AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE - Journal Archives
October through December, 2007

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OCTOBER 2007

October 1
With a fever coming and going, the month begins with thoughts of fall and our San Francisco trip. Today is quite sunny and warm, and instead of painting this morning I make a carrot flan to serve with pranzo and experiment a little with it.

Well, I experiment a lot with it, and it needs a rework. So later in the evening I add an egg, some cinnamon and brown sugar and it still is not very good. Some things come out fine, some things don't. This recipe is a flop, so don't look for it on the site.

At Marco's I work on the stone figure and balustrade on one of my canvases. If the concept succeeds, hopefully better than the carrot flan, when looking at the finished painting one will not be able to tell if the figure sitting on the marble shelf is real or is made of stone.

After the session, I drive to the Fiat dealer and meet Dino. He's going to have a service person start the Alfa up first thing in the morning and see if he can detect something that is not quite right with the car. When I drive it, I think it's fine.

We come home and settle in for a quiet evening, although it appears that Dino has caught my cold. Puor troppo!

October 2
My fever does not want to leave, so I try to ignore it. Dino returns to Tenaglie to work on the punchlist for the remainder of the restoration project, and I begin a chicken risotto for pranzo. Making risotto is one of my favorite things to do. I really know how to make it well. This morning I also make a broth of dried mushroom to add to the chicken broth. Dino loves using dried mushrooms in a sauce, or in a risotto. so why not?

I continue my efforts in streamlining our lives, removing the Provence cover off the sofa in the kitchen and taking eight things from the kitchen that we can do without. This "stuff" will be taken to the second-hand shop in Viterbo. Each time we drive to Viterbo we will take more. In a conversation with Candace this morning, we talked about "stuff"; we are burdened with "stuff".

With continued inspiration to simplify our lives, nothing is sacrosant. So if any of you consider giving us anything, anything, please don't. A simple hug will do.

Candace talks of how much she loved their Orvieto house during those two years she spent there while the reconstruction took place. She fell in love with its beautifully constructed walls, the essence of the place. Now she feels burdened by all the "stuff". Perhaps she and Frank will follow us to Viterbo one day to begin their paring down, too.

The sun, although lower in the sky, illuminates a beautiful day. Birds chirp in the garden, and we love the silence of this place, the clear sounds of the birds. I'm imagining a house cleared of clutter, with few pieces of furniture. Now what about my paintings?

Well, Marco inspired me yesterday, showing me his canvases stacked side by side. We're planning to stack ours, with just a few of the ones we like the best on the walls. Anything is for sale. So I'll soon begin work on a complex piece; a piece that will take me six months or more to complete. That way I can continue to enjoy painting, without any guilt of adding "stuff" to our little house.

After an excellent pranzo, we measure for glass panels for the vetrina, and will order them in Viterbo later today. Dino and Stefano speak, and Stefano will arrive to look over an ancient opening between two rows of tiles in the ground floor sometime in the next few days.

As long as we've owned the house we have noticed the gap, but with the addition of the French drain, the new septic system, the house drying out all summer, we believe the movement won't continue.

I suppose we need to research the people who inject a kind of expanding substance in the walls to deter moisture buildup for the repair of our walls. So added to our list for this fall we'll speak with someone and get a quote.

Sofi guards the house while we drive on to Viterbo, drop off some consignment items at the second-hand store, order the obscure glass for one of the clients' kitchen cabinets as well as six panels of clear glass for our vetrina.

But most exciting of all, we stop for a visit at ACI, Italy's version of AAA (American Automobile Association). Our good friend, Donatella is there, and greets us with big hugs.

Our Italian patente di guida (drivers' licenses) expire at the end of the month, and our friends at ACI should be able to help us with our renewal. It is so difficult to believe that we have owned our Italian drivers' licenses for five years!

The paperwork is a breeze...because of our friendship with Donatella, we can even buy the bolli (stamps) there that we'll need to make the document official. All that's left is our eye exam, done by a fellow who invites us in, one by one, to test our hearing and our vision.

I am first, and know that I'll have difficulty pronouncing the letters perfectly in Italian. Luckily, he gives me an "L" and and "A" that he can understand. He does not give me a hearing test. He sits at the desk opposite me and asks me my height. "Do you understand English?" I ask him. He does.

"Five feet, " I tell him, for that is more or less correct. Now the weight.

"Guess!" I challenge him. "I don't want to lie, but have no interest in knowing the actual number, " I continue. He smiles and I think writes something down. Later I see that he has left the space blank.

We're out of there in just another minute or two, and in two months or so, the renewals will arrive in the mail. I believe one keeps the same drivers license, "Until they are about ninety!" Dino surmises. Anything is possible.

We drive on to the Alfa dealership, and Sofi and I drive home in the Alfa, while Dino follows in Pandina. Once he's home, he continues to cut down caki, and by the time dark descends, the tree is almost completely bare of fruit. Now I really need to get moving making those darn persimmon puddings to freeze for Christmas gifts....perhaps tomorrow...

October 3
Dino takes me to get my hair done, then works on a spread sheet for the punchlist for the restoration project. Dino and I drive in Pandina to Tenaglie, to systematically go through everything that needs to be done to finalize the work on the house. Our clients want us to get it ready for them to rent either or both parts of the house, so if you're interested let us know and we'll forward the information along.

The punchlist is daunting, so let's just keep moving forward. Back at the house I check online to see if IKEA or anyone in Italy has a clawfoot tub caddy. That's on the list to buy for our client. I don't find one, but I do find that we can purchase things online from ebay.it. So we'll pass on the caddy, for now...

I make a yellow pepper and basil pasta sauce, and it's really good. Now let's see if we can make some sense of the punch list.

While Dino works on the schedule and what is to be done, I make the first steamed persimmon puddings of the year. We are about two months early, for the caki (persimmons) are ripe early, very early. What that means is that they'll all be cooked by the end of next week, when the fruit is too ripe to do anything with. So what to do with them?

Dino thinks we can find room in the little freezer in the loggia. I'd like to take a radical approach and give them away early, as early holiday gifts that can be kept in one's freezer until they're ready to heat them up and eat them. I have never met anyone who does not swoon at the taste of these cakes, plain, or with liquor dribbled on top, or with whipped cream.

So I'm going to email stranieri neighbors and ask them their preference. The more we give away now, the more room there will be in the freezer to hold more. And in two weeks' time there won't be any more persimmons to pick...

October 4
A few of our friends are happy to have their puddings now. We've also given away our last tray of watermelon granita, so there is more room in the freezer. But today is not a day to produce more puddings...

We awake early and drive with Sofi to Perugia, where Dino drops me off and does some shopping, while I walk up to the Museo Nationale for a rendezvous with Noreen. Noreen knows ever so much about art, and as we walk through this important museum, she talks about the difference in art forms and styles through the centuries. She is quite helpful.

Although for some reason she thinks it' "can't be done", I think I'd like to work my way up to painting figures of my own design in a renaissance style. For the near future, I will be concentrating on drawing, drawing and more drawing. Although I'll do some painting at home, at Marco's I'll draw. The only exception will be the ikon I want to design and paint. This will be a good winter project.

Noreen and I leave the museum around noon, and find Dino and Sofi walking around the area pedonale. We take a quick jaunt to the new Feltrinelli bookstore, where I pick up a book on Caravaggio. Noreen tells me that I can best study folds and the use of light and shadow by studying his work. I agree.

We take Noreen to pranzo at Caesar's, and sit at an outside table. Soon a very elegant woman with a basotto who looks very much like Sofi arrives, and Sofi and the other little dog sniff and wag their tails at eachother. The woman disappears for a few minutes, and when she returns she has no interest in the dog. She is obviously a grandmother, and only has eyes for her daughter's young baby.

Her little basotto sits by her side. When the dog barks, the woman takes her cloth napking and hits the dog on the head, while yelling, "Stai zitto!" (be quiet). She hits the dog again, while I tell her, "Fa niente, " hoping she'll leave the dog alone.

The dog cowers in fear behind her owner's chair, and no one at the table pays the least bit of attention to the poor dog. I want to scoop her up and take her home, but it is not my place. The dog is clearly abused.

Why do Italians have dogs to begin with if they won't cherish them? A basotto is about the most loving dog a person can have. There is no excuse for this abusive treatment.

We leave the restaurant and Perugia, and all the while home I'm thinking about that little dog. Earlier I asked the woman which allevamento (breeder) her dog came from. She responded that the dog is from a breeder near Viterbo. We think that's strange, for we know of no basotto breeders near Viterbo.

Pietro and Helga stop by and we open a bottle of prosecco while sitting on the terrace. It's still warm enough to sit outside in the evening. We also plan a trip together for next week, where Pietro will be our guide, for he loves this, loves teaching about the marvellous art in the churches in Central Italy.

October 5
We're hoping to get a lot done this morning, and stop first at Fedora's for cappucini, then drive on to Viterbo, where we spend the rest of the morning.

Sofi is dropped off at the groomer for a bath, then we work our way around town, stopping to pick up eight glass panels (two for our clients' kitchen and six for our vetrina), pick up a bathroom vent fan and look for outdoor lights for our clients at OBI. Next we stop at the Questura to show them that they made an error on Dino's original permesso more than nine years ago. They agree and tell us to come back next week.

That done, we drive to another office where people apply for Italian citizenship. The laws appear to have changed. We cannot apply six months in advance of our ten years of residency. That's the bad news.

The good news is that we need to supply only our birth certificates, statements from the U S Gov. that we have not committed any crimes, and a statement proving that we are U S citizens. A passport is not enough.

That last one is a little sticky, for although the U S government allows dual citizenship, it does not make it easy to obtain. So it's difficult to check it out online. We're now looking at May 2008, and that is when our current permessos expire. So perhaps we'll have to renew them again. I'm sure of that.

Dino masterfully navigates his way to the doctor's new offices, and Dr. Bevilacqua is in a hurry, although we have an appointment. He's such a great guy, that he takes more time than he should with us. He apologises for forgetting to bring me any golf photos, but promises to call us next week.

I'm hoping to paint a golf scene or two for him before we leave in six weeks for our annual U S trip, and will leave Dino to figure out what the good doctor will need to pay for the painting/s. Remember, I'm just the painter. Dino is my manager...

My cholesterol is high, so we agree together that instead of taking cholesterol medicine, I'll go on a diet for three months and see if my cholesterol lowers. Going on a diet for that reason is fine with me.

I'd like to lose weight, I know I must, but can't bear a diet when I'm weighing myself all the time and hitting myself over the head because I've gained an ounce. For me, it's not about the pounds.

Let's see what happens. I suppose the fit of my clothes and the next blood test in January will be what we'll use to judge whether my change in eating results in success. No, that's not the correct word. I don't believe in judging and I don't believe in guilt and I don't believe in wishing...So there.

We also talk about my headache medicine. No wonder it worked wonders. I've been taking double dosage...that is 2000 miligrams! ...So next time I'll try one pill and one capsule to fizz in water.

Sofi is over the moon happy to see us, and I'm wondering if she was treated well by the groomer. The woman seems friendly, but very matter of fact. So we don't know if she treats her dogs the way our groomers in the U S did.

Diane, who was our groomer for Huntley and Brinkley for years, actually cried when we told her that Brinkley died. She, and Marilyn before her, were kinder than kind. I'm not so sure that this woman is in that category, puortroppo.

At home, we eat roast chicken and a salad and I eat an apple for dessert. I'm really feeling good about the decision. Now let's talk about something else...

Michelle wants my recipe for Steamed Persimmon Pudding, or rather she'd like to make it with me, and offers to keep our excess puddings in their big freezer until we need them. Why not?

It's not a temptation for me to make them, and they are plopped right in the freezer after they're specially wrapped in heavy foil and put in ziplock bags.

