive. He also just dumped it from his truck into the parcheggio.

Yes, Dino has become quite the expert in all things Italian; no wonder he's a great project manager for English speaking folks who want to buy property here. Just email him if you want to know more after looking at the photos on our site of local properties for sale.

Dino drives to the dottore in Viterbo, while Sofi and I paint a bit, then sit in the kitchen watching a bit of TV. Dino returns, and with his masterful fire-making skills builds a magnificent fire for us.

He's having trouble with his iPod Touch, so makes an appointment with the Genius Bar at Apple in a week or so, and he'll update what he needs to then. In the meantime, we'll stay at home except for tomorrow morning, when we'll attend the funeral and I will join the Coro in singing hymns.

January 12
The morning appears sunny and bright. It's such a lovely day.

There's plenty of time to check in with you before walking up to the church for dear Candida's funeral. I'll sing in the Coro and Dino will dress in his confraternity costume along with Enzo, to stand at the altar during the funeral. Since Candida will be buried in Montecastello di Vibio, we'll walk up to church and back, for the cortege of vehicles to the burial site will drive toward Todi to the cemetery where dear Candida will be buried after the funeral mass.

I can't help recalling the funerals of my parents on this day. Sadly, the Quincy house was robbed during my mother's funeral, in which a minister we don't know stood in front of her casket wearing a beige sport coat with stains on the front. Brother Mike, his wife Fran and I had trouble keeping from laughing at his demeanor and how Mom would probably be smirking. Little did we know that at that very moment people were robbing the house.

At my father's funeral, his friend Ray Flynn, who was then the Mayor of Boston, had told us he'd attend. He was a no-show, however. No matter. There was always something we could laugh at during these sad events, as if we were trying to find a way to cope. Since Candida was ninety when she died earlier this month, her family seems to have taken her passing in stride, knowing that she was not well at the end. Bless them!

The service is led by Don Daniele, who is so very kind and handles these ceremonies with particular skill, mentioning Candida's name several times. There is an excellent Coro turnout, and Dino tells me later that we sang well.

During the service, with dear Candida's body in a closed casket topped with yellow and white Dahlias, I found myself looking her way and sending her off with gentle and loving wishes. On the front rows of the left side of the church, Paola and Antonio sat, with Antonio doing the spiritual reading. We'll so miss you, dearest Candida!

NB: In our experience, all of the funerals here are "closed casket". We think that this is due to the fact that they don't embalm the bodies. The funeral is generally within 24 hours or so of the death.

Following the service, Candida's casket and flowers are transported into the long grey hearse, and others walk to their cars to follow them. Dino and I walk home, greeting little Sofi and preparing for a quiet rest of the day, with plenty of time to reflect upon our dear departed friend.

Dino had bought a bag of frozen shrimp, so I make a pasta sauce with plenty of lemon and grated lemon rind as well as the white wine from Todi that Dino likes and the little shrimp. The recipe is one I make up on the spot, but is quite delightful, with the exception of the tiny shrimp. With pranzo we drink the same wine and toast to dearest Candida, for she will be buried very near Todi.

January 13
It's a clear day, so we walk up to church, where I stand alone in Coro until midway through the mass, when Laura appears and joins me. Don Angelo is the priest, and forgives me for not singing the first hymn. I am not sure I want to sing it a solo (by myself).

After the mass, we drive to Il Pallone to shop and have breakfast at a nearby bar. Although there is plenty available to buy, we pick up a meatloaf and I make fresh mushroom gravy to cook over the top and sauté large cut potatoes in butter to brown them and then roast them in the oven. It's an excellent winter menu, one that Dino really likes.

Today is a football kind of day, American style, and thanks to the magic of recorded programs on TV, we watch several games, finishing with the Atlanta-Seattle matchup, where the winner will play the beloved San Francisco 49ers for the NFL Championship next Sunday night our time.

January 14
It's another quiet day in little Mugnano, eating leftover meatloaf and potatoes and returning to the giant painting to work on the angel images. Funny, but the day after doing a bit of painting on the canvas, the images seem more well-defined. Not to worry...about this or anything.

It's another cold day as well, so better hibernate for a while...at least today.

January 15
It's a pedicure day with dearest Giusy, so after a breakfast in Bomarzo, Dino drops me off and Giusy is ready right on time. We pick a beautiful pale greyish green for my toenails andcome no? (why not?) I learn from her that I need to find a way to raise the balls of my feet when I walk, so that my big toes don't rub against the top of my shoes, making a dent in my toenail polish. It's worth some research to find the right pads...Later...

What's new is that Giusy asks me if I'll do a painting for her of blue iris, like Van Gogh's in Provence. Of course I will, but will never accept payment from this dear friend. I am sure I have a good canvas to use, for she needs a small one to fit in a specific place on a dining room wall. It should be ready to give to her at my next appointment; that is, if I remember. Yes, there's always something to do, although I won't abandon the large San Pietro Martire canvas, either.

Back at home, I do some research about blue iris flowers and come up with an idea and a small canvas. In the next days, I will begin to paint it, but have more than a month to finish it. Van bene!
Today is cold, cold, cold. Dino has picked up some veal chops to grill, and I roast a potato or two that I first sliced thickly the long way and sautéed in butter before putting them in the oven. With a green salad, it's a good way to spend the middle of the day, especially followed by a nap.

I feel like a hermit on these cold days, wanting to snuggle by a lovely fire in the fireplace. Dino made one earlier and we enjoyed it during pranzo as well as later after our naps. The kitchen is where we spend our lives these cold winter days, and it's a perfect size for meals and resting afterward on our sofa. Sofi thinks so, too!

Hope you're cozy and warm where you are, too!

January 16
Dino gets ready to post the first half of January in this journal, while a light rain outside keeps everything wet. Sofi seems fine staying inside, although we'd like her to go out for even a bit. We'll see...

I fix a sauce of olives, garlic, thyme, sundried tomatoes, starring sliced fennel, in which the fennel and other elements are sautéed in olive oil until the fennel is quite soft. Dino wants to have it as a pasta sauce, so comé no (why not?) With a jar of tomatoes it should be tasty. It really is, so let's add that to our repertoire.

Sofi and I return to the studio, put on the TV and we listen to the news on French TV while I return to the huge canvas. Skies outside the window remain colorless.

A bit later we drive to the hospital in Orvieto where Dino will have a follow up eye test, while Sofi stays home. Despite a couple of doctors checking him out, his eyes are the same...no better...no worse.

Back at home we're all mellow, ending the day in front of a lovely fire, watching TV.

January 17
Dino has an Apple appointment for his iPod Touch around noon just outside Rome, so we'll stop at nearby IKEA while we're in the neighborhood to pick up a couple of lights for the kitchen to illuminate what is behind the glass doors of the cabinets to the left and right and above the sink.

Dearest Sofi is beginning to show her age; she's slower, and won't voluntarily hop up stairs or onto the couch these days. So today she'll remain in the car while we're shopping, for dogs are not allowed inside closed shopping centers. We'll be sure to put on her pink striped sweater or her grey Thundercoat for added protection.

I suppose it's a good thing she is wearing her natural thick winter coat these days, although she looks a bit like a little teddy bear. We're going to hold off calling Silvia to come and strip her until weather warms up. I so love this little doggie!

We're back home in time for a late nap. All is well.

January 18
It's a television-watching day, and thanks to our provider SKY, we have recorded a number of good programs. While Dino drives off to Viterbo to pick up a roast chicken and hardware for the lighting project for the kitchen, I'm enjoying a book, Elizabeth Street, and Sofi is happy right by my side. The terrace looks pretty clean, so there's not a need to work outside for a few weeks.

January 19
Dino agrees to work with me to reorganize the studio so that the new exercise equipment will fit in the perfect place. After toast and caffe, he helps me to move finished canvases and other items to make more room. Since there is a box of ironing to do, I take that on, including the embroidered blue sheets we love.

There is always painting to do, and now indoor exercise on the new equipment will be yet another daily activity. That is, when it is put together after the studio is reorganized. What's that I hear about friends from our former country (the U.S.) asking us what we do all day? Ha!

Magari! (If only...) we had nothing to do...

Temperatures remain cold and the sky colorless, so let's stay inside all day. I'm happy to make the chicken risotto that Dino requests for pranzo, using the refrigerated roast chicken remaining from yesterday. We have sage growing in a pot outside, so perhaps a bit of that at the end will be a good idea. Comé no? (Why not?)

January 20
Today is an anniversary of sorts for Dino and me, 32 years ago! The day passes as any other, delightful and calm and peaceful in our tiny village.

The weather remains cold and rainy. Fortunately we've cleaned up almost all the leaves on the terrace from the wisteria growing all across the front of the house. How lovely it will be in April with its pink and white flowers in bloom!

January 21
I have yet to return to the huge painting, for we watch recorded U S football games on TV instead. It's a somewhat lazy day, with several hours spent hibernating under the covers in the afternoon and lots of recorded programs on TV at night.

January 22
On this cold and gray morning, we watch the U S Inauguration of President Obama's second term as 44th President of the United States on TV, recorded late last night while we slept. It is quite moving.

Twice, President Obama and The First Lady, Michelle, stepped out of their limousine to wave at the thousands of people waving at them from behind the protective barriers on either side of the street. He is an "everyman" kind of president, honoring and pledging to those in lower economic conditions that he will be their champion.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, also left their limousine to wave at the people on the other side of the barriers. Biden is the consummate politician and such a happy guy that he loves this! It's difficult to get him back in the limo!

Back here in little Mugnano in Teverina, Sofi joins me in the studio while I attempt to paint little tags for the clear plastic containers in the glass front cabinets in the kitchen. Yesterday, Dino wired the lights we purchased recently at IKEA that will illuminate the containers inside. We'll affix the labels later.

While Sofi and I are upstairs, Dino drives to Orvieto to the hospital to make a follow-up eye appointment. Since skies are now blue, although we had a light but continuous rain earlier, perhaps I'll be able to help Dino to take the big box out of the car that contains the exercise machine for us. Yes, it will be for Dino to use as well, if he chooses to. I look forward to using it each day to help me to slim down.

I heat up the pork roast and fix caramelized carrots to serve with it. Dino has purchased broccoli and mashed potatoes, so we'll have many choices. Comé no?

Since there will be a Coro prova (Chorale practice) at 4 PM, Sofi and I move to the studio so that I can paint a bit first.

How much liberty should I take with this project? There are surely quite a few areas that need alteration from the original to make the painting the best it can be. I'll try to adapt my work to the original, coming out somewhere in between. I surely want everyone to be happy with the result.

There is a strange dark cloud visible just above one of the little angel's wings, and it detracts from the story. So let's see if we can meld it into the trees somewhat without losing anything important.

It's time to attend Coro, so I wash the paint brushes a bit and Dino takes me up. Let's go a bit late and have Dino pick me up at 5 P M. Members always arrive late and the practice seems to take forever...Let you know later...

Dio mio! I arrive late in the borgo, and as I enter, someone calls out to me from the window of the former office of the visiting doctor. The meeting is to be there, and instead of it being a prova (practice), Federica tells us that she is quitting the group immediately...She refuses to stay even for this important weekend, the Festa di San Vincenzo, our second patron saint.

As I would imagine, the room fills with a cacophony, similar to the "Pick, pick, pick a little" ditty from the musical Music Man, the sounds filling my head. Everyone else has something to say about it, and no one is smiling.

I finally raise my hand and the chattering stops to let me have my say. "Per piacere, prega con me..." (Please pray with me...) and ask that everyone joins hands, looking at me for the prayer. I'm not sure what to say, but in my meager Italian I ask everyone to share love with each other, thanks to Federica for all her good work, and end by saying that life goes on...

After five minutes or so of Federica telling us that she wants to move on with her life but shares no ill will, she leaves and we discuss what we'll sing this Sunday during the Festa di San Vincenzo services.

We have no idea if we'll have to join the Bomarzo or Attigliano Coro, but neither option is a good one.

I take out an old list of music from last year, and with a few changes, we come up with the proper music and sequence for Sunday. I leave then, as do the others, and thankfully Dino is sitting in our car right where he left me to take me home, accompanied by a joyous Sofi, who greets me with kisses.

Surely something will happen, although it's possible that the group will be on hiatus for a few months. All that matters to me is that I am with the man and the doggie that I love most in the world...nothing else matters.

January 23
It's another cold and colorless sky outside our windows but no matter...we are together.

After breakfast, Dino returns to a wiring project concentrated on the lights above the right side cabinet facing the sink. We first take a look at the label project I've finished for the containers inside both glass front cabinets, and we agree they look much better than the previous haphazard grouping without labels.

Sofi and I return to the studio, for me to paint and Sofi to rest in the soft polka dot dog bed lying next to the desk, wearing her pink and brown striped maglieta (sweater). She loves to be by my side, wherever I am. What a dear doggie...I love her so!

With breaded chicken cutlets and rice and broccoli for pranzo, there's no shopping to do. So after an hour or more working on the canvas, I stop to return with her downstairs to enjoy the fruits of Dino's labor in the kitchen and to prepare meals for Sofi and for us.

After a somewhat long nap for me, but a short one for dear Dino, Sofi and I return to the kitchen to watch some TV. It's yet another mellow day, in this tiny spot of heaven on earth.

January 24
There's a Coro prova late tonight, but I don't imagine any of us look forward to it. No matter. I'll research the list of music and print out all the pieces so that I'll be ready. If it becomes another chattering session, I'll leave an hour after the practice is scheduled to begin. Enough is enough!

With no rain but plenty during the night, Dino takes the exercise equipment out of the car, and with a hand truck I steady it from the front, as we each pull up on it, step by step. Once inside the house, Dino chooses to leave the box in the studio near the front window until we rearrange everything else.Va bene.

Dino leaves for Viterbo to renew medical prescriptions and do some shopping. Oh, how he loves to be out and about. I catch up with you while Sofi sits in her polka dot bed nearby, head to the side as she listens intently for sounds like the guard doggie she is. What a dear!

I return to the painting and it's time to work on the large angel's hands and to her lower face. Take a look at the knuckles of your hands and imagine you're about to paint them: where are the shadows and should there be age lines? Probably no lines but lighten some areas to show that indeed, there are knuckles. It's a good thing I enjoy details; perhaps that is another sign that I am a dreamer, wanting to be diverted from the bigger picture.

Am I avoiding the inevitable that we are ageing and nearer the end of our lives? It will be what it will be, so if we can enjoy life while it lasts and it ends quickly, so much the better. Unless something happens to one of us, let's not dwell on the possibilities.

I look at the latest fashions on the NYT Fashion page, and Valentino has a few really delicious ones. How I'd love to be a fashion designer; that is, if there would not be any expectations! I love fabric; love painting fabric that has shadows and light and lots and lots of it. No wonder the bed skirt on our bed has so much fabric!

If you love fashion, check out Giambattista Valli Couture for Spring. There are a few really wonderful ones here, as well. All right. Let's return to the painting while Dino shops in Viterbo.

Dino calls from Viterbo, and he'd like basmati rice with the roast chicken he's bringing home. Va bene! I've been painting for more than two hours, so it's a good time to stop for a while. I feel better about the feathers in the large angel's arm that she's using to paint, and about the hands. So let's see how they look after the paint has set for a day or two.

S0me time ago, I read a comment online that had real meaning for me. It was, "Useless to talk, said the French spy..." My mother used the phrase when she felt that whatever she had to say, the response would be negative, or that she did not know the answer. I loved the phrase, and she had many of them. Just now, I read the origin of the phrase:

Pranzo has finished, and it's time for a nap. Giovanna comes by to remind me that Coro Prova is tonight at 9 PM. I agree to come for one hour, with the music we are to sing on Sunday, but not to judge or to argue. I'm a bit skeptical about what will happen, but work on the music and will bring it along to see if I can keep the group on track.

Dino drives me up to the borgo, and six other Coro members and I spend an hour singing and talking. I pass out the list of pieces we are to sing, and it's appreciated. But I'm feeling a bit impatient with them, although understand the Italian way of life is more friendly in general than in most other countries, and there does not seem to be a hurry to finish.