Dino wants me to watch the movie, The Joy Luck Club, which he watched yesterday while I was busy doing something else. So I watch it today, while he drives to Tenaglie for a meeting with the muratore to give him his punch list.

I do some drawing of a woman's head and upper torso, one that I began last week that is done with pencils in black and terra cotta, making shadows and light in tone shades. For these next few weeks I'll be drawing more, probably painting less. Dino is a little shocked by it, for I want to show a woman in pain, with a tear on her cheek. I'll take it to Marco to see if I'm on track with it.

Claudio wants to see our AriaDSL in action, before they order it. So I agree to invite Michelle to fix a batch of steamed persimmon puddings with me while Claudio and Dino check out the internet connection.

He'll arrive tomorrow morning, but I don't know if Michelle will join him. Either way, I'm going to make a double batch, beginning at around 10AM. That will produce three puddings. First I'll pluck a bunch of ripe caki from the tree in the side yard. Wonder how much I'll be able to harvest before they are too ripe.

Perhaps I'll pluck a bunch and freeze them in ziplocks, defrosting them later to make more puddings. It takes two hours just to steam them, and at least 30 minutes to put the batter together,

It's time to bring in a chimney cleaner, so Dino calls a man who left his number at the Tittibar. He's far away and also expensive. Dino tells him to call when he knows when he'll be in the area.

"Why not take out the Pagina Giallo?" (yellow pages) I ask. Dino finds Francesco from Vitorchiano when he opens up the book. He will charge less and also knows our house! He is able to describe the long tufa wall when Dino gives him directions.

Is this creepy, or does he have friends in Mugnano? Either way, Dino likes him and he'll be our guy. So when the other fellow calls back, Dino gives his regrets and tells him perhaps next time.

October 6
Michelle and Claudio stop by, but Michelle is too interested in the computer to stay with me in the kitchen. By the time the morning is over, I've picked fifteen ripe caki and made three more puddings.

We spend part of the afternoon putting the cabinets of the vetrina together, and now they can close and have handles. When the glass arrives, we'll add gold cord inside to help affix the glass. It really is all in the details...

The weather is overcast, and when we leave at six to stop by Lydia's painting exhibition, we're met by a solid rainstorm. Not to be deterred, Dino drives to the borgo in Penna in Teverina, and we watch our footing over the slick stones.

The exhibition is held in a little cantina, well lit and filled with many, many of Lydia's work. She is quite talented, and I believe has been painting for more than five years.

What I'm most drawn by is a little man sitting on a handmade wooden chair in the far corner of the room. Staring straight ahead, his hands clasped together over his cane as if in prayer, is the owner. I really think he should be painted.

My gaze is rivited to his wizened face, three-day old beard, tweed cap, and pants and vest that were probably bought before "The War". He lights up the room and I stare, studying him as if to memorize his features for a later canvas.

We leave for Amelia, and the party Tia and Bruce are giving for Raoul, their ninety-year-young client and friend from Mexico.

It's an especially wonderful party, held inside and out, buffet-style. Outside under a giant olive tree near the pool, a man makes cheese by hand, two types, and we stand and watch him put the finishing touches on a ricotta that he hand forms gently while water from the big pot washes over it.

I am not sure of the second cheese, for I did not taste it, but it's a wonderful addition to an already festive party. We meet Rosita, Raoul's wife, and of course Raoul, but Rosita is clearly the light of the party. Her eyes dance, and in this room of strangers she walks over, group by group, and greets people, until everyone in the room is mesmerized by her.

I sit with her while she eats a plate of lasagne, talking about Mexico and food and cooking. Raoul next to her on the couch tells me that Rosita makes the best Mexican spaghetti he has ever eaten. Why not?

With a new attitude, I don't have much interest in the food, but everything looks tasty, and Dino confirms that it is. At the end of the evening, Raoul is serenaded in three languages and presented with a pastel that Lydia finished earlier in the day. It is a remarkable likeness. Brava, Lydia!

October 7
I wake up very tired, so Dino attends mass without me. I sleep all morning, and get up just for an hour before returning to bed.

While I'm in bed, Dino has been busy....

Dino walks up to church himself. He and Tiziano talk with Don Luca after mass about San Rocco, but our priest does not know exactly who "owns" it, so will ask a local geometra.

This bit of information sounds strange, as there have been many discussions about this church over the years, even with the sindaco when Vezio wanted to buy it. Let's hope Don Luca is in our corner....

Stefano stops by to look at the gap in the floor and will repair it this week. The gap has been present for as long as we've owned the house, and has not changed. So we feel comfortable fixing it.

Dino speaks with Tomasso about reupholstering the sofa in the kitchen, and he wants to see it, although he has been retired for two years. I wonder what that means? We can always return to the upholsterer in Viterbo who covered two chairs in the dining room.

I spend almost all of the day in bed. I'm tired, very tired. But I don't have other flu symptoms. Perhaps a day in bed will cure everything.

October 8
I'm feeling better, so let's have fun!

Sofi and I stay at the house while Dino travels to Tenaglie to meet with the muratores and cajole them into completing every last detail of the restoration.

I'd like to take Sofi for a walk but don't have the stamina this morning. It's a beautiful day, so she spends her time on the terrace, chasing lucertoles.

I expect to make at least three steamed puddings this morning, as the persimmons are really ripe and won't last long. After Dino leaves, I put on rubber shoes and Sofi and I ramble to the persimmon tree to cut down as many as I can easily reach. I'll freeze them in ziplocks, to buy more time.

By the time Dino returns home for pranzo, three more puddings are ready for the freezer. It has taken the entire morning to do them, so yes, it is a labor of love.

There is Marco's bottega this afternoon, and I'll work on the stone figure for one more session. Next week I'll begin a larger canvas, but haven't decided a theme. Perhaps it will be another "ghost", this time, perhaps the ghost of Caravaggio. But then, his figures are so well defined that he's not a good choice. I think, therefore, that I'll come up with a figure of my own choosing.

On Thursday we'll take the train to Florence, and if we can find a place that sells silk reasonably, we'll purchase ten meters or so to use as a drape. We'll be attending a Mediterranean Garden Society event, and we've not seen those folks for many months, so look forward to catching up with some of them.

Marco's bottega is filled with people this afternoon, and every one of them is in a chattering mood, except me. I'm there to paint and to learn as much as I can each week.

I work on my stone figure and balustrade, and then Ugo returns for us to sketch him. For more than three hours we sketch him, in two different poses. Marco tells me in front of the group that I have the form sketched correctly, so I believe I am improving.

Each session finds new challenges. Today I'm sketching Ugo with his head resting on a pillow, leaning away from me. The position is distorted, and it is an excellent exercise.

Sofi arrives with Dino to pick me up, and Lucia has the chance to hold her and cuddle her. I have introduced her to Marielisa, Sofi's breeder, and they have talked. There will be a new litter soon, so Sofi may have another little friend to play with who will look very much like her.

At home I'm in the mood to draw, keeping my attention away from food. I've come up with a concept for a painting for Terence and Angie, to hang in their kitchen or dining room...If they don't like it they can sell it on ebay! I'll paint it when we are there.

Last week, I learned that all Renaissance paintings have a planned structure, including a repeated line or circle that brings the various parts of the painting together. This newest subject has a definite curved line that is repeated numerous times. It makes a great deal of sense to me. Next Monday I'll go over it with Marco, to see what he thinks.

Speaking of Marco, he's enamoured with small action figures, and has hundreds of them staring out at us from behind glass in the back room of the bottega. He has Dino buying more of them on ebay, and Dino has fun buying them for him, too.

Marco is unable to buy things online frome ebay from Italy. Dino buys them from his S F address. Later everything will be shipped by slow boat to Marco.

While I drew at Marco's, Dino visits Pietro and Helga and Pietro's guest, Helen. then plans tomorrow's jaunt. We'll begin at Villa Lante, continue to the Museo Civico in Viterbo, drive up to Montefiascone to see San Flaviano, an 11th century church, on to Bolsena to see Santa Caterina (the site of the original Corpus Domini in the 13th century) and on to Purgatorio for pranzo. Whew! I'm sure they'll come up with something to do in the afternoon, too.

Dino takes seven persimmon puddings up to Michelle's to store in the freezer, and tells me that I'm working too hard. These puddings take a lot of energy to make (each batch of 3 takes about 3 hours to make), so although I want to keep going, he wants me to slow down.

With two plastic tubs of persimmon pulp, any additional persimmons that are cut from the tree will be frozen, so that I can continue to make them until we leave in the middle of November.

I can't seem to let the gooey fruits fall from the tree, but there are hundreds of them. Piano, piano. With Dino looking over my shoulder, I can't push myself. So I should content myself with making 9 a week. Va bene.

It's a lovely cool evening, and although I came home with a headache, the difmetre medicine cured it almost right away. It's very strong, 1000 mg. plus acetamol (also 1000mg.) plunked in water until it dissolves. It's my new wonder drug.

October 9
At 6:30 A. M., a long German moving van drives up the Mugnano road onto Via Mameli. The driver receives mistaken information from his navigation system that he should drive up to the borgo and turn around...

Maria Elina, our Norwegian friend who is here for three months, tells us the following:

She is in the bedroom of her house on Via Mameli and hears an enormous noise at around 6:30 A M. She feels the building shake as the van drives past her building and looks out her window. "That's strange!" she tells herself. "What's a van that large doing driving down this little street?"

Less than one minute later, she feels the building rock and a huge "bang!" down the street. Standing on her balcony, she could see one corner of the rear of the van, perilously stuck into the right wall that leads up to the borgo. The driver had tried to navigate the turn, and since the van was not made of swiss cheese, the rubber literally hit the road.

Even worse, when he realizes he cannot move forward, his van moves backward right into Signora Sarah's bathroom wall. She awakes with a fright and no wonder.

By this time Maria Elina is dressed and out on the street. She is living in Mugnano for three months, here from Norway to take Italian lessons. Her bus to Viterbo leaves at 7 A M. , so she is already up and dressed.

She has enough time to rush up to the truck, and by this time the driver is out and practically catatonic. He is German, cannot speak Italian, cannot speak English, and is so upset he tells her to call the police.

The only other person out at that time of the morning is the local street sweeper, and the driver tells him to get the police. The street sweeper knows where to find Francesco, our Vigili Urbani, and Francesco notifies Stefano, the sindaco (mayor) and Stefanini, the technico (engineer).

By the time we are ready to leave to meet Stein and Helga and their house guest at around 9 A M, Stefano (the mayor) and Stefanini (the technico) are turning around and driving out of town. They greet us, and we then find Stefano (the muratore), smiling because he's not able to get up to the borgo to work on Annarita's house, a huge palazzo that he is restoring.

The van is stuck in the curve of the road, moving inches back and forth and the driver is sweating and probably on the verge of having a heart attack. He's not able to back the van up without further damaging Signora Sarah's house or the 500-year-old wall.

Stefano and Francesco wisely remove the top cap off the five hundred year old wall and place it aside, while the truck continues to maneuver its way downhill. It's 9AM when we first see the damage, and we're told it's 10:30 before the driver is able to navigate the van back down Via Mameli.

I'm livid. This little village is a treasure. We're all like one family here, and how dare anyone damage this little gem, our family! Its history cannot be reworked with a few new bricks and mortar. The patina of this place, the five hundred years that this street and this wall have been helping residents up and down, are now put in peril.

Everyone is out watching; over the park railing, out on their balconies, out on the street. Below the van are two fire trucks and beside them their oh-so handsome firemen. There is no word from Signora Sarah, whom we later find out sits most of the morning outside her house on a chair, shaking her head and not knowing what to do.

Luckily, her sister lives in the borgo, and that is where she moves until the excitement tones down and the lawyers have their say. Dino thinks the ax will fall on the mayor, for there are no signs warning that Mugnano is a dead-end town, or at least a sign that trucks over a certain weight are prohibited. Who in their right mind would take such a cammion (truck) into a hill-top medieval village?

The conjecture by the "men-on-the-street" is that the driver had driven all night and was tired. He referred to a navigation system that directed him to Mugnano, after he missed a turn. But once the little road narrowed and curved up to the borgo, wouldn't it have made sense for him to get out of the cab and take a look?

Tomorrow Dino will buy the Corriera Della Viterbo, the quasi-local paper. Here are some photos taken at 9 A M and again at 6 P M when we returned from our outing with Helga and Pietro and their guest, Helen.


All right. So after our first look, we drive to Pietro's and tell them to follow us back up to Via Mameli so that they can take a look for themselves. Unfortunately, this is a piece of Mugnano history, unfolding before us all. They must see it.

After a few minutes, we drive on to Villa Lante.

Pietro and Helen walk on ahead after leaving the entrance, and Helga and I saunter around. I'm thinking about my painting of the figure I call Pan, and wonder about how the balustrade would look with a low side wall nearby of pinkish marble.


Can Villa Lante give me some inspiration? I may wipe off most of the distant green in the painting, wanting to make it more sculptured and formal. I'm not sure.

I'm struck by the plane trees. All the times we've been here, I've never paid attention to the enormous plane trees. But now that I'm fascinated with them, even in love with them, I look up at a few of the grandest ones, and they appear quite frightening, flapping their huge "arms". Can you imagine being at Lante after dark? It's a scary thought.

I've walked halfway up the elaborate terraces, and decide to walk down one of two diagonal paths that meet at the bottom. At my feet, I find a solitary leaf from one of the trees, curled as if it's a woman's hand, cupped delicately as though it's just picked up a rose. The box hedge on either side of me is enormous, taller than me almost; at about five feet, I can barely raise my nose above the tightly clipped walls.

I read that the original design of the garden focused primarily on the stone sculptures. The evergreens, including the box, were added later as background. Somehow one's eyes can't help focusing on them, leaving the ancient stones as places on which to lean, while gazing at the pond and watercourse. The birds whirr around in loose formation as if to create a kind of whirlpool of magic, above this fantasy.

Once we've seen enough of this fabulous garden for today, we lead Pietro and Helen to Viterbo, via back streets, and wind up right at the Museo Civico, for the belated start to our day of sightseeing. While Pietro and Helen park his car, Helga and I walked inside. Somehow they don't come to look for us, but sit instead at a café for an hour waiting for us. All the while we look for them inside and then give up.

I must say that I am disappointed. I want to see the paintings, for I've seen the marvellous Etruscan art and ceramics before. But there is to be a restoration, so all of the paintings that I think we can see are in one big room full of chairs.

There is a narrow path around the chairs that places us smack-dab next to very important paintings. It's a travesty. We're unable to view the paintings logically, and overhead glaring down at us are flourescent tubes. It's a disgrace.

A very stubborn Helen is determined to look at the paintings, so we let her inside and remain talking for a while in the fresh air. After she meets us again, we drive to San Flaviano, the fabulous one-of-a-kind 11th century church outside Montefiascone.


After twenty minutes or so inside this remarkable church, there is just enough time to reach Purgatorio, on Lake Bolsena, for pranzo, where we all feast on exquisite fish. Dino's cozzi (mussels in a lemon broth), corrigone, spigola, fried calamari, even Helga's lamb, are all noteworthy. Helga has no interest in fish, as she's returning to Norway on Friday, so anything but is a treat for her.

We love this place on the side of the lake, with green grass and lovely trees serenading us as we feast under a blanket of soft sunlight.


Before we know it, it's time to leave, so we kiss everyone goodbye and drive to Orvieto to pick up more cord for the vetrina, then drive to Tenaglie to check on the house. No one is working, but we find Tani at a nearby house working on a roof. Dino gives him hell, and hopefully the crew will be back working this week.

Managing a restoration in Italy is a delicate balance. Workers need to be motivated and at the same time kept under one's thumb. I understand their dilemma: they need to keep working, so don't want to turn any work down.

So if they have a number of jobs in process, it's difficult to keep any of the clients satisfied. That's where Dino comes in, cajoling and playing hardball where and when he has to.

We're coming close to the end of the project. Once the kitchen arrives, a kitchen that was ordered last spring(!), we'll really see some progress. So during these weeks Dino keeps in touch with each subcontractor, driving, driving them in a friendly but persistent way. He really earns "his keep". I cannot imagine someone not on site managing a restoration.

We run into Maria Elina after parking the car at home, and she gives us the rundown of what happened earlier this morning. Then it's time for a glass of wine at her house, before turning in our selves.

Upon leaving Maria Elina's we run into Rosina, who walks up the street to her house. After hearing that Signora Sarah is all right, Roy tells her, "There was more damage done to Mugnano today by the Germans than in all of World War II!" She looks at him blankly, almost wide-eyed.

When we then talk about Mugnano being a family, we tell her that we have purchased our cemetery plots (so please include us in your family!) And it is then that she makes the sign of horns on either side of her head. We know it is bad luck to speak of such things. She waves us off, walking toward her house as she tells us, "Lontano...speriamo!"

Walking back to our house tonight I start to shiver. The air is strange tonight. It is as if some monster is shaking us, shaking us, to our very core. It's as if the town has had a mental earthquake. Let's have a quiet night and hope for the best tomorrow.

October 10
We wake up to a gentle rain, but it feels as if we'll have it all day. Brooke and her mother arrive for pranzo, and we look forward to meeting them.

We're old friends even as we meet, and the next few hours are spent gabbing about Brooke, life in Italy, life in the U S, and "basket" which is what the sport is known of in Italy. Brooke is the center of the team in Viterbo, the and she has been here only a few weeks. Her mother, Alison, will be here a few weeks more, and we hope to see them again soon.

Before they leave, we walk up to the borgo, and are even able to get in to the Duomo, where we ask for Gilberto. He is in Rome, but we're allowed to look around. There's Peter and Paul, and below them...San Vincenzo and ...San Liberato. But it can't be OUR San Liberato, we tell them, for as you all know by now, San Liberato is black.

We have a conversation with the main painter, and he appears knowledgeable, even if not about our patron saint. We'll be back, and perhaps we've made an impression on him. Don Luca knows San Liberato is black. Even if they paint the figure's face black it will help.

We cannot find representations of our saint anywhere. Next Tuesday, when we're in Rome, perhaps we can visit a shop where we can speak with someone who sells the statues, who might know more. Oh, there's always something to worry about...

Our friends leave, and we begin another session of steamed puddings, holding off our trips tonight to Orvieto to drop off Sofi for a night and then back to Pietro's to talk with him about his satellite dish. By the time Pietro returns from his trip next week, Dino hopes to have it installed and ready.

We take a short drive to Pietro's but he is not there, so gab with Helga and we'll return later tonight. Sofi is to have a sleep-over with Candace and Frank and we'll pick her up on our way back from Florence tomorrow.

The weather is not good. The air is heavy and humid, with not more than a few drops of rain. We're expecting more and more of this tomorrow.

We tell Sofi that we are going on an adventure, and although she is somewhat tired, she is very excited, sitting on my lap in the car as we drive to Orvieto.

At Frank and Candace's, she's excited to show off her bed and Olivia, her toy. But it is not until Frank and Candace take her outside to their back garden that we feel it is right for us to leave. On the way down the hill we call to check in and Frank tells us she's fine, but staring at the door. Separation exiety is what I feel. I do love that little dog.

Back in Mugnano, we stop for a visit at Pietro's, and Dino talks with him about his computer connection. By the time he comes back from his Rome jaunt, we hope to have him hooked up to ARIADSL. It's like Christmas here in little Mugnano.

The excitement takes off a little of the sadness over the damage to the ancient borgo wall. Earlier Dino and I talked about how beautifully the Duomo is being restored. Now if we can only persuade them to give us a black San Liberato figure below that of Saints Peter and Paul at the back of the apse...

October 11
We're off to Florence for the day, to meet up with our friends at the Mediterranean Garden Society and take a private tour of Boboli Gardens.

With Sofi safely at Candace and Frank's until tonight, we leave early and catch a train early enough to get us into Florence before 10 A M.

We start at the Duomo, and take a turn at the museum, then spend the rest of the morning walking around and visiting a few local churches.

We meet the group around noon across from the Boboli Garden, then have pranzo with them while we watch the other tourists walk by. There are lots of them.

The exhibit we are there to see is "The Antique Gardens from Babylon to Rome". This includes the famous hanging gardens of Babylon. What is a hanging garden of Babylon? Well, it was a raised garden in ancient Iraq. You remember, don't you, that Iraq was considered the "cradle of civilization?"

Kaye sits next to me during pranzo, and tells me that she spent a number of years working for the consulate in Iraq during the '60's. "Weren't you horrified when Iraq fell and the museums were plundered?" I asked her.

"Yes, it was very sad. All of it." she responds. People who have spent time there years ago remember it fondly. So let's not get into a political discussion concerning whether people fared better under a dictator....

We spend the next three hours gamboling through the Boboli Gardens and are impressed with the exhibit, whch runs through the 28th of October. Yes, even my favorite plane trees are there, running down a main thorofare. It looks just like our picture books, and why not, for there is much care given to this garden.

Another friend from the Mediterranean Garden Society's Italian Branch, Ivonne, recalls that on a visit twenty or so years ago that the gardens were in disarray. It's a different story these days, so do visit if you come to Florence, and do bring great walking shoes.

We're exhausted as we drag our way out of the garden and find our way back to the Duomo, where we sit at an outdoor café to rest our feet, and our bones. A macedonia (tall cup of cut up fresh fruit) is really tasty, as is Dino's pizetta. We're looking forward to relaxing on the train.

It takes a while at the taxi stand to find a taxi (in Florence, the only way to get a taxi is at a taxi stand, unless one calls for one), but when one finally arrives we have a wonderful female driver in a brand new KIA macchina. We're impressed with the car, outfitted with leather seats and a surveillance camera over the rearview mirror.

We ask her if her job is dangerous, and she tells us in Italian that it is no more dangerous than anything else in this dangerous world.

We reach the train station, Campo di Marte, and although our train is late, we have assigned seats and it feels so good to sit down!

We reach Orvieto and pick up piccola, arriving home just after 9 P M. We loved our trip but are happy to be home.

October 12
There is danger, danger, everywhere. Now we receive an email from the local consulate, telling us things that we know about pickpockets and car thieves, now we hear there are tracking devices being mounted on top of cameras at ATM machines, where the machines pick up detailed persomal information on one's account, then sells it on the internet.

We also learn that if someone stays in Italy for more than eight days that they need to have a permit to stay, which can be picked up at the local post office.

Now you may think this surveillance information is heavy, but we are happy to see it, happy to see the additional police at public places, taking their work very seriously. This kind of permit is now required at other countries in Europe as well.

We sleep in a little, then Dino travels to the bank for a meeting and then to Tenaglie. It's getting cooler outside, and he calls back the chimney sweep, who has still not scheduled an appointment to clean our chimney.

I love the fires in Pietro's fireplace when we've visited this past week, and look forward to fires of our own. I don't know if smoke is a contributor to my headaches, but we'll have to see.

This morning there is a racket from Priscilla and Maggiolino, so perhaps Pepe has them out in his orto. I don't have the energy to walk down there with Sofi. Lets save our extra carrots and stale bread...Perhaps later...