I leave my friends just before 10 PM and walk down the hill as Dino is driving toward me. Va bene. We drive home and spend the rest of the evening in front of the TV, enjoying a warm fire and watching programs.

January 25
There is no Coro Prova today or tomorrow, and for that I am relieved. On Saturday at 4 P M we will have our final session, with the mass and procession taking place on Sunday morning.

But just at 4 AM, Dino awakes and is very dizzy. He can't seem to move about, so I suggest he lie there for a few hours to see if the dizziness continues.

At about 7 AM he is not better, so I help him to get dressed and in the car, put Sofi in the back seat, and then drive to Pronto Soccorso(Emergency Room) of the hospital in Orvieto.

While Sofi patiently waits in the car, Dino goes through a number of tests (finger to nose, etc...) for the next four hours, with me by his side. The doctors and attendants are all kind and seem knowledgeable and helpful. The diagnosis is vertigini (vertigo), but no cause! Finally we are sent home with prescriptions for injections twice a day and pills for him to take with meals.

I drive to Attigliano to the pharmacy, and while he and Sofi wait for me, I bring in the documents indicating what we'll need. The pharmacist is kind and helpful, telling me she will have everything this afternoon at 4:30 PM when they reopen. Sigh!

I drive us home and help Dino to the house, where I prepare stellini (stars) in chicken broth with a bit of chicken still fresh from yesterday's roast chicken. He's not very hungry and I help him up to bed.

I leave early for the pharmacist in the afternoon, and by 4:40 I'm back home with all the medicine. I give him an injection and he remains in bed, with me reading by his side. Oh, how I worry about him!

This has been a strange turn of events. Dino is the kind of guy who wants to be in control. He wants to do everything, supervise everything, and now the tables have been turned. He's sweet to me, if a bit tense, especially since the stress has brought on a migraine headache for me. I take a cocktail of medicine and we rest and read for the evening.

I email Paola and Tiziano to tell them we'll not attend the Saturday pizza evening, nor will I attend any Coro provas. Unfortunately, we won't attend the ceremonies on Sunday morning for the Feast of San Vincenzo. It's better that we stay at home and rest, helping Dino to return to health. Since we're both dedicated church goers, we're sure they'll all understand.

January 26
By now, everyone in the village surely knows of Dino's malady. Happily, we're greeted by sunny skies. When it's sunny overhead, we're warm, since we face South/Southwest, and I'm able to do two loads of laundry and hang them out on the terrace while Sofi lounges nearby.

Earlier, I drove to Todis Market in nearby Attigliano to shop for groceries, and it appears Dino approves of my purchases. We have enough food to last us for at least two days, although he'd like to drive to Il Pallone tomorrow morning. That's if his health is better, although he's feeling better and able to move around a bit. He even makes a fire in the fireplace, perhaps feeling a bit strange with me taking over.

My headache gone, I'm tired and look forward to resting for the remainder of the day. Dino seems happy by the TV.

Dear friend Peppi calls from Amelia, and offers to help us. How kind of him to call! He's really a very special friend. We're fine for now, thanks...

Thanks also to friend GB of Italian Notebook, who posts a wonderful recipe for Pappardelle al Cinghiale. Do you want to know how to make it? Here goes:

Pappardelle al cinghiale

Thanks to Anna Maria Furiosi

Ingredients: 4-6 persons
100 grams of minced pork
100 grams minced beef
400/500 grams lean wild boar meat
Garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
About 4 tablespoons of tomato concentrate
1/4 litre/quart good red Tuscan wine
1 teaspoon sugar
80/90 grams of fresh egg Pappardelle noodles per person.
Grated Parmigiano cheese

Cut the wild boar into small pieces. Wash the meat in water and vinegar. Put the rinsed meat in a non-stick pan and leave it on a low fire until the water drains from the meat, removing the water regularly. When the meat has changed color and is dry remove from fire. Cut the meat in small pieces and put aside. Generously cover the bottom of a pan with the olive oil; then add a clove of garlic cut finely.

Take a couple of springs of rosemary bound with thread and sauté it in the oil and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the minced pork and minced beef, salt and pepper and cook for 10/15 minutes over a moderate flame. Slowly sprinkle the glass of red wine, cover the pan and continue cooking on a slow fire for another 15/20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the concentrated tomato in a large cup by adding hot water and the teaspoon of sugar. Add it to the meat and continue cooking for 25/30 minutes. Slowly add the remaining red wine and cook for another 30/40 minutes.

Now boil the Pappardelle noodles in a large pot with abundant boiling water for about 5/6 minutes. Drain and slowly add the sauce with a fork layer-by-layer, adding some grated Parmigiano cheese and decorating with small sprigs of rosemary.

Back here in little Mugnano...

I remember reading "'Useless to talk,' said the French spy" in a book written by H. Allen Smith about the unintentionally humorous writings of children. The phrase has stuck with me for decades. My understanding is that it was a fragment of a piece from the book, Write me a Poem, Baby. Hello, dear Mama in Heaven. Hope this brings a smile to you, as it does to me, whenever I hear it mentioned.

January 27
I did not attend Coro prova yesterday afternoon, nor do we attend today's mass and Festa di San Vincenzo

. San Vincenzo is our village's second Padrono (Patron Saint). I am sure that there has been a procession, but we did not hear the Bomarzo Polimartium Banda (band), and for that I am sorry. My stress level remains quite high, thus yesterday's throbbing migraine headache and today's exhaustion.

The good news is that dearest Dino is doing better, with hardly any dizziness. He seems to grow better by the hour. For today, we remain quiet and sleep quite a bit, and I so love sleeping here on cool winter days next to my dearest ones.

Last night, however, I prepared French Toast (Dino tells me that in France they just call it toast (!:) and late this morning I sauté it in butter and serve it with heated maple syrup and clementines, cut into pieces and served on top of the toast just before the maple syrup. With cappuccino and espresso, it's a very tasty brunch.

The rest of the day is lazy. Comé no? (Why not?)

January 28
Dino feels much better; in fact, he's back to full strength, and for that I am so relieved. We have an appointment with our good Dottore Bevilacqua in Viterbo at 9:30 AM, so get showered and dressed and stop in Bomarzo for something to eat and cappuccino and espresso. Sofi waits patiently in the car.

We drive on to Viterbo and Sofi waits for us again as we wait for almost an hour for our doctor. Dino presents him with the paperwork from the Orvieto hospital, and it's diagnosed as just "dizziness"! The fact that it was an intense attack means that it's over, and there is nothing to worry about. It has nothing to do with a stroke or heart attack or other serious possible happening, so we're left much relieved.

We stop at OBI for Dino to pick up some things for the kitchen lighting project, then home, where he grills pork chops and I fix a pretty amazing amalgam of apple and clementines, cut and sautéed in butter to go with them.

We're awakened later from our naps by a new local Vigili Urbano (policeman), Daniele, who brings documents for us to sign that we will keep and present each time we vote. Yes, vote! We are both now Italian citizens as well as American citizens, and now have documents to have stamped each time we vote.

The next election is a month from now, and we do look forward to exercising our ability to vote. The candidates can only post their posters for a month, so we'll see them and choose after studying the information. It's a real thrill. Yes, of course we also vote in the Presidential elections in the United States.

Dino has recorded the Pro Bowl. I watch some of it with him after doing a bit of reading, with dear Sofi by my side on the bed. Once I'm up, it's quite cold. Fortunately, Dino has made a gorgeous fire in the fireplace in the kitchen, and that's where we spend the evening, watching more television.

If you read the New York Times, you may see a very interesting article worth studying, about how memory retention changes with age. It has a lot to do with sleep, and I'll certainly spend some time thinking about it and making sure that I/we get enough sleep, even though I don't have great memory retention as it is. Not to worry.

January 29
Skies are clear and blue when Dino gets up to take the car to the FIAT dealer in Viterbo. It is to go through some testing, and while it is, he will meet with a salesman to look at deals for new models. Dino loves to shop, and I'd be surprised if he does not come home convincing me that we'll have a new car...subito!

Here at home, I sleep in, with Sofi on top of the bed for a while. She is certainly my shadow, happy as long as she's in the same room with me, although it's so pretty outside I'm amazed she does not want to explore the terrace.

I surely must return to the painting, so do for a bit while we wait for dear Dino's return. Did I tell you that he's feeling quite well and back to his old self? I'm so relieved, and have ignored the stress headache and it finally seems to have disappeared.

After a long sweet nap, Sofi and I join Dino downstairs, where we spend the evening watching TV. We especially enjoy a biography of Rita Hayworth; what a sad tale of a talented woman! Her looks remind me of a neighbor when growing up, a woman who perhaps emulated Lana Turner, but was herself even more lovely.

Soon we will take a look at the new cars and new deals. For now, let's let things sit. With a new timing belt installed and plenty of money left at the dealer, we'll conserve whatever we can.

January 30
Outside it is cold and foggy, and not even Sofi wants to play on the terrace. Inside we are like elves in Santa's workshop, putting the exercise equipment together, piece by complicated piece. There must be 100 of them!

While Sofi lays in the little polka dot bed and watches when she is not resting, I hold pieces and parts while the maestro (Dino, of course) does his assembly work. He reminds me of the complicated instructions that come with anything that comes from IKEA that require assembly: no words, just photos and letters. These instructions are strangely similar...

The finished project looks awesome, and I'm looking forward to beginning my late winter exercise regimen with the aid of the machine, hoping to shed plenty of weight before summer. Let's be optimistic!

With pasta sugo (sauce) simmering on the stove, we'll have spaghetti and meatballs for pranzo, perhaps followed by a green salad.

I stop painting for now, since it's about noon, and the larger angel's face looks pretty good. Let's work on her hair later and move South to her right hand and then to the trees, so that we can move the canvas up soon to work on the center section. Yes, I'm content! Comé no? (Why not?)

The exercise equipment installed, I've only to get going on it. First, we have pranzo, and it's characteristic and tasty. What could be more Italian than spaghetti with meatballs and tiramisu for dessert?

It's time for a long nap, then painting and exercising. That will be my schedule each day, perhaps exercising before painting. Let's see how long I can do it...

Dino gets his hair cut in Bomarzo and returns to find Sofi and me watching TV. I paint for a bit, then return to spend the evening with my best pals. It's another cold winter night here in our little part of the world. Oh, that Spring would come!

January 31
We drive to Rome after a short breakfast, all three of us, and Dino tries to park near a Castroni specialty shop (they have food items from all over the world), but parking is better near our good dentist, so we sit inside the waiting room of the dentist while Sofi snoozes in the car. Since we both have our kindle readers, we're not bored at all.

When it is my time, the three things I've come to see him about are finished in less than five minutes: my night mouth guard is fine and I should continue to use it, the rough area on the bottom left side of my teeth is filed so it's smooth in less than ten seconds, and the area on the bottom right side of my mouth where I have crowns does not need work, despite occasional pain when biting down on something. It also costs nothing.

So I tell him I'd like to do a painting for him and need a photo and we confirm that we will return on March 18th for our teeth cleaning, then bid him a c'e veddiamo! (see you again)

We learned from an Anthony Bourdain program on TV about a hole in the wall place in Rome for pizza, Il Pizzarium, and it is nearby. So we find it, eat our slices of pizza standing up at a counter...

...and then drive to Piazza Milvio to Mondi, the home of the finest gelato anywhere. What do we have there? Well, a small cup containing scoops of both lemon custard flavor and stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate running through it). They are both delicious, and we're happy with our choice.

We drive back up the A-1 Autostrada to Orvieto, where we fill up the metano gas tank and then to the hospital, where Dino picks up some test results.

We're home before dark, and taking naps before we end the day watching the usual TV by the fire.

It's been a lovely day, with no missteps. Seems as though we're settling in like the real Italians that we now are, and it's a good way to end the month. Comé no?

February 1
The month and the day begin with a surround of fog over our little village, our little home. But by noon skies are blue and there is not a cloud to be seen.

Dino makes toast with bread bought from Todis, and it is quite good. After espresso, cappuccino and some conversation, it's time to see what the day brings.

Dino works on the final wiring project for the second set of lights over the front kitchen cabinets, while Sofi and I return to the studio: me to paint and Sofi to hang out in her polka dot bed by my side.

The wiring project is done! Both cabinets now have lights (switched) so we can see what is inside them! This project is a fine example of "form" meeting "function".

I continue to tweak the painting, hoping that by next week we'll pull the canvas over the top of the structure so that I can work on the middle and bottom sections. Yes, I fully intend to have the painting finished by the first of June, but who knows?

After a couple of hours I wash the brushes and Sofi and I walk outside. It's a perfect time to begin to cut back all the weeds and prepare the annuals for spring blooms, so that is just what I do. Sorella grande (big sister) Rosina stands at her balcony above me and we muse about the lovely weather.

She warns me that our weather is about to turn, but no matter. I ask her if Sunday is San Biagio (blessing of the throat) and she nods, but tells me that tomorrow at 4:30 PM the priest will be at our church for something...another mass? the throat blessing? Neither of us knows for sure, other than we'll be at the church tomorrow at 4:30 PM.

I've taken out yesterday's pasta to warm to room temperature, and since it has meatballs and sauce and pasta, I'll add cheese, perhaps more tomatoes, and bake it in the oven for a while for today's pranzo.

Earlier, I tried out the exercise machine, but not for long. I will spend some time on it this afternoon; building up the time I spend on it until I'm more fit. It's a wonderful addition to our home.

We've taken our naps; I've fiddled a bit with the painting project. We spend the rest of the day and evening by the fire, watching TV. Yes, it's just another ordinary day in our little paradise.

February 2
It's Groundhog Day, and I'm thinking of you, dearest Nana in heaven. We used to celebrate it together. Now that you are watching from above, I send my love and blow you a kiss. What great friends we were/are/will always be!

With rain continuing throughout the morning, we have toast and then I return to painting with Sofi by my side and Dino watches TV. He's finished the lighting project in the kitchen...what a good job, dearest Dino!

I put on basmati rice, for Dino likes that variety, and fix a salmon baked in the oven in a bag.

Earlier, I just about finished the top of the painting and wonder if we can roll part of it over the top and secure it while I work on the middle portion, which I think is the most difficult part, for it's design is not clearly defined. Let's take a nap and think about it...later.

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of San Biagio, and the blessing of the throat will probably happen during mass. Its aim is to protect all of us who are there for the blessing for the rest of the winter season against influenza, especially of the throat.

Since it may be cold and rainy, no wonder. I'd like to stay home, but we're so committed to our community that of course we'll attend mass, probably followed by our Sunday drive to Il Pallone.

This afternoon there is also a mass, with Don Angelo, and it's a simple one with no special blessings of the throat. So that will indeed happen tomorrow, we think.

Afterward, we drive home to a happy Sofi, and spend the rest of the day inside, watching movies after a nap. With a lovely fire in the fireplace, we're content. The room is really beautiful, we agree, with all of our personal touches and mementos, wherever one looks, including three paintings which are about my most favorite.

Oh, how we love our life here in little Mugnano in Teverina. If only we were not so far from our San Francisco family...

February 3
It's Sunday, and that means mass in our church, followed by a trip to nearby Il Pallone for breakfast and food shopping at a Superconti that is open on Sundays.

It is also Superbowl Sunday, and that means we won't see the game until tomorrow, for it won't begin until around midnight our time. We'll plan to spend all Monday morning at home, watching the prerecorded game without listening to any news. Our beloved San Francisco team, the 49ers, will be playing.

I feel something warm and different today in our church: I have a sense of belonging. How important is this? Well, it could not be more important. We're finally accepted here!

Rosita, the head of the Coro, stands beside me and smiles at me. I know the words to the mass now, and more important, I know how to pronounce them correctly. She defers to me to begin the singing of our hymns, and it pleases me so.

Sorella grande (Rosina) and Sorella Piccola (Anna) both share greetings with me. Since Rosina is older and Anna is younger than me; that is how we work it out.

The priest this morning is someone we do not know: he's borrowed from the local monastery and is so full of emotion that we're hard pressed to think modestly in his presence. Every expression of his is with profundity, his eyes like slits as he throws his head back with emotion. What a guy! I look forward to getting to know him.