This afternoon I make another batch of puddings, but spend more time than I imagined I could just sitting outside reading on the terrace. It is so peaceful that for some of the time I just sit, listening to the birds and the local sounds of nature. We certainly are blessed.

October 13
Tired, tired, I wake up tired, am tired all day. Perhaps it is the new way I am eating. But it's a lovely day, so let's see what's ahead.

We bring Pietro's car back from the train station, and drive to Tenaglie to check on the house. Dino has accomplished many things on this week's punch list, and with Tani on location yesterday he made headway as well. Now if only the kitchen was ready to be installed...

Today's the finale of the persimmon puddings. I make a double batch, but am not sure of one of the pots. So at least we will have two to add to our growing number of puddings. Dino will take them up to Shelly later. It is very kind of her to agree to keep them in her freezer. Our freezer is already filled with them.

Dino drives off again in the afternoon, and Sofi and I stay at home. I'm too tired to paint, so we sit outside while hearing the sounds of Pia's guests arriving, across the street. Since we are located above them, the noise is not really a problem, and luckily she is hardly ever there.

Catharine stops buy and picks up a fresh pudding, hot from the steamer. We are going to miss Catharine and Kees, who are moving next month to Holland. I feel some angst for Catharine, who does not speak Dutch. The language is very different from ours, and I suspect not easy to learn. It is a good thing they are young, with many adventures ahead of them.

The subject comes up about "what next?" and Catharine does not want to surmise how long they will stay in Holland. I explain that it is my nature to think in terms of dreams, far off.

And now I realize that I don't think that way any more about us. We already have our cemetery plots, so know that's "what's next". Might as well enjoy what's here and now. I'm at great peace with it all.

October 14
In church this morning, Felice calls out to me when I walk over to greet them. He calls me his girl, giving me the grandest hug imaginable. Is it possible that he has his mind back? Or does he think I am someone else?

I hug him back, then tell him that Marsiglia is "his girl". She's resigned to his antics and gives me a kiss on either cheek just the same. After mass, she is with Don Luca so I help him out the door.

Lore and Alberto are here, busy as usual, and perhaps we'll see them this week. But it's time to pay a visit to Valeria in Orte, whose parents want to sell their lovely family home. It's the latest on our site, although last night we added the home of Catherine and Kees. We'll feature both properties this month.

They have been looking for a house in the borgo of Orte, near the Duomo, but the one property that we had on the site and is now sold was too small for them. By listing the property now, we'll see if we can help them find a buyer.

We love the property. It only needs cosmetic work, updating it from 1970's style. But the grounds and spaciousness of the large home show great promise.

The spectacular weather continues, with temperatures in the low 20's. I think we should work outside this afternoon, perhaps continuing the digging around the giant olive tree so that we can build stone seating to circle it. But other small projects keep us from the garden.

By the end of the afternoon I'm giving myself a "hi-five" because I've folded up half of my clothes in the guest bedroom and encouraged Dino to do a little of the same. Tomorrow we'll take them to the second-hand shop in Viterbo. What they won't take, we'll donate to Caritas.

Either way, we have lots more room in our closets. The old "shop till you drop" mentality is gone, replaced by a more measured attitude. We live simple lives in this little village, so aren't mad about the latest fashions anymore. Actually, we're walking around the house, looking for other things to take as well. It feels good.

Tonight we attend a very special concert in Viterbo at the Teatro Mancinelli with Maria Elina. It is the finale of the Festival Barocco 2007, and that doesn't mean much to you, but it is a series of excellent classical music concerts in the area.

Tonight we sit in palco (box) seats, and except for the first Mozart piece, which I don't particularly enjoy, the concert is excellent. There is an oboe soloist, Albrecht Mayer, who dazzles us first with a Marcello piece, Concerto per Oboe e archi in re minore and then a Bach piece, Concerto per Oboe violino e archi in do minore. There are three encores, just in the first half of the program! Albrecht really hits it "out of the park", his final notes causing Maria Elina and I to fairly swoon.

We drive home and get into bed, and it's chilly outside. With memories of that glorious but haunting oboe in our ears, we find ourselves in dreamland.

October 15
With the second-hand shop closed on Mondays, and Marco in Milan, we've a free day. Perhaps we'll get some of that gardening done.

Dino drives to Tenaglie, and returns home for the rest of the day. The morning finds me clipping a little in the garden, listening to the sounds, and taking in the cool air, telling me that the heat of the summer has faded into memory.

Each day I've taken a little time to sit on the bench in front of the dining room, just looking out silently and enjoying myself. The days pass by so quickly that winter will be here and soon we'll be spending our time inside by the fire.

This afternoon, Sofi and I take two carrots and walk the loop below our house. First stop is Maggiolino and Priscilla's pen, to feed them each a carrot. Only later do I learn to keep the palm of my hand flat and let each one pick the carrot from it.

Instead, I aim the carrot as if it's a pencil entering a sharpener, the long teeth and rubbery gums clasping the treat that moves through the hole in the wire fence. After they've chewed methodically, keeping back from me to enjoy every last chew, Maggiolino sticks his snout through the fence and tries to give me a little nip.

"Not so fast!" I reply, pulling my hand back in time. I want to give each snout a rub, and each of them comply. Sofi gives me a look to tell me she's ready to move on, so I wave them goodbye.

Maggiolino puts his head back and to encourage him I give him a "Hee-haw" to get him started. He responds in kind, as if he's thinking to himself, "Oh. It's that hee-haw thing again. People just don't know how to converse..."

We walk up the hill and around the bend, stopping to greet Maria the Sarda and Pietro and his wife, Quintillia. I'm knocked out by her name, and some day will learn how she became Quintillia.

We walk to Maria Elina's garden, but she is not there, so we walk to her house and ring the doorbell. No answer. But when we're walking back down Via Mameli she gets up from her nap and asks us to come in.

Sofi loves Maria Elina, and the three of us hang out in the kitchen while we compare notes regarding Italian lessons. I am almost hopeless, and although I offer to quiz my dear friend, we get stuck on the phrase "c'e veddiamo" (see you again soon). M E is sure it's "c'e reveddiamo". We cannot find it anywhere, now that we're looking for the popular phrase. So we give up and all of us walk to our house.

M E wants to borrow some white wine vinegar, and stays for tea outside on the terrace. Dino is home, so joins us, and we talk about tomorrow's jaunt to Rome to join Pietro at St. Olaf's church on The Corso. There will be a special Norwegian mass at 4PM, and we're invited.

Pietro does not know, but Sofi will be with us. Dino thinks of letting her go once the mass has begun, knowing she'll run to him and create chaos. Of course he won't but it's funny to think about, just the same.

I've been invited to become a contributor to the Italian Notebook, www.italiannotebook.com . Take a look, and join for quick emails each day about daily life in Italy.

October 16
We leave with our good friend, Maria Elina, before 9 AM and arrive in Rome just after ten. We have lots to do. First, we drive to The Vatican, and park in the neighborhood. We've been researching our patron saint for so long that we've come to an impass. So we hear that the actual office for the Causes of Saints is right near the Vatican. A local newsstand owner points to a building very close to us.

As we walk across the broad expanse that rises up to St. Peter's, we see the building right in front of us. Inside the doorway stands a guard, and he...well, he tells us the office we want is on the third floor. The three of us look at eachother in amazement as we step into the elevator.

In no time we're face to face with three imposing men, dressed in blue dress shirts and slacks. Dino walks up to one and tells him that we have been speaking with our parish priest, who confirms that the image in our church is not that of our patron saint, but we have been unable to find any accurate research information anywhere.

"Have you tried the internet?" he asks. Yes, no luck. We're amazed, simply amazed, by what happens next. He beckons us to follow him down a long corridor to...the library!

Did I tell you that all this time Sofi has been in my arms? She is with us for the day, and sweetly lies against me like a stuffed animal.

We're introduced to a woman who appears to be a novitiate, named Julia, and the fellow tells her the story. She is German, so speaks very good English. She takes us to another room full of books, and takes out three books of saints. In two of them, we find our very own San Liberato, who died in AD 484. The story is there, but no picture. Puor troppo.

If there are no pictures of our saint in that room, we doubt we will be able to find one anywhere. So we thank her and stop at the Papal bookstore nearby, where a kind woman shows us the books they have, and none have a picture.

We consider the mission a success, for we come away with the story, even if we don't have a picture. Our patron saint, we believe, was black, although there is no confirmation. He lived and died in Africa.

So now I'm wondering if we have taken a step forward or back....The statue in our church is clearly not our saint, who was an abbot, not a bishop, whether or not he was black. There is a handsome bust of a black man in our sacristy, but he wears a cardinal's pointed hat. What to do? I've been thinking of recommending that we have a body made to match the bust we already have. It's fashioned in a kind of silver metal.

But now it's noon, and in true Italian fashion, we plan our route based on where we will have pranzo. Dino takes the tried and tested approach, and we walk over to Gusto! and take in their buffet. It's a very good deal, including a glass of wine for €10 each, and the buffet is bountiful.

Across the street is the Aria Pacis, built originally as a monument to Augustus, and until October 28 there is a monumental exhibit of Valentino's gowns. There must be three hundred of them.

But first we have our pranzo and do some window shopping next door at Gusto!'s kitchen store. It is filled with so many gadgets and beautiful kitchenware.

We're really here to attend Stein's mass at Sts. Ambrosio & Carlo Church on the Corso, right next to Mondadori bookstore. Today's mass is in honor of St. Olaf, as Norwegians celebrate his day today. Stein and one bishop from Norway and six other priests all officiate.

Well, the mass is held at a kind of chapel, with an altar and huge painting of St. Olaf slaying the dragon straight ahead. This chapel was given to the Catholic Church of Norway to use as "altar privileges". Each October 16th a mass is celebrated here. Here's a shot of our pal Stein at the Mass...


Stein is moved to see us before the mass, even Sofi, although Dino winds up taking Sofi outside for most of the mass because she's, well, she's having too good a time to sit still. After the mass we say hello to a few friends and then leave for the rest of our errands.

One of our missions is to buy a few yards of ready-to-paint linen, and we're directed to a place on Via del Fiume. The man inside tells us that the linen comes in widths of 250 cm, so we purchase two meters. That will give me enough canvas to paint a number of large paintings. Since it is expensive, he throws in a couple of remnants for me to practice on. For he can tell that the price is high for me, but that it's what I must have. He is very kind.

We return to the Ara Pacis, the museum for Augusta's tomb, and take in the Valentino exhibit. It's just fabulous. Up close, the gowns are magnificent. I remember seeing a couple of them on TV at the Oscars. What do you think?


By this time we have done a lot of walking, so Dino wants us to find our way to Rosati's to hang out. On the way, we spot...what's this? Well, it's the "Stivale di Roma" (Denver Boot)!

Although we've lived in Italy for five years, it took this picture to make me feel homesick for the U S. This sorry fellow is the sad recipient of "the boot", a wheel clamp designed to prevent vehicles from moving. Although invented in 1953 for use by the Denver Police Department, its use has spiraled worldwide, as evidenced by its use in Rome.

Only if you have experienced the feeling of having a boot attached to a wheel of your car can you really comprehend the sense of loss. So when in Rome beware of the traffic police, who will give your car the "boot" if you're arrears in traffic fines.

At Rosati's, we sit and people-watch while giving our feet a rest. It's time to go home, so we walk to the car and Dino masterfully navigates his way across Rome, depositing us on our doorstep in just over an hour.

It's been a memorable day. The weather was a perfect 21 degrees for most of it, and we had an opportunity to see Stein perform a mass in front of his countrymen. We do regret not traveling to Oslo in December for his final mass before retiring. We are so proud of him, and loved being witnesses to his service.

Sofi and I knock off early. Dino stays awake for a movie or so, and by the time he comes upstairs, we're in dreamland.

October 17
Don Salter is in town, and we'll surely drop in on him later. This morning, Dino drives to the house to supervise the muratore and the electricians, and arrives home to tell me that part of the kitchen will be installed soon.

He's in love with the pasta I put together, a simple tuna and tomato pasta, and if it's a success tomorrow night I'll put it on the site under recipes.

This afternoon I spend some time looking for a particular Italian proverb, and can't find it. I've been invited to join the Italian Notebook, a daily quip about Italian life on the internet, and have an idea for my first piece.

Dino thinks we should take our things to the Second-hand shop in Viterbo, based on his success selling our second-hand shutters, so we put togther a lot of things, mostly clothes, and are waiting at the gate for it to open after pranzo.

We're first in line, but have a rude awakening. They don't take any of the clothes except for two sweaters, but do take other things. The rest of the clothes we later take to a Caritas drop box and put them in bags, then drop them in. It's better than taking the clothes home...

So do we suggest this place for people to sell their things? Well, except for clothes, I guess. Having said that, I find a winter coat for myself, one that I have needed, for €50, and it is a new looking black shearling coat, almost full length. I suppose Dino and I are the type that wind up buying things at the most improbable places.

We have a drawing blown up that I will use as a template for the painting for Terence and Angie's dining room, or kitchen, and decide that I'll paint one for here as well. We're taking the canvas marked in what's called a cartoon, or outline sketch of the final, to Marco's and will paint it there. I'll begin the painting on Friday at Marco's and will work on it at home as well.

We drive to Tenaglie to see what has been done this afternoon and measure for outside lights, and to stop in to see Don and his son and daughter, here for a few days.

Don's happy to see us, and we are happy to see him. We look forward to seeing them again and invite them for cena tomorrow night. That's when I'll use the same recipe for the pasta I fixed for pranzo today, and we'll see if it's as good the second time as it was today.

We drive home and pick up the two lights for the outside of the Tenaglie house, then come home to settle in for a chilly night. The weather is changing, and the serious storms in Spain for the past few days are heading our way. Better "batten down the hatches"....

October 18
I can hear the rain beating against the windowpanes, and it is not quite dawn. Perhaps we will have a shower or two. I don't think we will have a storm to compare to those in Spain ...At least I hope not.

The sun appears while Dino is at Tenaglie, working with the folks at ENEL who are at the house to move the electric meter. Dino is there every day, cajoling the subcontractors to do their work, pitching in wherever he can.

At home we finish the cord for the vetrina and put a pasta dish together for Don and his son and daughter, who arrive for a fun evening. I love seeing him interact with his grown children, love their stories.

I look forward to working at Marco's tomorrow on my next painting, the puchinello and his two little ones. But I'm tired tonight, so I especially look forward to turning in.

October 19
It feels like the weekend, but today is only Friday. This morning, Dino wakes me up to remind me that we have an adventure...subito!

After a quick breakfast, we leave Sofi guarding the house and drive down the strada bianca with our camera to the Gasperoni's house. Enzo keeps a gaggle of chicks (is that the correct moniker?), plenty of farraone ( guinea hens, no, they're not terducken), plus, strangely, pidgeons.

Now that I'm a contributing writer for Italian Notebook, we're looking for photographs to fit with my stories about Italian life. Since the first moment I thought about becoming a contributor, I've wanted to do a story about contadinis and their "golden chickens".

Now, if you're wondering what that is all about, there is a strange custom in the Italian countryside that involves chicken and I suppose other critters grown for their eggs or skin or meat...you get the picture...

If someone is unfortunate enough to run over one of these animals, the contadini who owns it will claim that he's lost a great deal of future income and expect you to fork over a "sacco di soldi" (lot of money).

So with the story written, we need two original photographs. The Gasperonis have generously agreed to let us stage a shoot at their campo near their house.

"Can we tie a string to the chicken's leg?" Tiziano asks on the phone. "Otherwise, they'll try to run away."

Here's Enzo with one of his hens, tied with a string to its foot. There are two hens starring in today's shoot, and after a masterful job of directing, Dino takes the photos.


Rosita stands nearby sighing, "Fra stale del cielo" (from their stall to the sky), thinking they're now stars, possibly even meriting a place in Hollywood.

That done, we arrive home to finish the Golden Chicken story and submit it, along with a story about the Valentino exhibit in Rome and a story about the Monster Park, the famous Renaissance park just up the hill from our little village.

After an early pranzo, we drive to Marco's. I have a very busy session. With two "cartoon" blowups of the subject of my next painting to apply today, Marco and Dino help me to cut the linen and stretch it over a large piece of plywood. Then Marco gives me a huge piece of carbon paper, and I trace the design onto the canvas.

When that's done, I trace another exact duplicate. That second "cartoon" is then rolled up, for transport to San Francisco, where I will paint it for Terence and Angie's dining room.

The subject consists of three puchinelli, Napolitan figures from the 19th century wearing black masks and baggy white costumes. A man is feeding two little characters pasta from a big dish; each little figure is dressed just like him, but reaches up high to catch the long strands of pasta.

I'm painting one here first, and it's available for sale. The one that will travel with us to San Francisco is in a mailing tube, and we'll stretch it when we arrive and I'll have three weeks to paint it. We're both pretty excited about it, and hope that Angie and Terence and the nipotini (grand daughters) like it, too.

At home it's a cool night, and I spend some time looking at the cartoon that stands on an easel in the kitchen. Until I have a studio, I will paint in the kitchen or out on the terrace. With another session with Marco on Monday, I may finish, for I plan to paint for most of the weekend.

October 20
With our internet server not working, we're unable to access the internet or receive email. It is interesting how much one depends on the use of the internet for daily living. Saluti Al Gore!

You do know that he did not invent the internet, don't you, although he's doing a fine job scaring the wits out of us about global warming. Here in Italy people are starting to take it all seriously. Italy is lumbering behind the rest of the civilized world, but we're simplifying our lives in any way we can and trying to do our part.

I intend to spend most of the day painting. If I finish by Monday at the bottega, perhaps the Puccinella will be on exhibit in Vallerano this next weekend. If not, I have plenty of canvases to choose from.

We drive out together for a few errands and notice a chilliness in the air. I'm actually shivering in the wind, and put on a sweatshirt, for it's really cold. I'm fantasizing about a fire in the fireplace and Dino calls the chimney sweep...again. He tells us he'll be here Monday morning.

Valeria's mother gave us the most incredible sweet to take home last Sunday. We serve it this afternoon for a visit by Duccio and Giovanna, and it is new to them. I look the recipe up on the internet, and it seems to be a great thing to give at holiday time, or any time. Look for it soon on our site.

With two recipes in hand from internet research, I'm interested in learning which recipe Valeria's mother uses. I also want to find out the story, and it would be a good addition to GB's Italian Notebook. Read to the end of this month for the recipe....

Mauro and Fabrizio stop by to visit Dino, to let him know that our visit with the pope next month will take place along with members of every other Confraternita in Italy. Of course the event will take up the entire St. Peter's Square, but what fun it will be! Pranzo will be somewhere up on the Janiculan hill.

Dino makes a lovely fire, and I have no headache. So at least for now, the idea that smoke can cause migraines does not apply to me. I have not had a headache since before the first of the month, so let's keep our fingers crossed.

I paint for a few hours this afternoon, and am able to take a first run at all three costumes. I'll work on the faces and hands and details tomorrow, and hope to be ready to finish adjusting, paint the pasta dripping over the dish and get a feel for the way in which I'll paint the darker background at Marco's on Monday. It's not inconceivable that I'll finish the painting on Monday. We really like it and this one will hang in our kitchen.

October 21
We wake to a very cold morning, and although we don't see any frost, we wear our winter coats to walk up to church. Don Ciro is the priest, and there is the regular crowd...abbastanza but not a full church. I can't help wondering when we will celebrate the finish of the Duomo restoration.

At home I get into a groove painting the puchinelli characters on my latest canvas, and by the time I stop at around 5 P M, the characters are finished, as is the plate of pasta. So tomorrow Marco can give it the once-over, make any corrections that are needed, and counsel me on the background. I'll probably finish it at home, because it will be difficult to transport if there are no unpainted edges to hold it with.

But the best news is that GB of Italian Notebook will publish my chicken story tomorrow. If you've subscribed to Italian Notebook, you'll receive it tomorrow in your email inbasket. There are archives, so if you do not subscribe right away, you can look it up later. I call Tiziano to tell him his father and his chickens will be famous tomorrow. We will all certainly celebrate this silly happening. Come no?

Don Salter arrives just before 6PM, and the three of us watch the final race of Formula-1. It is a very exciting race, with our favorite, the Englishman Lewis Hamilton, experiencing mechanical trouble and not finishing at the top. The result is that the driver from Finland wins the race and the championship. Since it's Lewis' rookie year, we expect him to win it all next year.

After the race we drive to Oktoberfest for their great beer and not so great food. But we have fun, and tomorrow we'll drive Don to the train station so that he can fly home to England. We love having him around, but miss Mary, who did not come with him this trip. I'm conscious of saying goodbyes, and don't like this one one bit. We'll give him a frozen persimmon pudding to take back for consolation.

Tonight is quite cold, and although I don't know the temperature, we surely won't sleep with an open window. Dino lit our first fire of the season in the fireplace today, and hopefully tomorrow the chimney sweep will arrive. He does not sound very reliable, but we'll give him the benefit of a doubt. I really do like having a fire on cold days.

Might as well kiss the warm weather goodbye for the year...

October 22
I wake up with a mild headache and think it's because of last night's beer, although it was only a small bicchieri (glass). The weather is quite cool, and we don't expect it to change, although there may be some rain.

The chimney cleaner and his assistant arrive, and they look a little worrysome. Perhaps my fears are unwarranted, but Sofi and I stay upstairs while the work progresses, checking online to see if my story has been posted yet.

Outside, Dino shows one of them the chimney and the two of them rig a three-story ladder up through the rungs of the pergola. The young one manages to climb up to the roof, take off the cement cap and push his brooms down the chimney. They have already taped up the fireplace front.

It takes very little time to finish the work, and Dino pays them and tells them goodbye. But when I walk out to the loggia, Rosina from up above calls out to "Signora Ivanna".

Only after I walk back to see her and she asks me if the chimney sweeps have left, do I realize that some of the soot from the chimney cleaning flew right over to the white t-shirts she is hanging out to dry. Signore!

When I realize what has happened I am so embarrased and apologise, but she acts content as long as they have left. How unthoughtful we were not to realize that this would happen! Tomorrow I'll take her a budini di caki and apologise in person at her door. What a terrible way for us to behave!

Dino is upstairs at the computer at 1:30 PM when the email arrives with our first submission to Italian Notebook. If you have not subscribed already, the link is:
www.italiannotebook.com

If you do not know about it, Italian Notebook is a short once-a-day, five times a week email with a quip about Italian life. It's also free. I'm enjoying researching different topics and the writing, and he appears happy to read them. Do take a look.

At Marco's, I finish all but the border of the painting, and almost every woman in the class comes over to look at it. We'll be hanging this one in our kitchen, and it is a good practice run for the one I'll paint for Terence and Angie's dining room or kitchen.

We've taken three pieces to Marco for the mostra this weekend, and on Friday we'll meet up with Marco to hang the show in Vallerano. There is to be a weekend of festivities there. The pieces are the first rooster, the french rooster and the three virtuous women.

We'll wait a week after finishing the puchinelli painting to stretch it, for it's painted on ready-to-paint linen. We'll use the same linen for Terence and Angie's piece next month.

There won't be a session at Marco's next Monday, for we have had four sessions this month, but I've asked him if I could have an extra session because we'll be away for three weeks starting on the 15th of November, so I'll only have two sessions in November. I'm hoping he'll let me come by myself. We'll talk with him about it on Friday.