After mass, Dino walks me down to Pandina and we drive to Il Pallone to shop after having breakfast at a nearby bar. Grilled filets are on the menu for today, but we purchase our beloved Osso Bucco and I prepare it before pranzo. It always tastes better the second day, so why not have it tomorrow for the first time?

Pranzo is delightful, filets grilled by Dino and a vegetable croquette of artichoke and potato, followed by some TV watching of Anthony Bourdain in Amsterdam for a day. After I catch up with you, it's time for a long winter's nap. There is nothing we have to do until early tomorrow morning, but after watching the U.S. Superbowl we will feast on the Osso Bucco.

There is some talk with Dino about moving the canvas of the painting up, but I want to add more of the tree to the right side of the canvas, to protect the painting later when it is stretched, as a precursor to hanging it on the ceiling of the church in Isernia. What a thrill that will be! Can you imagine! a painting of mine covering the ceiling of a Catholic church in Italy?

After a bit of reading on the Kindle, we nap for several hours (!) and then watch TV as usual until it is time to go to bed. A domani (until tomorrow).

February 4
Yes, we watch the Superbowl, and the Baltimore Ravens are ahead the entire time. They win, and we're sad for the 49ers, but Baltimore played a much better game, although the 49ers caught up in the second half, losing by only 3 points (37-34).

We eat the osso bucco over pappardelle noodles and Dino raves about it. I like it, too! Tomorrow we'll have the same sauce over newly cooked pasta, for there is enough for another day. Sofi will get the little round bones so that she can suck out the marrow from the middle; that is, unless the bone is a size that will get stuck over her narrow snout. We'll see. oops! Dino does not want her to get the bones...she's too angry when we try to take them away from her afterward. So we skate past that possible trauma...

Ida Camplese's funeral is this afternoon, and Dino and I attend, walking back to our house afterward while the others continue on to the cemetery. Sofi guards the house. Skies are clear and sunny, although we expect the afternoon to experience a drop in temperature. We are ready!

Ida was married to Ennio Farina who died a few years ago, and she was seen for many years walking her small male dog named Basquia around the village. Sofi was not enamored with him, but then she's a pretty independent doggie, choosing to stay by my side whenever possible.

We walked up to the mass and Dino wore his Confraternity cloaks, changing afterward for the walk home. Eight Coro members sing along with me. It's an excellent turnout, with the church full and Don Angelo, our reverent and kind priest, addressing his comments to her family, including her dear son Stefano.

We're home before 4:30 and the sky is still a bright blue, so for those walking up to the cemetery it should be mild for her burial. Thankful to be alive and together, we take naps until skies darken and it's time for a fire in the kitchen and to enjoy the evening in each other's company. That includes Sofi, of course!

February 5
It's Tuesday, but is a day like any other here, sweet and cold this month. The sky remains colorless all morning, and Dino leaves for Viterbo for some project or other, telling me he'll call when he's on his way home so that I can reheat the osso bucco and cook pasta noodles to go along with it.

I paint and paint, working on a difficult section where two little heads appear in the sky but are not clearly defined. Yes, I can!

Sofi is content to sleep in her little polka dot bed in the studio nearby and oh, how I love her! She loves to sleep by my side, but that is only possible when Dino gets up and allows her to lie on top of the covers until I get up from a nap or in the morning. Only if you have a little doggie of your own will you understand how sweet that can be.

Dino is ready to buy a new car for us, and perhaps that is what he's doing in Viterbo. He's such a purposeful guy that it's not necessary to ask.

Speaking about cars, Dino's Formula-1 race schedule appears, and the first race is on March 18th. Lewis Hamilton, who is my favorite, is on the Mercedes team, and in a televised story he is excited to return for another year.

There won't be any outside gardening for us today, for the weather remains cold and dreary. How wonderful life is for us, retired from our work lives and free to pursue any activities we'd like. That means Dino is always busy doing...something. He also loves to drive. Unless I am driving a BMW, I don't have any interest in doing the same.

Those 8 years when I had one and then another BMW all my own were great driving experiences. It's better that I don't drive anymore, for I drove too fast on those Mount Tamalpais roads above San Francisco, singing my heart along with a recording of a woman whose name I can't even recall, but the song was, "Unbreak my heart!" Oh, it is Tony Braxton. Wonder what happened to her.

In Wikipedia, I read that she is the greatest selling R & B artist of all time. She certainly evokes emotion, although my life is so very calm and peaceful these days, especially with Dino and Sofi by my side. I haven't sung the song in years...

Sofi and I move down to the kitchen at noon, Sofi to eat and me to fix pranzo. After the fettuccini is cooked, which takes less than eight minutes, and the sugu has cooked for an hour or so, after adding a can of chopped tomatoes, Dino tells me that the meal is molto buono (very good), and I agree with him.

He feasts on seconds and thirds, before deciding to throw out the bones that would have been a treat for Sofi. He's afraid she'll turn wild once she has her teeth on one, and perhaps even get the bone stuck around her snout, after she's slurped out the marrow inside. I relent. Better she not have one than we have to deal with taking one or more away from her. That has happened before. So I give her a few noodles with sauce instead, and she's happy.

The doorbell rings, and it's a man with our telephone bill, which Dino signs for. These come every three months or so, for the past period, and he pays the bills at the post office, or at a tabaccaio (cigarette and stamp store). There are many of these, located in every town.

I've concentrated on the two tiny faces of angels in the painting this morning, and this afternoon I'll take another look at them after we take our daily nap and the paint has settled a bit. I look forward to moving the painting up, even a bit, to concentrate on the next section. So for now I'll read a bit, later returning to the painting, which is important to me.

Hopefully in a day or so we'll photograph and forward a photo of what I have finished to our dear priest friend in Isernia, for his comments.

February 6
I awake with a headache, but no matter. Outside, there is rain, clearing now and then. After breakfast, Sofi and I return to the studio and I do some research on oil painting colors. The ones I use are by Maimeri and were purchased in Rome from a special artist store. For the painting to be hung on the ceiling of the church in Isernia, I am quite careful to be as true to the images of the original painting in the church in Rome as possible.

Here's what I find online about one of the colors, the dark green used for the leaves of the tall tree:

Sap Green-This color originally was made from the unripe berries of the Buckthorn plant. In medieval times the extracted colorant was reduced to heavy syrup and sold in pig bladders, not as dry pigment. Modern oil paints under this name are actually mixtures of pigments that vary with each manufacturer.

The next time you curse those ubiquitous plastic bags used everywhere in Italy for just about everything, imagine carrying around your purchases in a pig bladder instead. Boh!

I return to painting while dearest Sofi lies in her polka dot bed nearby, her head hanging over the side. With classical music playing, I'm transported to another plane, another place, while working the images on the canvas.

Wondering if I've painted the images too far to the left and right edges of the canvas, I email Don Francis. After taking his measurements and adding the 20 cm leeway he'll give me, I'm fine. The top and bottom curves are about 3' high each, so I can add sky to the top one and earth to the bottom, or whatever without distorting the images. Not to worry.

February 7
We catch up with you, watch a bit of television, then leave to meet the man who will pick up Pandina from us, while Sofi guards the house. I'll drive it down, with Dino following in the older Panda, then return with him. Soon we'll have a new Panda, with the same configuration, but this time Dino wants it to be red. I relent. He does almost all of the driving, so why not let him be happy with his choice?

Happily home with dear Sofi kissing us hello, we sit by a lovely fire and enjoy the winter night, watching the usual TV.

February 8
Skies are pale blue with soft clouds floating here and there. After toast and caffé, we check out the terrace, and temperatures are mild. While Dino cleans out the old Panda, which is our car until the new one arrives in the dealership in Viterbo, I return to painting and listen to classical music on the radio while I do.

Don Francis and I have agreed that the width of the painting is fine. It's those two little angel faces in the shadow that are difficult to capture; I've been working on them off and on for days, still not happy. So I white them out and try again. Comé no? There's no reason to stress.

Before painting I cleaned up the bedroom, setting aside sweaters to have cleaned. Dino takes them with him when he goes shopping, although I think we'll have lasagna for pranzo with a salad.

Wherever I am, Sofi wants to be by my side. Although I put her outside to enjoy the sun, she cries until I bring her in. She's happy to sleep in her polka dot bed, and I hear her little snores of contentment now and then while I paint and then catch up with you.

I'm noticing that my hair is quite long, but from what I see, it is the style these days. Should I cut it when I have my hair frosted later this month? I like it long and Dino likes it worn back, so perhaps not.

February 9
We wake to sun and a cloud here and there. It's a lovely morning, and after breakfast we drive in the old car to Attigliano, where I make an appointment to do my hair (Tuesday at 8 AM) at the regular place, then Dino drops Sofi and me back at home before driving on to Bomarzo to the pharmacy and to shop for food for me to prepare for today's pranzo.

Soon, we'll vote for the first time regarding Italian elections, and it's important for us to do some research regarding the different candidates and their positions. Dino wants to meet with dear friends Duccio and Giovanna for their counsel, and I agree. It will be good to see them, anyway, even if it means a special trip to Rome.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., storms rage in New England, where I was born, and even flooding is expected on the coastal areas. Oh how I hated the weather there growing up, except for snow days. But during winter at the high school I went to (Thayer Academy), the headmaster often overslept and did not cancel school when all around us friends did not have to attend their schools. Boh!

With laundry to do, I hang out the first load and put in a second. In the meantime, Dino shops and comes home with a yellowish green cauliflower head and a pork loin, which he will grill. What to do with the cauliflower? Or is it broccoli?

I look up some recipes for the cauliflower...or is it broccoli? I'll boil it in chicken broth, then drain it and put it in a food processor and add butter and grated cheese. Comé no? It comes out so well that we eat it all. The recipe definitely is a keeper.

While I catch up with you, CNN is on a nearby television, and the news is all about snow in New England. How sad for them!

February 10
We wake early to very cold temperatures but a blue sky overhead.

We're early for church, and it's a small turnout, but there are three priests! Two remain, one Capuccine monk and another from where we do not know, but he speaks on and on and is full of life.

Afterward we drive to Il Pallone, have caffé and shop, this time for beef stew meat and other things to go with it and hamburger meat for today's pasta sugo.

It's so cold outside!

After a nap and a few minutes of painting, we spend the evening watching TV. It's too cold outside to do much outdoor gallivanting, and snow is expected in the area, but we doubt it.

February 11
We did not have snow, but freezing rain that continues throughout the morning. No matter. I make an Italian Peasant Bread, but mix up the time and almost put it in the oven two hours early!

I do make the beef stew, and it is the stew cooking in the oven that saves me from making a mess with bread dough. That means we'll surely have it with pranzo. We hear from dear friend Stein that he and a friend will arrive for a short visit tomorrow around noon, and I suggest we not have the stew today, but have it tomorrow with them. Dino calls him and they agree! So we'll make more pasta to eat with yesterday's sugo and all is well.

Since it's still early, I return to painting for a bit while the bread continues to rise. We take the stew out of the oven to raise the temperature for the bread, and will cook it some more later.

The bread is Italian Peasant Bread, more like a ciabatta, for it's pretty flat, despite using yeast. But it's crunchy and delicious. We have another loaf to use tomorrow, but I'm not sure how it will taste the second day. We'll see.

Tomorrow morning will be an adventure, compounded by the fact that I'm having my hair hilighted in Attigliano. We aim to be there right at 8 AM when they open, so if all goes as planned I'll be done just in time for us to meet Stein and his friend nearby at the train station. Let's hold our breaths...

Gloomy weather continues, although Dino makes a lovely fire in the fireplace, and he and Sofi and I enjoy the morning nearby.

Pranzo is delicious, and we watch a movie about a dear boy and his dog, which seems a bit like a Jack Russell Terrier. Sofi does not pay much attention. Afterward, I catch up with you with Sofi lying in her little bed by my side in the studio. Then it's time for a nap, while outside rain continues to fall, not quite straight down. It's a gloomy day, but no matter.

News here is that Pope Benedict is retiring on February 28th, I think at age 86. There is no news about his successor, so there may be no pope for a bit. He claims it's his health. I'm hoping the next pope will do more to clean up pedophilia in the Church. So many people have left the faith because of it; perhaps if there is a change, most or all of them will return. I continue to ignore Rome and pray my own way, attending church regularly and continuing in the Coro. Life goes on...

February 12

"In today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

POPE BENEDICT XVI, announcing his resignation.

Pope Benedict has resigned, effective February 28th, and the news about his successor is the biggest thing to happen these days.

Pope Benedict has appointed 67 cardinals and of these, 37 are from Europe, which remains the largest voting block, and potentially the most influential. Nearly all of the 117 cardinals who will vote for the new pope were appointed by Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, These men were both strong traditionalists, and it is likely that the next pope will share their vision and doctrine, but one never knows...

With more than 150 million Catholics and a rapidly growing population, Africa represents one of the church's few avenues for expansion, and church leaders have assiduously promoted charismatic bishops and cardinals in nations with substantial Catholic populations, like Nigeria and Ghana.

I mentioned to our friends today that one of the Black African Cardinals will surely be in the final round. That said, it's not probable a black man will be made the next pope. But having made it to the final round seemingly gets the choosers off the proverbial "hook". Or does it?

I have my hair colored in Attigliano at the usual place and they do a good job, despite the front looking a bit too gold. They recommend that I return in a week for some kind of treatment to turn the gold into a tawny shade. This has happened before, Perhaps the gold will just tone down. One can only hope. Otherwise, I like it a lot.

Stein and his friend Thomas arrive for a beef stew pranzo, and it's pretty good, but not exceptional. It has sautéed for hours, so is quite tender and is served over fettuccini noodles. With plenty of red wine and a green salad and tiramisu for dessert, all is well. After a walk around the village, Dino takes them back to Attigliano to the train to return to Rome.

It's wonderful to see Stein again, and he looks well. As usual, he has plenty of fun things to talk about. After we eat, I take Thomas and Stein up to see the current painting, and Thomas, who makes a good living as a painter in Norway, gives me some pointers about using colors to paint flesh tones, especially black and white. It's an eye opener.

As usual, Sofi is happiest by my side, and lies next to me in the studio as I catch up with you. Since we've had plenty of wine, I don't think I'll paint this afternoon. Helping Dino to clean up the kitchen is about all I can do this afternoon. There's no reason to stress. Let's take a nap!

I love this piece in the NYT:

Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope

Published: February 11, 2013

POPE BENEDICT XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He'd been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women.

A Statement Rocks Rome, Then Sends Shockwaves Around the World (February 12, 2013)

* For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.

The Roman Catholic Church, which in so many ways has been a great boon to the City of New York, has been choked and bludgeoned into insignificance by a small group of men based in Italy.

Priests cannot marry. Why? I will tell you why. Priests cannot marry because they would have to marry women. Women cannot be priests.

Why? Women cannot become priests because of a bunch of old men. These old men justify their beliefs with a brace of ridiculous arguments that Jesus would have overturned in a minute. "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." What about that is hard to understand? If you can become a priest, I can become a priest. Period. Equality.

Benedict has not been idle. He has put in place a lot of other old guys who have no interest in sharing power with anyone outside the club. The last pope we had who showed signs of spiritual vision was John XXIII. That was a long time ago. He had humility and a good heart. These more recent appointments have been disheartening in the extreme.

When I was a kid at St. Anthony's in the Bronx (one of the schools that the archdiocese of New York is now closing), there were boxes for the poor. The people of the East Bronx worked hard and made little. Everybody put money in those boxes. I put money in those boxes. As far as I'm concerned, that money was stolen.

I have watched the wealth of the Catholic Church turned into a subsidy for wrongdoing and a prop for the continuing campaign against women's rights and homosexuality. Neighborhood churches, built with the hard-earned money of working-class people, are being sold off. The sacrifices that were made to build these churches were significant and local. The decision to close them has been made antiseptically, by remote control. The men who make these decisions are at a remove, very much involved in protecting their power and comfort.

I have little reason to hope that the Church of Rome will suddenly realize that without women, the Catholic Church is doomed, and should be doomed. I think of those good nuns who educated me, of their lifelong devotion and sacrifice. They have been treated like cattle by a crowd of domineering fools. In Benedict, the Catholic Church got the pope it deserved. I can only hope, for the sake of my parents, who loved the church so much, that a miracle of divine grace alters the writing on the wall. If not, the Catholic Church will suffer the fate it deserves.

John Patrick Shanley is the author of "Doubt" and other plays.

February 13
The weather is prettier when we awake than at just before noon, when the sky turns colorless except for clouds floating above. I read the N Y Times each morning online, and there is an interesting column this morning about the choices a pope makes. Take a look if you are interested.

It appears the former policeman who became a murderer in Southern California has immolated himself, after hiding in a cabin surrounded by forests. You know all about this by now, so do you wonder what turns a man into a murderer after acting as a policeman, supposedly for the common good and safety of his fellow man/woman? I don't judge him, although wonder what could have been done to make his life feel more rewarding and selfless.

Dino prints out the information for the upcoming elections in Italy, and since we are both Italian, as well as American, citizens, we look forward to participating. It will take some study, as well as counsel from our dear and knowledgeable Italian friends, Duccio and Giovanna. We hope to see them here this weekend. But should we go to see Signor Ivo at the Comune to register, or have we done that already? Or is it necessary?

Dearest Sofi chooses to lie in her polka dot bed by my side as I paint and then catch up with you. Dino has gone to nearby Attigliano, perhaps to pick up something for me to fix for pranzo. Yes, I'm a dreamer, and if it were up to me we'd make do with something we have around here. Thanks to my dear one, he loves to drive, loves to shop, and is methodical about his shopping list, which he keeps on his IPhone. What a guy!

I've painted for an hour or two, and although Stein and his painter friend Thomas were here yesterday and Thomas showed me how he paints in oils by mixing colors, I continue to follow my own path. He is a fine painter, and makes his living in Norway as a painter. Thank you, dear new friend.

I don't aspire to spend all my time painting, although want to leave something behind after I'm gone that is a testament to my belief in God and in my fellow man. The current painting is a real challenge and quite large. I am hoping it will be finished by late this Spring and will be installed on the ceiling of dear priest friend Don Francis's church in Fornelli di Isernia, South of Rome.

The subject is the martyrdom of St. Peter, and by that I don't mean the original St. Peter. It is St. Peter of Verona, and when you come to Rome you can see the original in the Gabrielli Chapel.

The Gabrielli chapel is dedicated to St. Peter of Verona, the dramatic altarpiece by Ventura Lamberti (1651 - 1721), depicts the scene of the martyrdom of the Saint.

Peter of Verona (1205 - 1252) was born into a family that followed the Cathar heresy, became an adult, while St. Dominic was still alive, and later a Dominican friar and preacher. He was an uncompromising opponent of heresy, in particular the Cathar one.

Beyond the theological issues, the spread of Catharism was due to the fact that the practice of poverty, humility and charity made the Cathars welcome to the poorest populations.

St. Dominic realized that to oppose the Cathars it was necessary refer to St. Benedict ("ora et labora" = pray and work), and the friars as well as to preach had to act after the same principles of the Cathars: poverty, humility and charity.

In 1251 Pope Innocent IV appointed Peter of Verona inquisitor in Milan and Como. The year after he was caught in the forest of Seveso, while he was walking from Como to Milan, here was murdered by hired assassins.

February 14
It's Valentine's Day, and Dino returns from shopping in Attigliano with a single tall red rose in a vase. Grazie, Caro.

This morning I spend most of it painting, although outside there is lovely sun. Sofi chooses to stay by my side for most of it. The front of my hair continues to look orange. Purtroppo. Perhaps in a few days it will settle down. If not, we'll return for a repair of the front part.

Dino works on the tall Cachi (Persimmon) tree on the front terrace when he returns but before pranzo, clipping the dead branches and grooming it for it's Spring and Summer foliage. Until we had the pergola made, the tree was all we had to shelter us from the somewhat oppressive hottest days of Summer. I worry about him up on the tall ladder in the middle of the tree, but he is not concerned and does not want me to "foot" the ladder for him. I keep busy and try not to worry. He finishes a great job and spends time clipping those branches and putting them into lugs to save for next year's fires. They are too new to use for this year.

Regarding our lovely iron pergola, in April, it is covered with wisteria, its pink and white flowers cascading down then. The bees agree, flocking here to feast on the pollen nectar. So it's during Summer evenings that we spend lots of time outside on the terrace, especially when we have our pizza nights, for the green leaves stay until late fall and bees have left, speriamo.

I catch up with you and then fix a simple pranzo, looking forward to each day and each evening spent together with my two pals, Dino and Sofi, whom I love dearly. We send our love on this day to our San Francisco family, sure that they are celebrating it there, albeit some hours later than we do. (They are 9 hours behind us.)

After a walk about the terrace while Dino continues to cut back dead ends of the roses on the pergolas, I return to do more painting. I'm not ready to slide the canvas over the top to work on the major part on the bottom half. Hour by hour, the painting continues to take shape. Let's not rush.

We watch movies, ending with Hugo Cabret, which we enjoy quite a bit. Sofi is ready to go to bed, and so are we. Comé no?

February 15
On this chilly and sunny morning, there's plenty of work to do on the terrace, and Sofi joins us for all of it. See yesterday for a continuation of Dino's work on the persimmon tree and the pergola.

Inside, I make apple muffins and an apple cake, with not much sugar but using the sweet Pink Lady apples and brown sugar. Dino loves the muffins, and so do I. Although it's taken the morning to make them, I'll paint a bit this afternoon...or not. Time for a nap after pranzo, with Sofi by my side in her bed.

February 16
We're hoping to see dear pals Duccio and Giovanna to go over the Italian ballot, for elections take place in another ten days, and we're not sure whom the best candidates are. We do know that that old scallywag, Berlusconi, is not.

After pranzo and a short nap, Sofi guards the house while we drive up to Bomarzo, meeting Michael, Stephanie and Justin on the walk up to the house. All is well.

Duccio stands at the parapet right outside their door (centuries ago it was an entry station for the borgo) to welcome us, and we learn a bit, but are still not sure. The photo of Bersani shows him as angry, so we're more likely to go with Monti, but we learn that a vote for Bersani is also a vote for Monti, for they will work in concert with each other, as no one will gain enough votes for a majority.

We'll see. This is the first time we're eligible to vote, and I consider the ability to vote, no matter where one lives, is a privilege that means a lot. We surely will.

Back at home, it's an evening watching TV, as usual, and a lovely fire, thanks to dearest Dino.

February 17
We wake early, and it's cold outside. Sofi thankfully wears her full winter coat of fur, to be thinned tomorrow by Sylvia.

It's time for church, so Sofi guards the house while we drive up to the borgo in our old car. Present in church are Nonna Rosita, Rosina and me as members of the Coro

I learn that there was a practice last Friday afternoon and I of course missed it. I did not know and apologize, stating that I'll surely attend this Friday afternoon. The same priest attends mass, and I do not know his name, but there is some talk later about Don Daniele ending his seven-year term as our main priest this year. Perhaps that is why we often have others performing the mass each week. I'll surely let you know what happens.

We drive off in the old Panda to Il Pallone, for caffé and a snack, then shopping. Dino wants to have the rest of the battered pork with an egg on top of each one, for today's pranzo, so there is little we have to buy. Wanting to buy a large copper pan, like a casserole, with points, it will be some time before we have enough. No matter.

We run into David, the muratore, and he tells Dino that he'll return to Maria Elina's project on Tuesday. He, with a few other pal, are putting away the "floats' used in this years Carnivale.

Back at home, Sofi is her sweet self, excited to come out of her little cage, bounding around on the terrace. I take out the towels and hang them to dry on a rack on the terrace; then put in this last week's sheets to wash next. Once I've put a new set of sheets on our bed, we're ready to climb in as soon as we need to take our afternoon nap.

I'm musing about Coro these days, realizing that all of us have been members for some time, so the music is familiar to all of us. Perhaps on Friday we'll begin to sing a new piece or two. Now that I'm formally an Italian citizen, I feel especially relaxed and at home here.

There's plenty of painting to do before the canvas is moved up and over the top bar, and the more realistic the images become, the more work I realize must be done. I'm not going to hurry, but hopefully this afternoon I'll do some more, especially of the larger angel's eyes, which have changed a bit. I love the little angel the best, but since her face is turned upward instead of inward here, it's a bit different than the original. I like her a lot so far, so let's move on and be happy.

It's my conjecture that the artist's interpretation of an original work of art is what makes the painting theirs. Although it's a classic image, to be installed in an old Italian church, there is room to make it more pleasing to the viewer, who will sit below during church services and hopefully gain inspiration from looking up at the images on the ceiling above them. Speriamo di si. (I hope so.)

What about the tomato seeds? I found several packages of them with seeds still inside, so perhaps they will still be worth soaking overnight and planting in tiny cups of soil. But let's wait another day or so to purchase the containers and soil enhancer. Dino advises me that we need to find all the supplies we have here first. Va bene!

In the meantime, we take a long nap, and when Sofi and I get up, Dino is already downstairs watching TV. We spend the evening together, turning in late when it's quite cold!

February 18
We're up early, for this morning Silvia arrives to strip little Sofi, an experience our dear doggie hates. She is quite dramatic, crying out in little gasps as Silvia works with her on the table. We've put them in the dining room, rearranging it and putting a plastic drop cloth down, over which Silvia puts her tables.

When Silvia arrives, Sofi runs out to greet her and wags her tail, but soon begins to shake and I hold her in my arms to try to calm her down, giving her hugs and gentle words.

Since it's cold outside, Silvia and Sofi spend the morning in the dining room. Usually, they work outside or in the summer kitchen. But not today.

Once they are settled, Dino bids me goodbye and drives to Viterbo. One of the things he is going to buy is a sterile potting medium for the tomatoes. Yes, we're beginning again, with around sixty tiny sterile cups left from last year's purchase. We have a little green house, one that stores other things during other parts of the year. But now, it will be transformed again to its original purpose. Perhaps tonight we will soak the seeds, which have lived in the darkness for several years. Let's hope they're still good. They should be.

If all goes as planned, we'll drop one seed into each of the sixty little cups. Once they have grown a bit and formed two leaves, we'll plant those little biologic containers into larger pots until they are planted outside in the tomato garden. It's a painstaking effort that should result in luscious and large summer tomatoes of varying colors to use in salads or sliced caprese style with mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil. We'll let you know how things progress.

Two hours after Silvia arrived, I'm upstairs catching up with you, Dino is still on the road to and from Viterbo, and Sofi and Silvia continue to wrestle in the dining room. I'm stressed, for Sofi is stressed. She's such a part of me that I hate to think of her frightened and suffering, although Silvia is very sweet and gentle.

Sofi is a wire-haired daushund, so her coat is rough in texture. Silvia thins her coat with a tool that pulls, so it's not a fun experience, but one that she needs several times a year. During the cold season she'll need to wear a sweater more often, especially when she has just been stripped, but she has several sweaters and coats to choose from.

Perhaps later today we'll take out our packages of seeds and soak them overnight, determining which ones look good enough to plant. We surely have more than sixty, even though we did not purchase seeds this past year. Since our house faces South/Southwest, there's plenty of sun during the daytime hours to encourage the seedlings to grow.

Yes, we're each busy every day and love what we do, even though I'd love to just be lazy now and then. It's difficult to imagine living back in the United States, and although we miss Terence and Angie and the girls quite a bit, we could not imagine living anywhere than here.

One of the adventures we will have next weekend is participating in the election process in Italy, where we are also citizens. Yes, we can have dual citizenship, voting in both places. Since we consider the ability to vote a privilege, we look forward to voting this weekend, and study the options, although we're not sure about everything.

February 19
Oops! I forgot to soak the seeds last night, but no matter. We'll do it tonight, perhaps soaking them in muffin cups to differentiate the different types of heirloom tomatoes. We still need to find the sterile potting mix to get them started, although we have the tiny pots made of peat moss.

I take out a muffin tin made to make six muffins. Since we have six types of heirloom tomatoes this year, this is perfect. In each space, I add warm water, after numbering each space to correspond with the number on the seed packet. I add the seeds and let the container sit on the windowsill facing the sun. Stay tuned...

Today is cold and sunny, but we put a red sweater on Sofi because she does not have all that extra hair to keep her warm. She loves the sweater, loves sitting outside in the sun.

Dino looks up the Academy Awards show, and records it, so that we can watch it after the fact. To watch it live, we'd have to stay up all night. Remember we are 9 hours ahead of West Coast time!

I return to the painting for an hour or two, with Sofi asleep in her polka dot bed by my side. She becomes sweeter by the day, content to love us and be near us. What more could a pet owner want?

We take an especially long nap, as it is a cold day. Dino gets up earlier than me, and when Sofi and I return downstairs he's happily watching TV.

Tonight Sofi is quiet, not moving much. I fear something is not right with her, so while she sits on the sofa with us, I rest my right hand on the back of her neck, to calm her.

February 20
Dearest Sofi is showing her age, not moving a lot, content to be by my side.

While Dino drive off this morning to Viterbo, for a check at the doctor's about his blood pressure, which he's checked here and seems fine, it's my time to put the tomato seeds into tiny pots made of peat.

The pots sat facing the sun since yesterday afternoon in a South-facing window. After soaking the peat tablets in warm water in the little cavities where they'll hold the seeds, I place one or two seeds in each (not every one will take), separating them by the six types we'll grow, adding a bit of warm water.

It's a cold morning, but there is plenty of sun. I don't worry that there is more than one seed in each pot, for not all will grow. From now until they're in the ground the project is mine, so it's important to be vigilant.

There's nothing like a homegrown heirloom tomato, fresh from the vine, in summer salads, or just to eat like an apple. We eat caprese salads often in the summer, for we grow basil later in the spring and shop for the freshest buffalo mozzarella when the tomatoes are ripe. With sliced heirloom tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil...Yum!

It's certainly worth all the work...

The swiss chard and rice soup with lemon takes lots of time...two hours or so to make. It's worth it, so why not share it with you? Swiss chard and rice soup with lemon. Follow this link:


After the delicious pranzo and a long nap, it's too cold to spend time outside, so we watch TV with Sofi by our side.

February 21
A man arrives to give us a quote for installing solar panels on our far property, and we're hoping that solar technology has advanced in the past several years to make them cheaper. Our roof is too heavy to install them there, due to the over-engineered work of a Giove muratore years ago. We'll see.

While he's here I check online and find that developments in Solar Power engineering have resulted in steep cuts to their cost in recent years. Dino tells me he'll read about it after the man leaves, for he'll be following up on the meeting. Va bene.

Our heirloom tomato seeds continue to hibernate in two South-facing windows, with enough seeds left over to put a dozen or so in a set of peat pots for our dear Orvieto pals. I continue to add water to keep them moist, so in a few days should see the first tiny shoots appear.

Upstairs in the studio, I continue to see things to refine in the painting, especially the darker clouds emerging behind the trees. Soon, very soon, we'll move the canvas up to paint the middle area, where the two heads begin to appear.

Where there is sun from our windows, the sky is bright, but there are white clouds covering about half of our view skyward. I study those that are dark to give me help in painting dark clouds in the painting. It helps.

Sofi halfheartedly plays with a bone in the studio, waiting to hear anything that the visitor tells Dino. She's ever vigilant. Soon she's tired of the bone, moving to her polka dot bed instead. Good girl!

We meet our good friends Kari and Leif for cena tonight at I Gelsi and so enjoy their company. Perhaps the next time they come to Italy, Kari and I can get together. That will be so much fun, as we spend our time together laughing and laughing.

Back at home, it's so cold. We can't wait to hop into bed. Hope it's not too cold where you are.

February 22
Cold and rain under a colorless sky today, but no matter. It's still a little paradise for us.

I'm content to stay inside, and have no interest joining Dino on his shopping and driving missions, although I love to be with him. I think it has something to do with a gene carried down from my mother, who seemed content to stay in the house when I was growing up, although I'm always busy, and she liked sitting and reading or watching TV. I do love to stay in our house, with little Sofi by my side. There is always something to do, especially paint, these days. And painting is just what I do while Dino goes out to meet with David regarding a project for our dear friend Mai.