It's really cold, 5 degrees Centigrade, when Dino picks me up, and it's beginning to rain. He backs up under the overhang in front of the studio to put the painting inside, and leaves it in the car until the rain stops a few hours later. I'm anxious to finish it, but that will have to be tomorrow.

Dino and I will make a wooden frame for the painted linen, for it's backed by a wooden plank right now, and next week it will be dry enough to attempt to stretch it carefully without ruining the paint. It will be framed and hung in the kitchen.

October 23
We're into freezing temperatures at night, so don't expect any more warm days. But with a fire in the fireplace and joy in my heart, I finish painting the puchinelli. What do you think?


Brooke Smith and her mother, Alison, fix us cena tonight at Brooke's apartment in San Martino nel Cimino, outside Viterbo. Brooke, as you may recall, is on Viterbo's women's professional basketball team, and will be here until Spring.

Her mother will return to the Bay Area of San Francisco on Thursday; afterward, we've promised to invite Brooke often for home cooked meals and also for some fun. With only one other player who speaks English, it's probably a difficult transition for this former Stanford basketball star. We look forward to her first home game early next week.

October 24
There's no time to paint today, for we're all in the car all day. We begin at the house, measuring for the kitchen counter, and the folks at Sgrina arrive to finish the upstairs kitchen and install the basic units for the downstairs kitchen.

It takes them all morning and until almost four in the afternoon to finish upstairs. By this time the light is low, so we bring the floor lamp down from upstairs temporarily and place it on one of the steps to the bedroom, to give us added light.

Although Dino puts the applique (sconce) basic fixtures in place, Lorenzo's iron holders need to arrive next, to support the ceramic "shades" of our design. They look incredible upstairs, and we are going to use them in the main room downstairs as well, with five placed strategically around the room at the same height.

Late in the day, back in Mugnano, we stop in and see Pietro, and sit along with Kees in front of the fireplace to talk about all manner of things. I learn for the first time that Kees wants to begin weaving, and will start with a loom when they move to Holland next month.

I had no idea how much he knew about fabric, but we talk about how men and women dressed during Roman times, and how a person would "carry" a top piece of cloth over their basic tunic, ruching it up in folds. It's painting these fabrics that I love, the tones and shadows made real.

Dear Pietro picked up a few booklets and postcards for me in Rome yesterday, including a puchinella family scene and a book about the art of Zoraban, an early 16th century Spanish painter. I find a figure in the booklet that I simply must paint, and for the next few days we'll carry the photo with us, to blow up in a cartoon so that I can paint my next canvas, in a smaller 35cm by 60cm size.

October 25
We drive to Bastia Umbria, on the far side of Perugia, to meet up with Robert, the hydraulico, and pick up certifications that the restoration project has been completed with respect to the national plumbing codes. Dino makes copies of the forms and zips them off at the post office. We have no idea how long it will take until ENEL will install gas in the downstairs apartment.

But for now we're concentrating on the counters, agreeing that the counters need to be in before the sink is dropped into place over two supporting pillars. With wood covered in sheets of rame (copper), we've measured and remeasured a number of times (local carpenters vow..."measure eight times, cut once!" instead of the other way around.)

But back at home before Dino drives to Viterbo to order the wood and the copper, he is frustrated, realizing that the copper comes in sheets of only a 1-meter width. He drives off to meet with the folks at OMAV, not feeling particularly optimistic.

I believe we can take the maximum width and subtract what we need for the wrap, then have the counter made in the remaining width, which may be a centimeter or two or three narrower than originally planned. Let's see what he and they come up with.

If all goes as planned, he's going to order the 3cm thick plywood cut, then will transport it down the road in Pandina to a master carpenter, who will cut out the piece for the cooktop and install long rods underneath for stabilization. We've come up with a novel design; now let's see if the implementation will measure up.

We stop at Deruta on the way back at our favorite lighting store to design and order classic and inexpensive wall treatments for each side of the bed in the bedroom of Piano Terra. They'll be finished and sent to us this afternoon so that we won't have to return for another trip, and we hope to install them next week.

We stop at an Autogrille for simple plates of pasta on the way back, and the weather is warmer, although we expect colder and wetter weather tomorrow.

Tonight we drive down to the Gasperonis' for cena to celebrate Enzo's photo in this past Monday's Italian Notebook. We've a long list of subjects for stories, and I hope to complete ten or so before we travel to the U S for Thanksgiving.

Tonight, over a wonderful cena of faraone (guinea hen), we talk about subjects for Italian Notebook, and about all things Mugnanese.

Do you remember the story about the camione that ran into a building while trying to navigate the narrow curved road up to our borgo? Well, the woman who was sleeping inside the house that was damaged by the truck is indeed an unlucky woman...

Some years ago, she and her husband lived on a house in Bomarzo, on the steepest part of the road leading up to Vezzio's (he's the pharmacist). We don't know the details, but one day when they were out of the house..it..just..collapsed..and..fell..down..the...side..of..the...Bomarzo..cliff. She must have very wild dreams at night...

The rain ceases while we're at cena and by the time we leave the air is cool and clear.

October 26
I'm going to have several pieces in an exhibit this weekend in Vallerano, and we drive to Marco's in the afternoon to meet him at his bottega before driving on to the site and helping him to install the exhibition.

For an hour or so this morning I began a new painting, one I like very much. It is loaded with fabric and folds and light and shadow. Marco invites me to attend his bottega on Monday, for we'll be away for half of November. There will only be a couple of us, and perhaps I'll even be able to finish this painting. Then there are two others sitting against a wall, waiting for my return.

We follow Marco to Vallerano, and he's agreed to let me exhibit two more paintings at the mostra, so I will be able to include five of mine. Everyone wants to see Pranzo for Puccinello, and it's dry enough that we can take it. I'm not sure how we'll hang it, for it's not yet stretched, nor is it framed. Dino always has a solution.

This weekend and next weekend, there will be a local festa, a castagno (chestnut) festival, and there will be plenty of food and things to see. But the weather has not helped. For much of today there have been thunderstorms, although while we're in Vallerano to hang the show, we have a respit, and Giovanna shows us the ancient church of San Vittorio, way up into the borgo when we take a break. It's in some state of disrepair, but appears to be used one Sunday a month for mass. All of us are amazed by its potential beauty.

Since my long-term plan includes painting many of the patron saints in the area on huge canvases around the walls of San Rocco, Dino takes a few photos of Vallerano's patron saint, San Vittorio. It will be interesting to learn his story.

The more I think about it, the more I want to paint San Liberato with the five or six other men cast out on the boat that was set afire. There is a library in Rome at Piazza Venezia where we might find more information, and possibly even a representation of Liberato as well. Next month we'll be there at least once, so perhaps we'll continue our research. On Sunday, we hope to speak with Don Luca about San Rocco.

When we turn in the night is cold and dry. With a fire in the fireplace tonight, we're certainly settling into our winter schedule.

October 27
This morning we drive to Tenaglie to see what has been done. The glass front door has been installed, as have the kitchen and bedroom windows. There are adjustments to be made, but mostly the work is good.

Mara and Pietro come by to show us the photos that Kate and Merritt took of them last summer. She thinks they are great photos, and wants to share them with us. July seems so long ago.

The mostra in Vallerano begins tonight, and lasts for two weekends. Both weekends celebrate the town's castagno (chestnut) festival. Dino had always scorned chestnuts, but after trying one tonight fresh from the fire and peeled, he's a convert.

Now he'll want to buy a chestnut padella from an antique mercato and roast them in our fireplace. I rather like the taste, and it's a characteristic thing to do on cold autumn evenings by the fire.

Five paintings of mine are in the mostra, out of twenty-one. This will be the first time Pranzo for Puccinella will be shown. It will be interesting to see if any of my pieces are of interest to anyone perusing the show. Nothing is usually sold at these mostras, but it is an interesting thing to observe people walking around, if they stop at a painting, and what their comments are.


Dino is especially miffed at one woman tonight, who talks on her cell phone while walking around the exhibit. This is the worst form of "multitasking" in memory.

Dino and Lucia and her husband Giorgio and I are the only ones who stay for the entire three hours. Marco did not condition displaying pieces upon painters being willing to stay at the mostra, but we think he should. We'll see who shows up tomorrow.

It's a warm evening, and after we close the room we walk around, but there is not much of interest in the local booths. Tomorrow we'll look around the rest of the town to see what else is featured.

October 28
Mugnano rises out of the fog this morning, like Brigadoon. Yesterday we had fog as well, but while in Attigliano we were able to look back at our village, and it appeared as if in a dream. Yesterday Signora Piva asked us if we liked Mugnano better than Tenaglie, and Dino responded that they were difficult to compare, but that we considered Mugnano paradise.

There is a new priest in chruch this morning, a convivial man named Gianpietro. We look forward to getting to know him. He really knows how to work the room. When it is time for his homily, he boldly steps down to the middle of the center aisle and talks with us there. I'm imagining him very comfortable with a microphone.

Seventeen ragazzi are confirmed in Bomarzo this morning, including, we think, Esther and Erica from Mugnano. Vincenza and Aogosto are here for it, for Vincenzo and Renata, Erica's grandmother, are cousins.

This Friday we'll celebrate the "Day of the Dead" with a mass in the cemetery. We'll proudly be there and will acknowledge our "spot" to anyone who will listen. It's mostly a joyous day, and I consider it very interesting that the Italians revere those who have passed away, and consider the cemetery a place they visit, some times daily during the year.

I spend a couple of hours sketching the face for my latest painting. I'm not sure if it will be Pietro, or an anonymous priest.

I finish the rest of the costume, except for some guidance tomorrow by Marco. So tomorrow I'll paint the hands in prayer and the face looking up at the light. I really like it, and think I'll paint one much larger. I do love to paint light and shadows, especially in fabric.

We invite Maria Elina to join us in Vallerano tonight, and she will, along with Sofi. We're hoping there will be others at the exhibit, so that we won't have to stay the whole time. Tomorrow there'll be plenty to say to Marco about it...

We take Maria Elina with us to Vallerano, and she falls in love with two of the five of my paintings; just has to have them. What a thrill for me! When the exhibition is over, we'll deliver the two roosters to her.

Back at home, I make a pot of ceci and pasta soup, and we sit around eating bruschetta and soup and vino, until it's time for her to walk the short distance to her house. We love having her around, and she'll be here until December 1st, when she'll return to Norway until the weather warms up. She's so in love with Mugnano that we think she'll be back by March, or April at the latest. Va bene!

October 29
Today is cool and sunny, after a foggy morning. I'm not in the mood to paint, wanting Marco to assess the work I did this weekend. Dino arrives home with a tale of little success in Terni locating a copper fabricator for the kitchen counter. We talk about the complications, and think we have a way to resolve them. Tomorrow morning we'll drive to the house and remeasure, then drive to Viterbo to confirm our thinking.

We suppose the client could have a stainless steel, or zinc or tin counter, but let's see if we can work some magic using the copper sheeting we've found from a supplier in Viterbo. We're expecting to finish the counter, and perhaps even the sink installation, before we leave on the 15th of November for our trip to San Francisco for a few weeks.

At Marco's, he likes the work I have done very much, and helps me to draw in the head and expression. He tells me to keep working on the body, and the more I do, the more I dislike the new work I have done. I liked the figure better when the colors were pale. Now the shadows have changed the complexity of the character.

Marco thinks I have made the painting too difficult, and shows me a way to paint the garment dark brown, then wipe or paint off the color in places to show light. It's an interesting perspective.

By the time Dino arrives to pick me up, the figure is changed and the face painted in. I'll work on the background this next week. But I'm not happy with my work today. Marco tells me that some days are like that, and not to worry. I wonder if I would benefit from a classic painting teacher, but so like Marco's freedom.

I'll definitely not leave Marco's bottega, but will do many more drawings myself. I recall that Michelangelo drew all the time, and I do not. I'm a person who wants to jump right in, and it's not always the best way to learn.

BATT-atta-BATT-aba-BATTA-batta-ba-BA!
Young children everywhere love the sound of batting away at a drum with wooden sticks. In thousands of towns and cities in Italy, children train at performing the batteria (drum) during their neighborhood's corteo (procession) during festa weekends.

Viterbo is a good example of a city with children who participate in its corteo. And tonight we see another use for the drums...cheering at basket (basketball) games!

With no need for American-style cheerleaders, these youngsters practice a particular syncopated rhythm. And during a break in the action, or during particularly exciting moments, it's difficult not to get into the excitement, the spirit of it all, with the help of the...batteria!

Tonight we're in Viterbo, to cheer Brooke Smith on as she plays center for Viterbo's very own women's professional basket (ball) team. Brooke is from San Anselmo, California, and now a good friend. We've promised her mom that we'd look out for her, and this is her first home game.

We're feeling apologetic, for we're not able to arrive until around 6:15, and since the game probably started at 5, we hope we can watch at least a little of it.

As we walk toward the front door, the building seems dark, and so do the outside lights. When we enter, we can hear a generator buzzing away, and the game has stopped because of a power failure. How Italian!

The Viterbo team is ahead by more than ten points, and we see a number on the board of 2:45. So we wonder if that's what left of the third period. Third period. Don't basketball games have three periods? If so, we're just in time to see, well, a few minutes of the game.

The drums beat away, and we're excited to be here. The stadium is about half-full, and people seem genuinely interested in the game. Did you know that women's basket in Italy is more than a century old?

Brooke was trained well at Stanford, and does some warmups herself while she waits for the lights to be turned back on, instead of just standing around. About ten minutes later, power is restored, lights are back on, and action begins again, with Brooke fouling out after about a minute of play.

She is one aggressive player, and would make her Stanford coach proud. We are now sorry that we did not see the rest of the game. Brooke must have really been aggressive. Brava!

So for about thirty seconds, Brooke sits out the action, and then the game ends. Viterbo wins, and we walk down toward the floor, to talk with our star.

We'll certainly return next Sunday, for their next home game, and probably will bring friends with us to cheer Brooke on.

October 30
Last night at IPERCOOP we saw a very cute little girl dressed up in a leopard costume. The littlest children are very cute in costume, and take the idea of dressing up so very seriously. What happened to the old fashioned innocence of Halloween?

We will either have no one or the usual band-of-ten from the village ring our bell, including Francesco and Mauro and children of different ages. We'll be ready...

Maria Elina wants to own the French rooster and the single rooster paintings. She'll keep one in Mugnano and take one to Norway with her. This will make three painting that have been sold to good friends. So I'll step up production in these next few weeks and come up with a few more roosters and now some vegetable still lifes to hang up in a new shop in Orte.

We drive to the house to remeasure for the kitchen peninsula, and then to Viterbo to visit with several different suppliers, each of which has a different idea of how to best finish the counter.

When we're through, and driving home, I surmise that although we like the copper counter design better, stainless is less than half the price. Since cost is very important at this stage of the project, we're leaving the decision up to our clients. Tomorrow we'll move forward with whatever choice they make.

I'm returning to painting, but first I need to sketch hands in prayer for my current canvas. It's so important to have the design worked out on paper with pencil before applying paint. And the hands must be the perfect size, in proportion with the rest of the body. Marco has this drilled into my brain.

Let's see what I am able to work out. After I have finished drawing them, I know I can cut the hands out and place them on the painting to test, and will use carbon paper to trace them. Only then will I paint them. I'm determined to paint the hands before doing the background.

What the heck? The hands are drawn and copied onto the canvas, and I'll wait to show those to Marco on Monday. But I move full speed on the background, and have it finished quickly. I'm really interested in painting this subject on a much larger canvas.

Tomorrow we'll pick up a photo or two from our good doctor, when we arrive to get our flu shots. He loves golf paintings, so I'll see what his favorite photos represent. He wants me to paint something for his new offices in Viterbo.

I also have stories to write for Italian Notebook, two of which are finished and waiting for photos, as well as vegetables to paint on canvas for the Orte shop. Dino is intensely busy these days, wanting to finish the kitchen "just so", working diligently on the myriad details, any one of which could cause serious complications if completed incorrectly.

The kitchen counters we've designed will look great, if we make them in copper. We've left the final decision up to the client, and tomorrow will have the clients' decision and the wood cut for the base. They may opt for stainless steel.

At home, rain pours down and thunder rages. Rainstorms in Italy are usually wild occurrences, with gusts of wind bouncing our cypress trees back and forth like dashboard toys. And then there's Sofi, who is very afraid of thunder, and spends most of the storms in my lap, or next to me on the bed.

October 31
On this All Hallows Eve, we awake to fog, and lots of it. We're prepared for munchkins and their parents tonight, but this morning our thoughts are all about ENEL, the Italian gas and electric company that is, well, all screwed up. Are you surprised?

We have until today to apply for a special energy saving program, and although we think we applied for it online and were accepted, there is paperwork to complete, and we can't figure out what it's all about. We also want to order more power to come in to the house and have the power relocated to the back of the house.

This is not the first time we have asked to have the power relocated. We were denied last time, but are hoping that a fresh request will be more acceptable. If our request is accepted, and there is no real reason to deny it, for we're paying to have them relocate it, we will be taking the first step toward removing the ugly wire in our view of the Tiber Valley.

The bureaucrats at ENEL are classic, worthy of all the Italian jokes. Since ENEL was deregulated, there is supposed to be a run on new private companies rushing to get our business. So far, no companies have appeared on the scene. So ENEL has new programs that entail signing up for two years to get lower rates.

While we wait in the corridor for someone to show up to begin work answering our questions, another man who is waiting tells us, "While the cat is away, the mice will dance". Dino tells him that in English we'll say, "When the cat's away, the mice will play..." Some silly phrases are universal, no?

Dino does not want to get into the hassle of ordering the new power today, so we go through the rigamarole of figuring out the energy savings at the ENEL office. We only wait about 30 minutes, and the woman who helps us can't figure out what is wrong with the information on one of the campos (fields) on her screen.

She signs us up, and we're out of there in time to have the wood cut, take it to Francesco to order the work to be done on it, and drive to the sheet metal place who will wrap the copper around it for the kitchen countertops.

We still have time to get to our doctor for our 11AM appointment for our flu shots. Ah, that's more like it. We wait almost an hour, and the doctor rushes us through, but has enough time to hand me two golf magazines and tell me to paint whatever I want for a wall in his office. I'm thinking a fairway. I love fairways on golf courses. But then again I haven't seen all that many.

We're back at home to feed Sofi and then pick up Pietro for a pranzo at NonnaPapa, where Sofi is reunited with Filippo, the scamp who took her virginity three years ago under the table at the first NonnaPapa location. She's not very interested in him today, although he appears more than willing to have a reunion.

The food is always excellent, and today I have a roast fish with a lemon and pistaccio sauce, Pietro has sgombro, a kind of calimari steak kind of thing and their famous saccottini (pasta baskets filled with gorgonzola and pears).

The red wine is also excellent, from a winery in Castiglione in Teverina that Dino recalls, but he does not know where the winery is. It's worth finding out, and Pietro just has to take the empty bottle home...

I'm behind writing submissions to Italian Notebook, so here's one about Maria Teresa's Salami Del Papa, including the photos.

PIEMONTE:
We were recently served an unforgettable treat with tea by Valeria's mother, Maria Teresa, who regaled us with its history and ingredients:

SALAMI DEL PAPA
An 18th century Pope paid a visit to the Langhe (the mountains surrounding Torino, in Piemonte), and the poor peasants, as they had nothing to offer the Pope, soaked some biscuits in milk, added some hazel-nuts (those mountains are rich in them), formed the dough into the shape of a salami, cut it into slices and offered it to the Pope, who liked it very much.

With the passing of time and distance, the recipe has changed, transforming itself into something richer and tastier. For example, Valeria's aunt's recipe is a bit different from her mother's, using cocoa powder instead of chocolate, and liqueur instead of coffee.

Probably, it also depends on what you have in your fridge or pantry, so draw your own conclusions: begin with the Piemontesi peasants' recipe, add a bit of fantasy, and make up your own SALAMI DEL PAPA!!!!!

Salami Del Papa (Maria Teresa's recipe)
500 gr biscuits, coarsely chopped
100 gr butter
120 gr sugar
100 gr dark chocolate
100 gr candied cherries
20 gr pine nuts
1 egg white, beaten until fluffy
1 egg yolk
1 small cup Espresso

Beat butter with sugar; when fluffy, add the egg yolk. Continue beating, add the coarsely chopped biscuits (spare a few more finely chopped for the salami covering), then add all the other ingredients except for the espresso and egg white.

Cut mixture into pieces, add the cold espresso, followed by the fluffy egg white and stir. Form the dough into the shape of a salami and roll it into the saved chopped biscuits. Place the roll into the fridge for at least two hours. When ready to serve, cut into slices.

Thanks to Maria Teresa, who worked as the chef of Taverna San Sebastiano in Orte for thirty years, until retiring last year. If you visit her at home, she'll proudly serve Salami del Papa.


GB emails me back that my submission will surely appear...and we'll add the recipe to our web site soon...

While we wait to see if any trick-or-treaters arrive at our doorstep, we settle in in front of the T V. But after 10 PM no one has appeared, so we lock the gate and turn in for the night, and for the month.

NOVEMBER 2007

November 1
Today is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholics, so we attend a mass at the usual 9:30 in the borgo. Afterward, I intend to paint for most of the day, and Dino is favoring his feminine side today. He wants to make an oriental pranzo. That's fine with me. I'll just paint.

The weather is cool and wet for most of the day. I paint a zucca (squash) with a dark background, for the woman who owns the shop in Orte loves zucca. Later in the afternoon, we drive up to Bomarzo for a visit with Duccio and Giovanna.

Duccio has researched San Liberato for us on the internet. It is interesting to me that two different people can do the same internet search and come up with different information.

Duccio's "San Liberatos" aren't exactly the same as ours, but the information is helpful. Back at home I do a search with the same parameters he used and come up with a couple of new bits of information. Our research moves forward and back, forward and back.

I continue to paint in the afternoon, and Dino asks me if I know where Sofi is...She has been outside for a long time. He walks out with his long Maglite flashlight and returns with Sofi in his arms.

"Check her for blood," he tells me. "I think she killed an animal..."

Trying not to gag, I put her under one arm and look for a big towel, then wipe wet dirt off her paws and chest. Dino is outside for about ten minutes and tells me that the animal was a little hedgehog, and he found it already dead. He then threw it over the bank.

Sofi looks a little sad. "I found her just sitting next to a big hole and the hedgehog lay in the hole, dead. So I don't think she killed it. But I think she dug the big hole."

I name the animal Henry the hedgehog, and tell Sofi I am sorry that she lost her little friend. It is rather sad, come to think of it. Tomorrow as we attend mass in the cemetery on the "Day of the Dead", I will say a little prayer for Sofi in honor of Henry.

"What day is it?" I ask Dino. It's Thursday, but feels like a weekend. Tomorrow I'll paint another rooster, to take the place of one that is now Maria Elina's. And perhaps this weekend we'll take a few of our paintings to the shop in Orte.