After a couple of hours, the rain continues, with no sign of letting up. So we'll sit next to a lovely fire and watch TV when Dino returns.

Still not sure about our solar panels, Dino tries to reach Claudio and is unable to. He and Shelly researched solar panels years ago for their nearby house, so I asked Dino to get another quote, and asking Claudio what their developments have been makes a lot of sense. We'll see.

I see one tiny tomato seedling, possibly two, of the Brandywine type, peeking out of the soil in the studio window. That container of little peat pots sits on the windowsill in the studio, leaning one edge on the radiator right inside the window. So there is heat there in the mornings.

Soon we'll move all the pots to the little greenhouse we use in the hallway nearby, where we'll rig up lights and heat. This is a real adventure for us, although sadly last year we had no tomatoes at all. Let's be positive.

Sofi and I move down to the kitchen so she can be fed and I can wash the paintbrushes. I won't paint again until tomorrow. If it rains tomorrow morning, I may even stay home from church. It depends, although Dino will surely not be happy with my decision if I stay at home.

I'm concerned about the Italian elections this weekend. We're both finally eligible to vote, and although I consider the ability to vote an honor, am disillusioned by the candidates. Non-candidate Beppe Grillo seems to be gaining lots of popularity, but he's not eligible to run, for he was convicted of manslaughter some years ago when three people died in an auto accident in which he was driving and found guilty. He rants and raves about things he hates, but has no good ideas.

For as long as I can remember, people we've asked whom were/are Italian citizens have expressed sarcasm or just plain sadness when we've asked them what they think about various Italian politicians. In a country where there is an abundance of laughter and joking about life, politicians are considered fodder.

It makes me sad. I'm too old to do anything about it personally, but want to endorse people who will. Read:

for a good column about the state of politics in Italy today.

Dino returns home while I'm making chicken risotto, and we have it with a salad while watching a movie that does not interest me, although there's nothing I'd like to do. It's such a gloomy day (rain began just before Dino returned), this afternoon is a good time to nap.

In the U.S., my lovely violin sits at Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito, CA, hopefully to be sold. When Uncle Harry died, he willed it to me, and since I can no longer play it, we're hoping we can sell it for a reasonable price. It's a gorgeous instrument, and I'm so sorry I'm unable to play it anymore. I began playing the violin when an adult, and the pain caused in my right shoulder was so intense I had to stop playing. If I had played it while younger, my arm muscles would probably have adapted. If you are interested in picking up a fine violin and can get to El Cerrito, CA easily, do see Rich there and tell him I referred you. Comé no?

February 23
It's another cold and rainy and windy day, so we spend almost all of it inside. There are lots of recorded movies and programs to watch and risotto to fix for pranzo. Dino sets the recorder to capture the Oscars tomorrow night, for it won't begin until almost midnight our time. So we'll have a busy Monday morning watching all of it, when most of you are aasleep.

Tomorrow we'll meet with Paola and Antonio after church to go over the ballot for the Italian elections. Since we're both Italian citizens as well as American citizens, we can vote here, and need some guidance in understanding how it's done. It looks a bit complicated, with different colored ballots for different positions. We'll let you know.

Sweet Sofi stays by my side for all of it. How fortunate we are to have such a dear doggie!

February 24
It's Sunday, and time to vote! Yes, we're both now Italian citizens as well as American citizens, so after mass we stop at Paola and Antonio's house in the borgo to make sure we know what the ballot means. No, they do not tell us whom to vote for, but instruct us in the meaning of it.

That takes hardly any time at all, so before we know it we've walked inside the ex-scuola, where the elections take place in our little village and say hello to the poll workers, who are friends.

Each of us steps into a booth covered with cloth on the top and both sides, and it only takes a minute to make our choices, and there are oh, so many parties running. It feels wonderful to vote. Yes, the ability to vote is indeed a privilege; so if you are able to, please don't ignore it.

That done, we're ready to go shopping for food at Il Pallone and stop for a caffé and a snack for Dino.

Dino wants chicken Marsala, which is like veal Marsala, except chicken slices are pounded and sauteed with a sauce of Marsala wine. We'll eat it along with rice and a green salad. Today, we'll finish with cannoli, the wonderful dessert I first tasted as a child when visiting the Italian North End of Boston.

Back at home, although there was a momentary shower of hail while we were driving about, skies are clear and blue, with white clouds hovering above. I've another headache, and hope this will be a nothing kind of day, resting and treating the back of my head with an ice pack.

But first there is pranzo to fix, so while Dino puts sheets in the washing machine, I make up the bed with fresh sheets and then fix our meal.

A headache looms, and after eating and watching two MasterChef programs, I go upstairs with an ice pack to hopefully cool my head and neck down. Thanks to my dearest two pals, Dino does the dishes and Sofi follows me upstairs to lie nearby.

Dino has taped the Oscars tonight, so we'll watch them tomorrow morning, speriamo.

We watch a few more programs, but after watching an hour of the movie: "The Thin Red Line", I can't watch any more. Photography is wonderful, but it is too gruesome for me.

Dino stays up to watch more of it while Sofi and I come upstairs to go to bed and catch up with you. I have an icepack with me, so hope that lingering headache will have had its day before long. Perhaps the cold and rain has something to do with ongoing winter headaches.

February 25
It's another very cold day, cloudy outside, and we stay inside for all of it.

With nothing much to report, we watch movies and recorded programs on TV and do a fair amount of resting. Sofi remains by my side with a kiss for Dino now and then while we all sit on the couch.

Neighbor and Confratello of Dino's, Nicola (Salvatore) has died and we'll both participate in his funeral tomorrow afternoon. He has been ill for a long time. Blessings to him in heaven.

Hope it's not too cold where you are.

February 26
There's a pedicure with dear Giusy this morning. I am early but finish late, for she does not take me for almost an hour. Sigh. I love her but wish she were more prompt.

There is some sun this morning, but also there are plenty of clouds. It feels mild, so perhaps we will have good weather this afternoon for the funeral. Dino tells me that although he'll wear his Confraternity garb for the funeral, he will not walk in the procession to the cemetery on the hill past our house. I will participate with my Coro buddies, singing during the mass, but will also not participate in the procession.

After a pasta carbonara pranzo, which Dino likes, we lie down for less than an hour before we walk up to attend the funeral. Dino changes into his Confraternity garb and I sit with my Coro buddies and we sing four hymns. It feels good to participate, although the service is quite sad. There is a good Coro turnout.

Nicola's wife takes his death quite hard; she cries throughout most of the service. Afterward I tell her that she will always be like a sister to me. Life after the death of a partner must be devastating; it's the least I can do to make her feel welcome when we're around each other.

Dino confirms that the rest of the family is also in tears, and are taking Nicola's passing hard. Although he was sick for a long time, he was a dear man and will be greatly missed. We walk home sadly.

Back at the house, Sofi is happy to see us, and although no tomato seeds have sprouted, we move the tubs into the little greenhouse in the hallway and Dino turns on the lights. Once he rigs up a bit of heat close by, I'm hoping they'll germinate. Since we had no tomatoes last year and these are from the same packets of seeds, lets hope everything works better this year.

There's time for a nap and to read, so comé no? Sofi is happy, as long as she is by my side, and Dino will probably be happy in front of a fire watching TV. We'll join him a while later.

We spend the evening watching TV, feeling sad for our dear neighbors. In this little village, a death has a great impact.

February 27
That colorless sky above turns a pale blue as a tiny bird lights on the outside windowsill of the studio for a moment. It looks like the start of a lovely day.

I awoke with a headache, but no matter. There's nothing to stress about. It surely will pass, as Sofi lies by my side in her little polka dot bed, head folded tightly toward her body, just waiting for me.

I must be daft: no wonder no seedlings have yet appeared. We had no crop last year, and these are from the same packets of seeds! Although I protect them, keeping the packets cool and dark all year, I must have done something wrong with the seed packets last year.

We will move them to the mini greenhouse by the studio window, add a light above and heat below. Let's hope.

Dino drives to Viterbo, while Sofi snoozes in her polka dot bed by my side in the studio. He stops at the FIAT dealership and our panda has arrived. Perhaps we'll be able to pick it up this week. Speriamo!

I do some painting in the studio, with Sofi by my side, and each day I find more touches to embellish it. Soon, hopefully soon, we'll move it up to work on the bottom half.

We'll pick up our car on Friday, we hope. In the meantime, we're going to soak all the seeds tonight. Instructions are to add more seeds, for not all germinate. So perhaps we'll have more than one seed in each little peat pot. There are eight types, mostly those we have not grown before, but all of them are heirlooms, which we grow for eating, not to make sauces with.

If you recall, later in the summer we purchase tomatoes cheaply and bottle them for later use. But these we grow from seeds are for eating directly, and they should all be really tasty.

I'm dreaming of caprese, that luscious summer salad of sliced tomatoes, sliced buffala mozzarella and fresh basil, with good olive oil drizzled on top. I love eating this salad here, knowing the tomatoes have been grown from seed right here!

We take a short nap, and I catch up on some reading, although I have a headache. Perhaps this is the season.

While the seeds soak, I prepare the tiny peat pots, giving each of them a bit of water so that the disks inside expand, turning into a soil mixture. I also find flat plant markers and mark out the eight different types of tomato seeds, so that they'll be planted together by each type.

The new car, which will be named PandaRosso, will be ready to be picked up on Friday. That will be fun, for I'll be able to drive it home. Do I need to tell you that it is red? Since it's really Dino's car, for he'll drive it all but the first route home, I'm fine that he's picked the color. I'd pick beige; for some reason I like the color in a car. But it does not matter.

February 28
The next leap year will be 2016, so this is the last day of the month. With plenty of sun in the sky, I'm thinking of my work ahead with the heirloom tomato seeds.

They continue to soak in the little greenhouse in the studio window, and I come up with eighteen little peat planters with seeds in each. It's suggested that I put more than one seed in each little planter, for not every one turns into a plant. The seed planters are marked with sticks by number, and there are eight types, plus two additional types waiting in seed packets for our friends to return from the U.S. soon.

Eighteen plants are not enough for us, so tomorrow we'll pick up more sterile potting mix and plant more, when we pick up PandaRosso. Yes, that's Dino's name for our new car and it is red. I'm reminded of dear departed father in law Leo, who named his cars by their color: the red job, the brown job, etc. Hello, dear Leo, up there in heaven!

Back to gardening, we have extra pots made of peat moss. In the meantime, plenty of seeds soak in the sunny window. I'm hoping the additional soaking will help and not harm their growth. Tomorrow we'll pick up more sterile potting mix and the number of plants for our garden will grow.

Dino drives off for errands and returns with pork chops to grill, broccoli to steam and chocolate pudding for dessert. What a guy!

Since it's still early, he spends a bit of time continuing to thin branches of the plum tree on the terrace. When there is fruit, it is fantastic; but there is not always fruit. I have no idea why.

I've spent more time painting in Dino's absence this morning, refining a few areas of the canvas. By this weekend we'll be ready to move the canvas up over the top of the structure, so that I can begin to paint the bottom half, where the murder of St. Peter the Martyr takes place. The subject is a bit gruesome, but is what dear Don Francis wants for the ceiling of his church, so be it. It's also the name of the church, in a neighborhood of Isernia, in the Molise, south of Rome.

Dear friend Kari wants a painting of penguins, so that's on my mind, although I can't begin to work on it just yet. If you're reading this, dear Kari, thank you so much for your patience. I so appreciate it.

So that's about it for this month. Hope you're having fun where you are, too.

The new Panda(Rosso) with Mauro the Fiat salesman:

We pick it up tomorrow!
March 1

It's a RED letter day! Why? Well, today we pick up Dino's new car, a red, very red Panda. He will call it PandaRosso, and comé no?Did you know that Dino's initials are R-E-D?

We're up early and Sofi guards the house while we leave to pick up the new car. Soon we're at the auto dealership and it seems to take forever, but Mauro, the salesperson, is quite friendly and helpful and we leave with the car before noon.

Not able to find the biologic disks that expand in water and are used to start tomato seeds in the peat pots, we drive home to a welcome Sofi and I fix a pasta in cream sauce with stuffed olives and it's quite delicious. Dino asks me what I call it and it's an impromptu invention, so I tell him it is Pasta PandaRosso!

We clean up and take Sofi for her first ride in the new car. We're hoping the Vivaio (nursery) outside Terni has the discs; we can't seem to find them here. I'm aching to add three dozen or more heirloom tomato plants to those we have, and in the meantime find one of the water atomizers and fill it with warm water, then spray the finished labeled pots holding soil made from the discs that are hopefully going to show sprouts in the next few days.

Dino and I drive in PandaRosso with Sofi to the vivaio outside Terni, find the round plugs to soak for more plants as well as for plastic markers to identify each of them. I'd rather use the wooden ones, but no matter.

We're home before dark and I soak all the rest of the seeds left in their packets, putting the containers under a light for the night. Tomorrow I'll plant them in individual little peat pots. Soon we'll see how many tomato plants we will have this year...not all the seeds mature, so we won't know for a week or so.

Tomorrow morning we'll move the canvas used for my painting up by at least one third so that I can continue to paint the complicated images. I really want to finish it before the month of May. Let's be hopeful and I'll try very hard to paint each day.

So what's that about our having a slow and peaceful life? I don't think either of us knows any other way to live our lives than in a state of constant animation...at least for now. Remember, we're having fun and loving each other's company. What more could one want in life? We surely don't know; don't care.

I have a sore on the edge of my tongue, which I think was caused by a sharp tooth edge. When we visit the dentist in a couple of weeks for our semi-annual teeth cleaning, I'll have him fix the spot.

In the meantime, Dino tells me to use a drop of Ambesol placed on a finger, applied to the area on my tongue. It seems to work fine. I did not remember that we had it. Perhaps the tiny sore has nothing to do with a sharp tooth. Atta way, dearest Dino to the rescue, for reminding me!

It's cold tonight, and we spend it in front of the fire, watching programs on TV. Tomorrow morning I'll work on the tomato seedlings and hope we have better luck with them this year as plants and then as delicious summertime food.

March 2
I awake with a strong headache, but what's that about? I refrain from taking a difmetré, but if it does not abate by noon, I surely will take a medicine cocktail including another tablet.

There appears to be lots of sun, for the sky is bright, although the look of it is colorless. Is that my head reacting? There surely is a lot of light, although not much of it looks any shade of blue yet.

In the studio, Sofi remains by my side as Dino helps me to move the canvas up by about one third, after taking a photo of what I have completed.

Dino and I then have a mild argument about my intention to go back over the top part of the canvas later to be sure it is painted just as I want it to look. He thinks that won't be possible due to the dampness of the oil. We'll see. Let's try not to make a judgment.

Sofi remains with me while I catch up with you while Dino drives off to Attigliano for shopping. He thinks we have enough pasta from yesterday to make a meal, along with a salad. Va bene.

I have no intention of painting now, for I'm tired. Earlier I finished moving all the soaked seeds into pots and labeling the pots by type: we have eight types of heirloom tomato plants. What's the count? It looks like 33, which is a good number for us to plant here, along with several of a kind called giganti (gigantic), which produce enormous and sweet slicing tomatoes.

We purchase the huge tomato variety aptly named gigantieach April on a special market day in the town of Montecastrilli in Umbria. That is where local farmers go to pick up supplies for their campos that are already in seedling forms in pots, along with farm equipment and other things.

It's also where amateurs like us go to pick up flowers and plants that will look pretty in our gardens and on our terraces.

It is now eleven A.M., and my headache has grown, as frightening to me as a two-headed monster staring down at me. So after Dino leaves in PandaRosso, I take a headache cocktail, consisting of two tablets of tachiprina, 500 mg each, and one difmetré, the migraine headache pill that can throw me for a loop.

After showering a spritz or two of warm water on each of the tiny tomato plants, Sofi and I rest on the couch and watch TV until Dino returns.

I've noticed the flowering rosemarino cascading over the sculpted tufa planters for the past few days, and it is lovely, the blue of it similar in color to the blue of our shutters that lie open against the house.

Like the religious paintings in Catholic churches of my youth, where I'd walk on Saturday afternoons with a girlfriend for her to make her confession, clouds overhead here billow across a sky that is a lovely soft blue. On those days long past, I'd wait for her in a pew and dream while gazing at the images; then we'd walk home together.

Difficult to paint, clouds are certainly a wonder of nature. Soon I'll be painting clouds underneath the angels on the canvas in the studio. When completed, the painting will be installed against the ceiling of a church of the same name about an hour South of Rome. Speriamo.

I'm so sorry, Anne. I promised you I would add your blog address to our journal, so that readers can enjoy your writing as well as mine. Take a look:


At noon my headache continues, albeit a bit less, as Sofi and I wait for Dino's return. The tiny tomato seedlings bask in the sun of the tiny greenhouse located in the studio window. Since it faces South, there is plenty of sun for most of the day, and I spritz them with warm water whenever they begin to look dry, then zip back the cover to close it, leaving a small opening at the bottom, as instructed.

After pranzo, I check in with you and then take a nap; I'm too tired to paint this afternoon. Let's not worry...about anything. I had no idea it would be so delightful to be retired, or as they call it in Italy: pensionata. In our case, it's without an Italian pension, for we've never worked here for anyone else.

These days, birds have returned and sing outside our windows as they light on the trees and plants of our terrace. This is a happy place, hopefully with everyone content. One little birdie lights for a moment or two on the windowsill right outside the studio window, where I'm standing. With Spring just around the corner, there's so much to be happy about.

When skies darken, we all rise from our naps and return to the kitchen; Sofi for her cena and the two of us for what we hope is a relaxing evening by the fire. It really is. How fortunate we are!

March 3
It's Sunday. Skies are clear and beautiful, and we drive up to church in our new PandaRosso. It's really red!

There is some talk about a Coro prova (choir practice) in Attigliano with Angela this week, but I am not sure when. Sigh.

We drive to Il Pallone, have caffé and shop, then return home where I fix a very tasty pranzo of eggplant Parmigiano. There is plenty left to serve for a couple of more days, and since it takes a long time to prepare, that's a very good thing.

We watch Master Chef on TV, and I could not imagine trying out for a cooking competition, although I'm told I'm a quite good and creative cook. I'd rather stay at home, a comment which I say silently to myself about most outside activities these days.

Dearest Sofi stays by my side and later in the afternoon we all take a nap. No, no painting is on the horizon for this afternoon. I am hoping to spend the entire morning tomorrow painting the canvas, especially since we have plenty of Eggplant Parmigiano to reheat for another great meal.

March 4
On this bright, sunny morning, Dino meanders to a nearby property he is supervising, to speak with the muratore (stonemason). In the meantime, Sofi and I catch up with you.

When temperatures warm just a bit, I would like to take Sofi for a giro below our house; it's good for each of us and I look forward to it.

There's no action in the pomodori serra, purtroppo (tomato greenhouse, too bad), but I spritz just a little warm water on the seedlings in their pots and open the window, for we face South. With plenty of sun today, perhaps we'll see a sign of them later today, speriamo. All around are sounds of little birds and yes, it is a joy to be here.

That walk with Sofi is waylaid by activity on our terrace pruning a few of the ungainly roses. Hopefully it is not too soon. The rest of the roses will be pruned later.

Thankfully, tulips planted in past years are pushing up and will flower soon. Those tulip bulbs I naively thought we'd plant now are put in the dark on a shelf where we keep our seeds until next fall. There's that memory failing me again. Purtroppo. (too bad)

The studio window remains open for more sun to shine on the tomato seedlings in their tiny peat pots, where no sign of growth has yet to appear; hopefully it will in a day or so.

Unfortunately, although Rosina, aka sorella grande (big sister) tells me from her balcony above that yes, it is a lovely day, but rain is expected tomorrow. If we're fortunate, that won't affect the tomato seeds from growing.

Eggplant is on the agenda for pranzo, so I leave Dino pruning roses while I return to catch up with you and put on my paint jacket to paint clouds on the canvas.

I am feeling pressure on the back of my head, but will take the morning slowly and if I feel worse, will stop painting. Sofi continues to enjoy meandering on the terrace with Dino.

With symphony music playing, I'm feeling as if I'm floating on air while I take out paintbrushes and work on the canvas, making dark and light clouds form under the angels with a brush.

This part of the painting is a kind of nowhere land, with clouds and background trees not clearly visible. Since I think it is meant to draw one's attention to the brutal activity below it's an important part, and difficult to capture realistically.

No matter, I give it a try and will return to it later. Taking a second and third look at what I've painted helps a lot to see what touches need to be made to make the images really come to life.

How difficult the life of a saint; he has sacrificed his life for the Lord and that makes him saintly. Since the entire meaning of the painting is Peter of Verona becoming a saint, there's much drama below. Above, the angels seem to take the action in stride.

Catholic Online tells us about St. Peter of Verona's life. His death is the subject of my painting. Here goes:

He's also called Peter of Verona, and was an inquisitor and martyr. Peter was born in Verona, Italy, in 1205. Both his parents were Catharists, a heresy that denied God created the material world. Even so, Peter was educated at a Catholic school and later at the University of Bologna. While in Bologna, Peter was accepted into the Dominican Order by St. Dominic.

He became a great preacher, and was well known for his inspiring sermons in the Lombardy region. In around the year 1234, Peter was appointed inquisitor of Northern Italy by Pope Gregory IX. Many Catharists lived in the area. Peter's preaching attracted large crowds, but as inquisitor he also made many enemies.

In 1252, while returning from Como to Milan, he was murdered by a Catharist assassin at the age of forty-six. The following year, Pope Innocent IV canonized him. Although his parents were members of a heretical sect, St. Peter of Verona was strong in his Catholic Faith.

His faithfulness to the Gospel message in his preaching as a Dominican, then, brought about much opposition, so eventually Peter paid with his life for preaching the truth.

It has been said that one of the hazards of preaching and living the Gospel is that we will be considered undesirable according to worldly values. With faith in the Father, and as his children, we are called to stand firm and never waver from the truth in the face of death. Canonized the year after his death by Pope Innocent IV, Peter was also named the patron saint of inquisitors. Since 1969, his cult has been locally confined. His feast day is April 29th.

It's somewhat strange to me that I am doing a painting of someone whose life I do not revere as many others do. Sigh. I have yet to work on the image of his killing; that will happen soon when I reach the bottom section. So why am I doing this?

Well, I revere a priest named Don Francis, who actually has been responsible for guiding me while entering the Catholic faith. He was the priest at the local Catholic Church in Mill Valley, where Dino and I lived when I made this decision. He has been a great help to me/us and a good friend ever since.

When completed, this painting will be hung on the ceiling of the church of St. Peter the Martyr of which Don Francis is the pastor. The location, Fornelli, is about an hour south of Rome. Will I finish it by the saint's feast day of April 29th? That in itself would be a miracle, but if I am diligent, I think I can!

Back here in tiny Mugnano in Teverina, I stop painting for a while to fix pranzo. Sofi lies by my side in her polka dot bed; she's been outside for a while, but is happiest by my side. What a dearie!

After the meal and a nap, I return to painting while Dino does other things. I realize later that although I thought I had finished half of the painting, it is really only one third complete! Thankfully, the middle part is easier and will hopefully go quickly, especially if I continue to paint each day.

It's cold tonight. No matter. We spend it in front of a lovely warm fire in the fireplace and watch our favorite TV programs.

March 5
Skies are very cloudy this morning. After breakfast, Dino drives off to Viterbo once more, to pick up the roof rack for PandaRosso. Dearest little Sofi is very quiet, and I think she is ill, but cannot figure out what is wrong. She won't eat her biscuit, but continues to stay by my side.

So I take her up to the studio, where she lies in her polka dot bed while I paint. We're listening to symphonic music and I hope that will help her. Dino tells me she needs to be ill for half a day before we'd take her to the vet.

Taking a dog to the vet here is a very tiring experience; the wait for the vet feels as though it takes forever. So we put it off for now, hoping she'll feel better very soon.

I darken the clouds above the action in the painting, moving down to concentrate on the more interesting part, now that the angels are finished and seemingly floating above..

I check on the tomato serra (greenhouse) after dark but no little pots show seedlings!

March 6
No pots show seedlings this morning...no matter

Skies are gray; similar to the sweater I am wearing, but no matter. Inside the little greenhouse there is plenty of moisture, and because it is facing South, if there is sun, and I see a reflection on the top of the greenhouse so there is, soil in the little pots will face it.

Sofi has a sore in the corner of one eye, but Dino tells me it may just go away in a few days, so we'll watch to see if it does. With plenty of pep, she seems to be feeling better.

After looking up the condition online, I'll use a sterile solution to wash out her eye, similar to one I use when I have something in my eye. Perhaps she just has something in her eye.

When I take the tiny bottle and squeeze a drop or two into her eye, I see that a hair or something fine has entered her eye. She will surely recover, and only a minute or two later her eye looks better. I'm so relieved.

Our little doggie is almost ten years old, and although seems full of pep at times, I'm anxious at the thought that she may be nearing the end of her dear life. Let's not dwell on it. The thought is just too terrible.

Dino drives off to see what is fresh in the grocery store for pranzo, although I'm willing to fix pasta. In the meantime I'll paint, for as long as I can, while Sofi rests nearby in her polka dot bed.

We wind up having breaded ham and cheese-type burgers, along with breaded zucchini slices that I fry in girasole (sunflower) oil, which are excellent. I drink a glass of white wine with the meal, and am soon sorry, for perhaps I am allergic to wine, at least the white kind. No wonder Dino scowls whenever I drink wine. Later I take two tachiprina for my headache and take an ice pack with me to bed.

Sofi's eye is clearing up, so for now, all is well. A domani.

March 7
I have my doubts whether or not any of the 33 little pots will produce those marvelous heirloom tomato plants full of luscious fruit to slice and enjoy during warm summer months...no matter.

Why is that such a big deal here? Well, no one around seems to sell anything except the long San Marzano variety used to make sauce. The heirloom tomato plants are not available here, either. That's why:).

The temperature is so mild at ten AM that I'm wearing jeans, although skies are colorless and rain is expected for many days. After breakfast, Dino leaves to shop in Viterbo, and Sofi and I return to the studio to recount the pomodori plants in the mini greenhouse there (still none) and then to return to the painting.

After time for the canvas to dry for a day, Dino confirms with me that the villain in the painting looks quite realistic, and today I'll begin to paint St. Peter just as he's giving up his life. No, he's not the St. Peter we all know about. This is St. Peter of Verona. I told you about his life earlier this month.

With windows open facing South for a bit of mild fresh air, sounds of contadini (farmers) in the valley and drivers coursing down Via Mameli are somewhat drowned out by symphony music in the room. Gauze curtains billow now and then, and it's mostly calm here.

My headache persists, but just a bit; let's ignore it and paint, after considering and then ignoring the idea of closing the studio window to drone out the farmers' noise. They'll soon stop, for heavy clouds move overhead, a sign that lots of rain is expected. Showers for seven of the next ten days is what we're told. Optimistically, that's not too bad.

By the time we take an afternoon nap, there are still no tomato plants emerging! Temperatures are the mildest yet this year, and I'm optimistic we'll have a lovely Spring just the same.

Skies continue dark and dreary at 6 PM when I check in with you after we've taken our afternoon nap, but I don't detect any rain.

Several hours later we turn in, and still no tiny plants show signs of growing shoots. That's it for today's count. Buona notte!

March 8
I'm awake at 5:30 AM, and have been for a couple of hours; so after making some chamomile tea and reviewing what I wrote earlier this month, I return to bed, hopefully to sleep.

No peat pots show signs of seed growth. What are the chances that any will sprout seeds and later become those delicious heirloom tomatoes growing on their plants? We'll have to wait and see. I remain somewhat optimistic.

Late this morning, I get up and we have a bit of breakfast, although my headache grows and it's time to take a medicine cocktail difmetré anche 1000mg. tachiprina. I lie down again, rising at about 1 PM to make a chicken risotto and a salad for pranzo and to feed dearest Sofi.

By 2:30 I'm back in bed. Since the weather is rainy, that's a good idea. Everyone agrees and the three of us lie down for the remainder of the afternoon.

I'd so like to paint, but not when feeling like this. Dino thinks my feeling ill has something to do with fumes from the paints I use and tells me I concentrate too intensely on what I am doing when I paint.

I suppose I do, although it does not seem so at the time; I feel as if I'm floating on a cloud, as if my feet are not even touching the ground. Yes, Uncle Barney, I am truly a dreamer. He was Dad's younger brother.

Bless you, dearest Dad in heaven, who was always a dreamer during his lifetime, as well as a brilliant genius. What's my Intelligent Quotient (I Q)? I have no idea, but am sure it is nothing near my father's 156. Wow!

Thanks, Dino, for doing our taxes. Yes, we're to get a refund. At least we don't owe any taxes. That's a relief!

Later in the evening we talk about putting up new shutters on the house, but I don't want those with louvers; they're too complicated and fall apart too easily.

Instead, I tell Dino that I'd like each side shutter to be made of three equal lengths of wood, and we come up with photos that look just as we'd like them. It's another dream, but hopefully one that we can afford soon. The research will be fun, just the same.

We can specify that we receive them grezzo (unfinished) and then we'll use sandpaper and paint them the blue/gray color we love. We'd be good at that! Si, certo!

So it's about time we go through the magazines we've been setting aside, and that is what we do, beginning tonight. Many will be given to friends to read while they're here in their part time homes. Many contain inspiration. I admit I'm in love with the styles of France, and touches of that are evident around here. Comé no? (Why not?) March 9
No little peat planters show signs of tomato life on this cloudy and sunny morning. I spritz all of the planters with warm water, and when there is finally any signs of growth, I will gently waft my fingers over any green shoots, as I'm told it will encourage them to grow into beautiful heirloom tomato plants. I'm hoping they're taking their time but will want to reach skyward very soon.

Surely today will be a lovely Saturday! Outside the loquat trees shake in the wind, while a bit of overcast covers the land. Let's hope things clear up, although showers are forecast for the next week or so. It truly is March weather.

It has been said that March "comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb". Since my birthday is right in the middle on the 16th, does that mean my psyche is neither here nor there? Perhaps that is why I am a dreamer. That's fine with me. I love to dream...

Since it is more economic to do laundry on weekends, we start our first load before breakfast.

With sounds of things being cut down in the valley by those noisy chain saws, it's a survival of the fittest mentality here, although the gentlest little flowers are probably left intact. We're not sure, but remain hopeful.

Upstairs in the studio I greet you and then return to painting, just a bit. With the window open facing South to let in a breeze and some fresh air, Sofi sits content by my side in her little bed.

I have an idea that I forgot to speak with dear Dino about in the kitchen: I'd like to whitewash the cabinets on the South wall. We purchased them years ago and they are an oiled medium brown wood. I think it's time for an update, don't you? The room seems too dark with them as they are.

However, I need to continue the SPM painting, to bring the money in for our cemetery structure and have that finished. The first check that we'll use for that should arrive soon, and Stefano has agreed to make the structure. How wonderful that he will do that!

With yet another window open facing south, the gauze drapes billow into each room. Air is cool and fresh. Now that there is plenty of sun in the sky and only a few clouds overhead, it truly feels as though the beautiful weather will soon be upon us each day.

And then, "Bam!" Doors shut with the force of the wind, now more than a breeze. It's time to temper my enthusiasm in opening too many windows while I wait for Dino to return from the store with things to fix for pranzo.

I've returned to the painting for now, and today I'm working on Saint Peter's blue cloak. Sure there is more sky to do higher up on the canvas, but since I'm a dreamer, I choose to work on this this morning.

Let's not stress about the painting, although there are so many details. I like details, and with oil paints I can go over and over what I have already painted without destroying the work I have done.

Sofi cries outside, for the front door is closed and she wants to be by my side...or is she just waiting for her pranzo? We surely have it here, so let's feed her a few minutes early. I do so just after Dino returns and she is happy.

Listening to the news about women around the world still being treated as second-class citizens, I recall making a stand decades ago while working in San Francisco. I filed a lawsuit against my employer for sexual discrimination and won, although it took four years! What a nightmare that was, even though the final result was what was right.

Let's not dwell on any negatives. Instead, I look up and see clouds drifting by outside the studio window below a lovely blue sky.

Chicken is on the docket, but it's too early to fix anything, so I catch up with you and do a bit more painting. This time, I work on the light and shadows of the voluminous capes and coverings of the two main characters.

After breading and sautéing chicken, steaming broccoli and making a salad, we have pranzo and watch "The Good Wife" on TV. Two programs of that later, we take a nap, after putting brush to the canvas and painting just a bit of shadows and light.

I cannot sleep for some reason, and when I arise, Dino is already watching programs on TV. I don't know why I am so anxious. We watch a movie, and I pour a glass or two of white wine for me. That's a bad idea, per Dino, although he says nothing, and as a matter of fact there is enough in the bottle left for three.

Cattiva! (bad) is a good word for what I am doing. I will surely have a headache later, so take a couple of tachiprina and eat an apple, which I've sliced. With no pain, but drumbeats in my head, the prognosis is not good.

I return upstairs to paint for a couple of minutes on the flowing white fabric in the painting, then return to spend the rest of the evening with Dino. Let's pray.

March 10
Time for church! That done, we shop and fix a meatloaf for pranzo, then take a long nap.

With only a bit of fiddling with the painting, I want to research the saint's eyes thrown back in horror. He's St. Peter of Verona in the painting, a painting commission for a church South of Rome. I don't like the angle of his eyes, or his expression, but will think on it a bit.

With rain off and on today, it's better to stay inside and watch T V or read, which we both do a lot.

Soon we'll pick up our great Orvieto pals; it's been a while since we've seen them and we miss them. In the meantime, there are always projects to do here and also for Dino's project management hobby.

It's lovely to be here. Can you believe we call it home? It truly is, and there is no place we'd rather be, unless it is jaunting in Southern France in warmer weather.

March 11
Writing about today at just before midnight, it's difficult to remember what happened all day!:)

I do remember that it rained for most of it, I painted a lot and rested a lot, and I did see the start of tulips above the parcheggio. I so love those blowsy French tulips, some with ruffled edges. We'll see if any of them survived within the next couple of weeks. This is tulip time, after all!

Dino checked on some properties while I painted this afternoon, and I'm comfortable with the painting's temporary resting place on the back wall of the choir loft of St. Peter the Martyr Church in Fornelli di Isernia, located about an hour south of Rome.

If the painting were to find a permanent home there I would not be particularly content, for the direction of the painting is from top to bottom instead of from left to right, as it now appears it will need to be hung in the space of the choir loft. There's not need for concern, no matter the outcome. At least the angels above will be seen from below.

I cherish our friendship with Don Francis, who is the priest of the church where the painting will live, and know that he will sort things out well. His life is complex enough right now with his parish, and I can't help wondering how few people know how difficult and complex the life is of their local priest or minister. I give thanks for ours and hope you will, too, for yours.

March 12
With lots and lots of rain today, including a thunderstorm or two, Sofi and I stay inside, while Dino ventures out a couple of times.

He tries to find our geometra, to get the process moving on the permit for the construction of the little chapel on our cemetery plot, but Signor Pangrazi is difficult to track down. He's not often in his office. We can't move forward without him.

Today, we have a chicken dish, rice and a salad. It's a simple pranzo, but since I'm trying to get the tomato seeds growing and the huge painting done, there's no time to rest.

We pick up our pals from the airport tomorrow night, but they email us a surprise; they have a ton of luggage, and I suggest to Dino that I drive PandaRosso behind him in their car to the airport.

Then they can drive their car back to their home themselves. I think it's a logical suggestion, but he wants to know the size of their entire luggage when put in a block. He'll try to work a miracle. Another option is for Sofi and I to stay at home, but I don't like to leave Dino driving alone in not great weather for a couple of hours.

March 13
We pick up our pals tonight, so let's take it easy today. Although that's not possible, knowing us, under cloudy skies with just a bit of sun here and there, I help Dino to attach the bubble on top of the luggage rack of the car. Dino has agreed that we will take two cars to the airport tonight.

There's pasta with a meat sauce to fix for pranzo and that's fine. But first, Sofi and I return to the studio and I paint white on the canvas where I painted gray a day or so ago. St. Peter's face will be repainted at more of an angle, heightening the drama. That area will need to dry for two days or so, which is fine with me. I need a break from it.

The tomato seeds continue to toddle on, none wanting to peek out of the soil at all. I leave the grow light on, and since we cannot lower the light, find something that I can put under it. Now closer to the grow light, hopefully all the seeds will soon emerge from their hibernation.

Why not the box I used to use for my paints when taking them all to a painting class? The size of every direction of the box is too tall, but I find a shorter box that will work all right, but it's not perfect.

It will do, for now. Some of the tiny pots are leaning catty-wampus (all over the place), and no, I do not know the original meaning of that. Sorry:)

There has just been a vote by the cardinals in Rome, but with black smoke emerging from the chimney, the next pope has not been chosen. There must be a 2/3 vote for someone before he becomes the next one; I think 77 votes.

On CNN, a little box focuses on the chimney, which is a great thing for the many of us who are interested to know as the hours go by.

Since we'll be driving just outside Rome to the airport late this afternoon, there is a chance that the next vote will take place this afternoon. If a pope is chosen then, what a nightmare it will be traffic-wise, but no matter.

I still don't judge my fellow man/woman, and a little while ago put this in practice with my dear Dino, when we were putting the little storage bubble on top of PandaRosso. Let's leave it at that, just to say that he was judging me. I know he loves me dearly just the same. All is well.

Sofi and I catch up with you and I paint a bit after all, while Dino moves to the outdoor kitchen and makes a pasta sauce with meat.

Served with cappellini, the pranzo is tasty, followed by movie watching and a nap, before we leave for the airport to meet our pals. I'm going to drive PandaRosso, while Sofi joins Dino driving our pals' station wagon.

I keep the grow light on today, and am disappointed that we don't have any seeds emerging in the tiny pots. I'm hoping we'll have plants for summer heirloom tomato growing. There sadly won't be enough plants to give any to our pals for their gardens unless conditions change.

There's a new pope and he has chosen the name Francis. Our pal Don Francis must be laughing and happy as can be that he has something in common with his new boss.

The trip to Fiumicino Airport to greet Frank and Candace is a success, especially since Dino and Sofi drive in their car and I follow, driving in our new PandaRosso. They have so much luggage it is good that they could drive themselves home in their own car, which by the time they are ready to load it there would be no room for us inside!

The ride home for us is easy, and we are in bed before midnight, after watching a TV program. All is well.

March 14
We're up early, with both sun and clouds, both dark and bright overhead. Soon, Dino leaves for Viterbo to shop, while Sofi and I pull weeds and then move upstairs to paint and clean paintbrushes, while listening to symphony music inside and birdsong outside. It's so lovely to hear the birds, they're clearly ready for Spring!

The tomato plants are what they are; there are no signs of growth yet. Let's hope there will be plenty for us to grow and to enjoy during the summer months.

We've learned it's cheaper and easier to purchase the long San Marzano Italian variety of tomatoes used to make sauce late in the summer, rather than grow them ourselves. But since we can't buy the heirloom varieties of tomato plants here, that's why we grow them from seed ourselves.

The heirlooms, which we love to have here, are beautiful and also luscious just sliced and enjoyed during a summertime meal.

Before noon, I close any South facing windows, as it's not as warm as I earlier thought. No problem. As an artist, I love seeing the cloud formations anyway.

For just a few minutes, I paint a layer of darker paint on the shadow side of St. Peter's face; his face will be turned more downward to show the angle of his body as Carino is hitting him. Later, I will repaint the rest of his face, as it is shown reflected with light.

With a can of tomatoes to supplement yesterday's very spicy sauce, I fix pranzo at around noon, while waiting for Dino to return from Viterbo. He always returns with something interesting.

I'm already looking forward to this afternoon's nap. Weather has turned colder and yes, "March comes in like a lion..." feels that way now.

Pranzo is finished, and after watching a prerecorded favorite program or two, it's time for a nap. I see blue skies outside with a plethora of clouds, and inside it feels cold. Yes, it's truly March weather, the lion of it still raging. Perhaps by my birthday it will calm down, although it will be ten days or so before the lamb takes over.

We both nap and it is wonderful, although Dino receives several phone calls and gets up, while I stay in bed with Sofi on her little bed by my side.

Later, much later, I arise in the darkness to share the evening with my two best pals. With a fire blazing and our favorite television programs to watch, it's a good way to spend the evening. Boy, it feels cold!

March 15
Today is the Ides of March. It's a lovely day with nothing much going on. That's the way we like it!

March 16
It's my birthday, as well as being Saturday, and Dino and Frank and Candace take me out to Il Fontanile for cena and it's a wonderful day, a delightful evening. I'm growing tired of doing much writing here, although still in love with painting.

The image of poor St. Peter of Verona needs a lot of work on the huge canvas, and I do a bit of that, letting it dry a bit before adding more layers to his face.

The best news of the day is a greeting from my brother. I have not heard back from him in a very long time. He is a somewhat troubled soul and I am sad for him, but at least he is married to a woman he loves dearly.

March 17
With windy skies and clouds covering our entire view, Dino leaves to meet Sam and Lisa while Sofi and I stay in bed. I have a headache and Sofi is happy as long as she's by my side. She spends most of the morning in one of her little beds.

By late morning my headache disappears, and I do some internet searching about places in France to stay for up to a week later this year. I so love French style and French gardens and French market days.

We enjoy renting small houses there where we can cook after purchasing local produce and wines and enjoy the experience, but have not yet found the place where we will stay next.

At around noon, Sofi and I meander downstairs to wait for Dino's return. The rest of the day is mellow, with a dab of painting and a long nap.

Late this afternoon the rain begins, and by the time we turn in, there is plenty of it. We're off to Rome tomorrow to the dentist, so let's hope the rain stops...subito!

March 18
We're driving to Rome early, for a dentist appointment at 11 AM for our semi-annual teeth cleaning. It's not difficult and we arrive early, though it takes us almost an hour to find a place to park on the street. No matter. I love our dentist, who studied at Boston University (!) and speaks great English. He's also a good dentist.

We have a MacDonald's pranzo afterward, and for me it's fun; we hardly ever have fast food, and their wraps are great.

Back at home, there's a bit of work to do on the painting dabbing here and there and changing the angle of St. Peter's head; afterward an afternoon nap.

There's plenty of rain today, and we spend the afternoon and evening inside watching recorded programs.

In Rome, it seems all is well with the new Pope, named Francis, and we like the choice, as well as his attitude toward his fellow man/woman.

March 19
Dino has a doctor's appointment in Viterbo this afternoon, and we're both worried about his eyesight. He only has good sight in one of his eyes, and tomorrow will have a test. Afterward, we'll probably travel to Rome to a special clinic for help. I am worried.

Dark clouds overhead portend a somewhat gloomy day. I spend much of the afternoon researching places for us to visit in France this fall. It's a complicated process, and keeps me from worrying about Dino's eyes.

Dino travels to Viterbo for a visit with our good doctor Bevilacqua and picks up prescriptions for blood tests and more. It appears we will be travelling to Rome to a famous eye clinic, after a few more tests. Whatever it takes, I'm ready to support my dearest Dino.

While all this goes on, we try to watch the Pope's ceremonies on TV, including the mass, and he's really quite a guy. We look forward for what he has to say and what he does about problems in and outside of the Church.

By the time we have a fire, it's cold outside, and that's the late March cold snap. There has also been some rain, but not a lot.

All the while, Sofi has been patient and by my side. What a dear doggie!

March 20
On this Wednesday, the last day of winter, skies are overcast and there are no visible changes to the little pomodori seeds.

I spend a lot of time researching a future trip to France, this time to Burgundy, and the houses or apartments to rent. It's a daunting challenge, but we send a few requests, hoping there won't be a problem with any of them to bring darling Sofi.

I recall reading M F K Fisher's delightful books about life and cooking in France, and dogs seemed to be more popular than people there, accepted everywhere, including restaurants.

Dino has left for a blood test, but results won't be available for a couple of weeks. He seems happy, not complaining about his dwindling eyesight. I'm hopeful we'll be able to fix any problems, and learn there is a special clinic in Rome. After more waiting and more tests, we will probably go there. It's good to know there are excellent health solutions here in Italy.

March 21
It's the first day of spring! primavera at last!

On this morning, we drive to Attigliano and have colazione (breakfast) in a tiny bar, after driving to the bank and depositing Don Francis's check. On the way back we stop at Todis, where we pick up pork chops to grill and zucchini flowers to stuff with buffalo mozzarella and anchovy, then dip them in egg and breadcrumbs before sautéing them.

Back at home, Sofi and I return to the studio while Dino drives off to help friends who are having trouble with their house.

There is a message from a local friend and resident about solar panels, and she offers that Dino visit her when the contractor is doing the work for them. The cost used to be prohibitive; we'll see.

In the meantime, I read that LED light bulbs are really less expensive in the long term than regular ones, for each LED bulb will last forever. We picked up a few small ones at IKEA recently, but will continue to research this as well.

I open the South facing bedroom window, for it is sunny mid morning, and it's good to have fresh air circulate, especially since it's spring!! Hooray!

March 22
Have you read the article from Jeff Hayden, who believes that happiness depends more on what one does not do, than what they do? He lists ten things:

1. Blaming
2. Impressing
3. Clinging
4. Interrupting
5. Whining
6. Controlling
7. Criticizing
8. Preaching
9. Dwelling
10. Fearing

Do take a minute or more to give it some thought. These things are what frustrate me most about others' behaviors when in my presence and could they result in Number seven? Yes, I criticize others silently for criticizing others; perhaps it is more a sadness for them than the act of criticizing itself. Whatever it is, I'll endeavor to try not to pay attention in the future whenever I'm exposed to any of these actions by others.

What is important to me is that every day, in every way, I think about enjoying being the gentlest and happiest person I can be. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Dino and I are so happy together.

I think often about my age, and wonder how close I am to its end, now that I am sixty-seven. I don't think I have much control over it, so it's important to enjoy each moment and each experience for its own sake.

On this very lovely day, South-facing windows are open, and although the tomato plants in the studio window are not faring particularly well, many birds are singing, and when on the terrace I view two pale grey doves in the countryside below us, one watching the other. I remember reading that doves mate for their lifetimes, something Dino and I have in common with them. Speriamo.

Dino has left to visit a couple's property in Pozzo Ciolino, and Sofi rests in her little bed beside me. How I love her! Could one have a dearer doggie? I doubt it.

It's time to paint, and I realize that I do not agree with an aspect of the original painting: the saint faces directly toward us, so the shadow appearing on half of his face does not make sense to me. Let's paint it my way! Comé no? (Why not?)

The noise in the valley below us is mind splitting; it's so loud! Those "weedwackers" are thankfully not right below us, or it would be headache time here, for sure. Perhaps that's one of the reasons we enjoy having gravel over nursery cloth instead of grass outside our house on our terrace.

Why is that? Well, even before we purchased this property, I recall reading the book, Enchanted April, and so enjoyed the lyrical writing and description of gravel underfoot that I dreamed about it until we put it in here ourselves.

Dino tells me we'll try to decide where to rent in France this fall for a week soon. I've spent so much time researching places that it will be a relief to finally know where we will stay. What fun we will have doing our walks each morning in the village for croissants and caffé au lait as well as visiting the special market days in nearby towns. Walking is what we do a lot of when we are there, and Sofi loves it! So do I!

We attend the funeral of former neighbor Giannino Nulli, Marsilia and Leondina's brother. A few years ago, he and his wife Quintilia (5th born child) moved to Bomarzo due to his bad health.

March 23
We have found the property we want to rent for a week or so in the fall. It is in Burgundy, and we so love meandering through that wonderful countryside. Don't like the politics there? It doesn't have to affect one's time there on a visit.

I paint a bit today, but spend most of my time researching places for us to stay when in France. Now that we know where we'll be, I can return to painting, which I do for just a bit. I find it somewhat difficult to capture St. Peter of Verona's facial expression as he's being struck straight on, but I fiddle with it a bit and will do more tomorrow.

It's been a somewhat lovely day, and I'm sorry I did not do a giro around the village with dear little Sofi. We so love it here!

March 24
It's Palm Sunday, and that means a short procession from the new church to the former one...or will it be the other way around?

It winds up being from the old church to the new one, followed by a service led by Don Angelo. I am unsure of myself, not sure what to wear, but with a black skirt and white turtleneck and black overcoat it's not a problem. People seem to wear everything and other colors today here, including jogging shoes! The weather is not great.

Dino takes his Confraternity costume and is one of six who participate. Luckily, there is nothing to carry. I sit in my usual spot on the center aisle of the second row, and several of my pals, including Sorella Grande Rosina and Sorella Piccola Anna sing along with me. All is well.

I'm again reminded of Ruby Holladay, who is an astrologer from California, who told me, "You will feel more comfortable living in a country other than your own!" That advice amazes me to this day, for it is so true.

I have always been something of a stranger, and to this day am at peace with that. Since I am a dreamer and a painter, I don't follow the usual drumbeat of the crowd. Ruby, you have been so right! I now would not have it any other way.

I've learned to be accepted and that's enough. I am now an Italian citizen, as well as an American citizen (dual nationalities is permitted in this case), and...how wonderful is that!

Dino and I shop at Il Pallone and the rest of the day is mostly a fog, for I'm updating our information on places to rent in France for a week in the fall and spend far too much time on it. All the while, Sofi stays by my side, resting in her polka dot bed.

Later, while Dino watches a movie on TV, I have a headache and go upstairs with an ice pack, but am deterred strangely by researching French tulip bulbs and when to purchase them. At 10:30 PM, I finally turn in.

March 25
I read online that machines are replacing the friendly toll takers on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. We in S.F. for some years although we are happier living here. It brings back a wave of nostalgia, just the same, and we do miss Terence and Angie and Marissa and Nicole.

Rain ceases. Dino drives up to a friend's garden to confer with a muratore with her. We're up later than usual and skies are gray.

With sun trying to come out, I pot what I hope is the remainder of the heirloom tomato seeds, for they soaked for at least a day. There are nine varieties, and now they sit in the little greenhouse in the studio, for they are not supposed to sit directly in the sun for this process. I turn on the fluorescent light instead for them and a little heat, hoping it will encourage them.

As usual, with Sofi lying by my side, I have probably an hour before Dino returns, so paint for a bit. St. Peter of Verona's face on the canvas is a challenge, and I work slowly to heighten the impact of Carino's left fist against his victim's cheek. He's ready to strike with a long knife with his right. Sorry.

The image is worse before it becomes better, and I stop to prepare pranzo while it is at its worst. I've learned not to fret about it.

After a nap and a bit of painting, I check on the seeds. Since I have a headache, I take a difmetré before watching television with my dear ones and am soon feeling better.

We're in bed after 11 PM our time after watching some of our favorite programs on television.

March 26
It's Tuesday, and will we be able to find some lovely spring plants for the terrace today? Yes, but we need to shop for some annuals. Today's not the day for that, however.

Cristina comes and works for four hours on the front terrace and does a lovely job. She'll return tomorrow, if it does not rain. Sofi greets her and gambols about while she weeds and moves things about.

I make a decision to move two large boxwood plants where two almost dead ones have been pulled out. Cristina will plant them tomorrow. We will replace the lagging boxwood with healthy boxwood plants now growing in large pots. Let's hope that will work. Boxwood plants are fussy and don't like to be moved. Let's be hopeful.

I spend several hours updating things on the computer, including logging Kindle books on a spreadsheet, as well as painting. It's a mellow day, but there is light rain outside in the afternoon. So we stay in, except for an errand for dear Dino.

I also work on the canvas in the studio, painting Carino's sleeves, which are rolled up, and it's amazing to see the result of painting folds in the fabric to show shadows and light. I also work on St. Peter's face, changing the angle somewhat. This is the most difficult painting I have worked on so far. Let's see if I can master it without getting stressed. Comé no?

March 27
Dino takes me to a local nursery, and despite the fact that we pick up sixteen small plastic potted pansies and violas, the change is minimal, although lovely, on the front terrace. It amazes me that it takes so many plants to make an impact.

No matter. Cristina will be here this afternoon. Dino and I will plant them then, or she will. Back at home, I put them in place and do more weeding. Though we have whitish gravel over nursery cloth throughout the terrace, there are always weeds, for these are airborne.

Dino drops Sofi and me off and drives to Pozzo Ciulino to oversee a project, then calls me and stops on the way back in Lugnano to pick up some special sausage meat for pasta sauce. There is a macelleria (butcher shop) there that is excellent.

I'm tired, but catch up with you after logging in all our Kindle books. I like having a place where I can find all of them, before buying more. It also gives me an idea of what to read next.

Below us, weedwackers rumble away for a second day, yet we have yet to see Mario. He is to do that work for us, but usually arrives about 7 A M, so perhaps he will arrive tomorrow. We really need it, and I don't want Dino to have or use one of those dangerous garden machines.

Tomorrow we'll drive to Viterbo together. Sofi needs an annual rabies shot and I told Dino he can leave Sofi and me at the vet while he does his other errands. Since the wait will take a while at the vet, it's probably a good idea. We'll see.

Sadly, although we replanted all the tomato seeds, for none of them sprouted leaves with the first set, nothing is happening. Dino tells me it's only been a day or two, so we'll see. I leave the grow light on for them all day and make sure they are moist. It's frustrating. Perhaps for the first time there will be heirloom tomato plants at Montecastrilli market next month. Magari! (If only it were so...)

Cristina arrives this afternoon, and although Dino planted some of the plants we purchased this morning, I'm hoping he'll relax. But with Cristina here, we're all busy in the garden, with darling Sofi frolicking to and fro. She's never in the way, just greets each of us with a kiss now and then.

I weed as much as I can, then help Cristina replant boxwood plants. I know that boxwood does not like to be moved, and grows slowly, but we've some dead and nearly dead ones and some with parts of them fine but part of them dead. So we separate several of the plants and repot the healthy sections. That means that the dead box plants on the front wall are being replaced with those formerly growing well in clay pots. It seems to work.

There is a small flowering white plant called iberius which I like, and it works quite well planted together with the pansies. I was able to separate part of one, but Cristina told me that's not a great idea usually. So we'll look for tiny slips of it at the Montecastrilli market next month, for it grows beautifully and thrives here.

I catch up with you while Sofi snoozes nearby, and it's late enough that we forego a nap this afternoon. Skies are cloudy and sunny, although a bit of rain is expected almost every day for the next week, though there's been nothing today. I suppose it will help the plants and lessen the amount of watering we do by hand. How's that for optimism?

Sadly, I don't feel the same way about the heirloom tomato seeds I'm trying to grow. This is the second set of seeds I've tried to grow this month. The grow light has been on continuously, I've watered the little pots made of peat with a sprayer to not overdo it, but nothing seems to happen.

I suppose that means we'll have not heirloom tomatoes again this year. If only there would be a place to buy them as plants in Central Italy...it would be so much easier! If you know of a place, please email me...subito! Thanks.

Dino and Sofi and I watch television as darkness descends, but a migraine headache looms, and I take a difmetré as well as 1000 mg. of tachiprina (aspirin). After about half and hour I turn in. Buona notte!

March 29
We take Sofi to Viterbo for her annual rabies injection, after waiting for Cristina to arrive to work in the garden. She's done great work so far and the terrace and garden look so much better. Thank you, dear Cristina, for your skill and the way you work here!

Skies are overcast and there is a bit of light mist. Cristina is not worried, and works away. After taking Sofi for her injection and doing a bit of shopping, we return home to find her still here, after having pranzo at MacDonald's in Viterbo. Our gardener friend has worked for four hours and will return another day, hopefully with better weather.

Dino finally reaches Mario, and he wants to come this afternoon to do the weed-wacking on the side terrace where grass and weeds grow. It's a big job, but he has the right equipment, and barges along with it, doing a masterful job, as usual.

The afternoon continues to be overcast. After one more look at the little pots in the studio window, I sadly realize we'll have only two heirloom tomato plants grown from seed this year, but perhaps can buy the gigantic variety from the Montecastrilli market as plants next month. If only they sold the heirloom varieties!

Dino hangs two additional bells on the front terrace, and now we have five. They are Asian bells of five different sizes that gong gently in the breeze. The first ones we purchased in the United States at The Gardener in Berkeley, California. We love the sound of them and they look wonderful.

It feels cold to me, and Sofi hates Mario, probably because he's not gentle and makes a lot of noise when he weedwacks with his motorino, so I take her into the bedroom and she sleeps while I read under the covers.

There is a church service tonight, but we will not attend. Tomorrow we will, for sure, but since there is no formal Coro now, I don't have to stress. That's the way it should be, don't you think?

The good news is that the wisteria and the plum and the peach trees are all beginning to show growth or are in flower. So our trees are all doing well. I think they look lovely.

After a nap, I find Dino outside and we spend the evening watching television, as usual, with Sofi by our side. I feel a large bump on the side of my head near my neck, seemingly from an insect bite, so could it be the large mosquito I found earlier flying around the window?

It's a weird way to end the evening, with a round full moon staring down at me while I write to you, surrounded by clouds here and there, some light, some dark.

March 29
It's Good Friday, with overcast skies and just a touch of blue sky. Let's be optimistic.

Two tiny heirloom tomato seedlings pop up in the mini greenhouse living in the studio and well, that's better than none at all...perhaps that means we'll see even more in the next days...

Dino leaves to visit the hospital in Orvieto to have them diagnose his test results and to buy abbacchio (shoulder of spring lamb) for me to fix for Sunday. I remain hopeful.

I catch up with you and then return to painting while Sofi sleeps in her little polka dot bed to the sound of symphony music. I so love the sound of the violin!

The bump on the back of my neck continues. Could it have something to do with my headaches? If/when we return to the doctor I will try to remember to ask. Let's not worry.

Dino returns with lots of goodies, including the abbacchio that I'll fix for Sunday's main meal. We have a simple pranzo and watch television, although I'm tired from painting for three hours or so.

We'll have to visit our good doctor late next week for an appointment for Roy to go to Rome to a special eye clinic there. I'll be by his side for all of it.

With lots of painting details yet to do, I don't return to it. I look at the tomato seeds in their pots instead, and find one tiny shoot in yet another little pot. Three heirloom tomato plants can produce lots and lots of luscious tomatoes.

Under overcast skies, Gold Medal (two plants), Big Orange Stripe and Tim's Black Ruffles are the names of the four plants that show signs of growth. Since one tiny sprout appeared overnight, the days ahead could show even more. Without much sun, we keep the fluorescent light above them on all the time. Where oh where is the sun? It's not expected until April 3rd or 4th. Sigh.

I'm feeling a headache loom on the horizon, and it's probably the strange weather. Let's stop painting and give my head a rest. If reading won't bother it, a few hours reading in bed this afternoon will be a good idea. I'm not able to read, so just rest my eyes.

With a headache continuing, I'm not going to attend church services tonight, so will stay home with Sofi when Dino goes up to church after dark. Since he's in the Confraternity, he feels a responsibility to attend. What a guy!

Since Coro has been abandoned for now, I feel no responsibility at all.

Annika and Torbjorn arrive for a visit, and over a glass of wine we catch up with our dear friends. Torbjorn takes a look at the bump on the back of my neck and tells me not to worry unless it grows. Va bene.

They'll be here until our village festa at the beginning of May with a short visit back to Sweden in between. It's great to have them around. Sofi likes them, too!

I've taken two tachiprina to assure my headache goes away, and when I'm upstairs I notice there are four separate sets of seedlings growing in the little serra in the studio. The varieties are are: Big Orange Stripe (2 plants), Gold Medal and Tim's Black Ruffles. With a little heat and light, perhaps more seedlings will emerge in the next few days. Let's be hopeful.

After our friends leave we watch television and relax. Dino leaves for mass, but I remain home with Sofi. I'm not feeling well enough to go outside tonight.

Dino returns to tell me there was a pretty good turnout, but not all previous Coro members sat with the group. There were ten Confraternity men in full dress to stand with Don Angelo.

By the time I go to bed, I am still not feeling well, so it is a good thing I did not force myself to attend church tonight. I am sorry for that, but don't think it would have been possible.

March 30
With Easter arriving late tonight, we'll purchase anything else we'll need for me to prepare a special Easter meal tomorrow, although it will just be the two of us as well as little Sofi at home. I'm still not well enough to cook for guests, so it will be a sweet and mellow day tomorrow, that is, after mass. Speriamo.

We come across the website burgundyeye.com and it shows us why Dijon is a gastronomic marvel of a town. We look forward to visiting it often when we are there in the fall.

Here at home the forecast is for showers every day for the entire extended ten day forecast. We don't shop, but Dino assures me we have what we need. Va bene

Shoots have appeared in eight of the little peat pots in the mini greenhouse in the studio, so we'll have more heirloom pomodori than I expected when I counted yesterday.

I feel pretty terrible and wonder if that bump on the back of my neck is something to deal with, although last night Torbjorn indicated it was not a problem unless it grows...I show it to Dino and he does not seem concerned.

Wind is strong this morning as I ponder that I may stay at home for the foreseeable future. With tomorrow the last day of March, it appears those "April showers that bring May flowers" have begun early. Wind and rain continues at a rapid pace.

By the time I walk upstairs to take a nap at around 2 PM, when I hope my headache will pass after a rest, I find ten pots with heirloom tomato seeds sprouting...it's only been a few hours since two more pots with shoots appeared!

I've taken two more tachiprina of 500 mg. each. Let's be patient. With Sofi by my side, I'm thinking the next week or so will be wet and good sleepytime weather. Comé no?

The count of tomato plants is still the same at around 7:30 P M when I get up, but they're looking good.

March 31
Buona Pasqua! (Happy Easter!)

With dark clouds covering the sky, I turn my attention to the few spots of bright white clouds, knowing sun is not so far away, despite a forecast for rain and showers for the next ten days beginning tomorrow. Let's rejoice today!

We're up early and dressed for church. I wonder where we have stored our Easter figures, but todays is such an early Easter and I've not felt well, so the decorating is passed for this year. I'm just a bit sorry. Just a bit.

I can see eleven pots with seeds growing, the last one just a smidgen, but that portends a good crop of lovely heirloom tomatoes of different colors and stripes.

Let's be joyful!

Don Angelo is our priest, and I'm somewhat thankful we do not have a procession. He tells us to enjoy the festa with our families. I like him quite a lot, and enjoy seeing him look at me when he speaks to all of us. Perhaps we have a kind of kinship; one of these days I hope he'll visit us so that we can get to know each other better.

I fix abbacchio brodetato, a spring lamb dish that is quite tasty and known to be a characteristic dish of this area, North of Rome. Dino loves it, and there is enough sauce to fix pasta tomorrow to serve with it again. Comé no?

Here is a link to the recipe:


Do you get bored trying to figure out what to cook day after day after day? We surely do.

With Sofi by our side, we take a long nap, sleeping under cloudy and sunny skies above. Just before the nap I checked on the tomato plants, and they look good, although the count remains at eleven. I waft my fingers over the little shoots, as I read it's a good idea, so I'm hoping they're happy and enjoying the light, with a combination of somewhat direct sunlight and a grow light above.

During a short visit to May and Olav down the street in the late afternoon for a brindisi, we catch up with them before they return home to Norway for at least several months. They are good friends and we look forward to pizza nights here with them when they return in warm weather.

And so another lovely month ends in little Mugnano in Teverina, Central Italy. We're becoming more a part of the landscape each month, to the point where Dino thinks we should stay here all year, instead of returning to our family in San Francisco this Thanksgiving. Perhaps its time they consider taking a trip here; if not this year, perhaps next. One can only hope.

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