Tomorrow is also one of those famous Italian "bridges". Italian workers are famous for conjuring up long weekends and longer vacations by taking a day after a holiday and then stretching it into part of or an entire week. Since we don't have to report to work, tomorrow is just another day in paradise for us.

November 2
Italians take such pride in their cemetery plots, and revere those loved ones who have passed away. It will be interesting to take a look at our plot located next to Vincenza and Augusto this afternoon at the mass. This next week we will definitely visit the place in Soriano that we think will handle our funerals, when the time comes.

Should I be making horns with my fingers over my head? I asked Giovanna this yesterday, and she told us not to worry. It is not bad luck to speak about such things. Once we have the next step completed, there won't be a need to speak or write about it again.

"E fatto!" (It is done!) we will say, and that will be it.

The weather is just lovely, and Dino drives off to supervise some window and door installation in Tenaglie. I begin and almost finish a new rooster, a big one, before Dino returns for a late pranzo and mass at the nearby cemetery. My luck with an earlier squash was not as successful, and it is moved to what will be a kind of cemetery itself for abandoned works.

The day passes so quickly that Dino returns very late from Tenaglie, and we decide not to attend the mass in the cemetery after all. Instead he readies the parcheggio for the arrival of firewood, and I finish a painting.

We then drive to Tenaglie to check Ovidio's work installing more windows and persianis (shutters). He admits that the two men he sent to install part of the order made a lot of mistakes, mistakes he'll have to correct himself. I wonder if he knows that at one point the two men were so confused by a window that it took Dino to tell them that they were installing it upside down. Sigh!

The house is looking good, especially the cantina, but the muratores removed the original door, thinking we wanted it disposed of along with the other doors and windows. What a nightmare! Dino calls them on it, and they return ALL the doors, all except for one half of the door we are looking for. What ever possessed them to take this door?

We stop in Guardea at the house they are renting to see if we can locate the other half of the missing door. But it is nowhere around. The brothers have left for Perugia for the weekend, so it will be at least Monday before we find out the disposition of the the door...

Trees are so beautiful this time of year, their leaves burnished and yellow, and I'm reminded of the November of 1997 when we came here to purchase our property. In our area there are very few "red" leafed trees, but the yellow and ochre and copper colors are really splendid.

As we stood here looking out the window on that first November day, we were amazed that so many beautiful leaves were still on the trees. I smile now just to think of those early days.

The firewood deliverer does not arrive, and we stop in Giove to see if he's at his lot. But he is not. He's overdue, Stefano is overdue but promises to arrive on Wednesday, and Enzo the hydraulico is overdue to install our new radiators, but we think he'll arrive next week as well. We're always on Italian time...

Pietro is not around, and the ARIADSL installer calls to arrange his telephone service. So Dino drives down there to take care of it for Pietro, who will return tomorrow from Rome and Napoli.

The mostra continues in Vallerano, but Mai Elin has purchased two of the paintings. One will return with her to Norway, and the other, the french rooster, will remain here. I'm very happy to see two of my favorites now pleasing a very good and kind friend.

November 3
Sunsets these past few nights have been magnificent, as if a red brush swooped across the sky, followed by a lavender one. We're careful not to stop looking, for in five minutes the sky will change. We take deep breaths, just drinking in the view.

Firewood has at last been delivered, all in a pile in the parcheggio. So we're parking outside until we can remove the wood, bringing it upstairs by using the paranco (hoist). Luigina walks by to feed her chickens and asks if we're getting ready for natale. Each Christmas, we decorate a giant tree with white lights, supported by the paranco.

Yes, we certainly will, but right now we're very busy...Dino loads up the marvellous Italian wheelbarrow and we hoist it up by pushing a button and the metal pulleys pull it up. Dino swings it over the iron rail and we lower it.

This is a good time to speak about the Italian wheelbarrow. We have never seen one like it in the U S, or anywhere else. There are clips on each side, so that after its load is lifted, the hooks are slotted back into their second position, the handle moves from straight up to angled back, and Dino maneuvers it around behind the house, where he has built a specific place for a good deal of the firewood, resting against one of his wooden tool shop walls.


I'm painting, painting, now that there is a place to show my work, finessing each piece so that they're all ready by next Thursday. Nanda wants some pieces on Sunday, so the first batch will be delivered then. She wants them unframed, deciding that the purchasers will determine the frames they want themselves. Va bene. That's less to think about.

We pick up Pietro. He's just returned from Rome. Then we drive on to Vallerano and spend a few minutes at the mostra (exhibition). The room is an interesting mix of varied tastes and styles.

We plan to come home and fix a pasta, but Pietro has a bad cold, so we take him home instead, knowing that we'll see him in the next day or so. Then it's home to relax.

November 4
We walk up to mass early, for the presentation of the wreath for the caduti (fallen) takes place just outside the borgo. The Polymartium band from Bomarzo plays, and we see our new Marshallo (police chief) for the first time. He is a stern looking fellow, big and strong looking.

We see Maria Elina hanging out some sheets on her balcony, and tell her to put a jacket on and join us. She does, and sits in the very back of the church for mass afterward. While we're sitting waiting for Don Luca, I ask Gigliola what she thinks of the new marshallo (police chief). She shakes her head, and tells us she thinks he is very stern. This is not a particularly good sign.

After mass we drive to Il Pallone, where some enterprising souls determined that they'd open a grocery store that has open hours on Sunday. That is unheard of in Italy, and the place is mobbed. Kudos to them. We shop there almost every Sunday, as well as during the week.

We grill some chops for pranzo, very tasty, and afterward take our positions back beside the paranco. By the time we stop just before 4PM, we've made a big dent in the pile of firewood filling up the parcheggio, but have many, many more trips before we're through. Dino determines that he'll need to come up with another place to store some of the wood, and perhaps that place will be back down in the parcheggio on a pallet or two, just like last year.

We take Sofi and drive to the Orte store for a short visit and take about half of the paintings, then drive to Viterbo to cheer Brook on in her basketball game. We're able to stay only for one period, for the mostra will finish at 8 and it's already 6:30.

We'll call Brook later and drive on to Vallerano, where things are slowing down. Rita and Lucia are there when we arrive, and Marco as well, but we stay around until almost 8PM, then strike the set and put the paintings in the car. It has been a good exhibition.

On the way home we call Mai, and deliver her two paintings to her. She is happy, as are we. I'm sure she'll lend me the French rooster for a special reception being held for me on December 30th.

I'll be asking a few friends who have purchased paintings if we can borrow them for the reception. There'll be time to print out invitations and posters and distribute them around. I don't know what to think, other than I hope that people enjoy my art and would like to have it in their homes. We'll see. If you'll be in Italy at the end of the year, you're welcome to join us.

It's a beautiful clear night, and as we walk the few steps to our parcheggio, I remember those winter days when we were first here, taking walks to the borgo and taking in the fresh night air, the stars seeming so very far away...

November 5
It's Monday, and Dino returns to Tenaglie, but I take out some little canvases and paint. Dino calls at around ten to ask me if I've left for my mammography, and no I forgot all about it. I've just enough time to find the portable trailer, and when I step out of the car I'm met by most of the women of Mugnano. It appears that we are all scheduled for this morning.

So although my appointment is in a few minutes, women bringing letters of noontime appointments are ahead of me. That is, any of the women who rode up on the bus are first in line. The ASL (health services of Viterbo) wrote me a letter, followed up with a phone call, and offered to give me a ride if I had trouble getting transportation. I'm duly impressed.

It's a beautiful day and I don't mind waiting. Sofi sits patiently in the car for me, and when I'm through we drive back home for a little more painting before fixing a ravioli in brodo for Dino.

Half of the old door to the cantina has been lost. Or we think it was disposed of by mistake. Tomorrow at 10, when the dumps open, Dino will be at the door and try to find it. By now it's probably been taken away or at the bottom of tons of, well, garbage. Sigh.

Dino takes me to Marco's bottega, then drives back to Tenaglie to meet with the muratore and Lorenzo, who has delivered the iron gate. It will be installed this next week, and we'll be one step closer to the end of the job.

But of paramount importance is the location of the original electrical box in the cantina, behind a very thick wall. Cristanti, the electrician, suggests we install a box on the wall and channel below it to find the old wire. It's a good suggestion, and after not much time Tani finds it. So Dino faxes the letter to ENEL to get the box installed outside the house. Without knowing the location of the box, it was impossible to do. We have no idea how long it will take, and are certainly at their mercy.

This morning, Dino drove to Viterbo in Pandina, picked up the wood that was being adjusted, and transported it cross town to the copper fabricator. They don't tell him if it will be ready at the end of the week, but we are hopeful.

Dino has had an initial meeting with the muratore, to discuss the pillars that are to be built below the new sink. He thinks they will be built this week. Many of the other small jobs on the punchlist are checked off daily. We are doing well. Now if only we can get the kitchen sink and counters installed before we leave for San Francisco on the 15th...

Why is it that before a vacation one is always stressed? We aren't overly concerned, because if the counters are not ready, we'll install the kitchen after we return on the beginning of December.

At Marco's, I finish a painting for our dear friend, Pietro, and spend most of the session drawing our model, Ugo, who has appeared again for us to sketch. When Dino arrives, Marco advises him on the frames that he has already stretched for me (they're fine) and has also advised him regarding the framework of two paintings I am to paint for our good doctor.

I'm going to fashion two long, narrow paintings that will give the impression that one is gazing at a fairway of a golf course. He loves golf and I'm hoping he'll be inspired when he looks at them at his office. Heaven knows his work is stressful enough. He's an Italian version of an HMO doctor, and you know how stressful that can be. Can I finish them before Christmas? Who knows?

At home Dino builds a fire, and we're planning what we have to do in Rome tomorrow other than have our teeth cleaned by our favorite Italian dentist. We're hoping for a couple of new adventures, but then life here is an adventure after all.

November 6
On the way to Rome, we take the Fiano Romano exit and find the place where Tiziano thinks there is an ancient thermopolium (tavola calda) in Capena. It's called Lucus Feroniae.

Near the entrance, a museum is located containing friezes and objects depicting gladiators, for this must have been a burial ground for them. We ask a man sitting in an office where to find the thermopolium. He walks us outside and sends a man to guide us to the spot. The man points out the plan of the site, and tells us where to find what we are looking for.

Now this location gives us a view of a kind of permanent market, with stone-built walls fashioned to form divisions between each vendor. Near the front, just where we think it would be located, we find the remains of a counter with a large shallow hole. This would have been the thermopolium.

There is a caretaker who watches us walk around, and when we begin to take pictures she arrives and tells us to only take panoramic photos. It is too late...Here's what we found...


So now I'm ready to write the story and submit it to Italian Notebook. Here's a sneak peek...

"Lazio

Tavola caldas, or "hot tables" have been around in Italy since the time of the Romans, when they were referred to as thermopolium. At that time, pottery vats were filled with hot and cold drinks, soups, pastas and more. These places served as the local bar or meeting place, and were often considered the town or village's center of activity. Now, one can visit the remains of thermopolium at Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia Antica, or just above Rome at Capena. Here is a link: www.archeologia.beniculturali.it/pages/atlante/S71.html#Intro


In good-sized towns or cities where business crowds can be found, these places are now called tavola caldas, providing good food and variety at very reasonable prices. You can make your seletions from pizzas, hot and cold pastas, salads, paninnis, main dishes and side dishes, in addition to desserts, soft drinks, wine and beer. The "hot" dishes will have been prepared in advance, and perhaps even reheated in a microwave.

After you have chosen your various dishes on your tray, you will pay a cashier, who will also take your drink order. Unlike bars or cafés, where you will pay extra for table seating, there is no extra charge here, and you can sit where you like. It is not uncommon to eat quickly and lavishly for under €10. This is a great option when you are short of time and don't have the opportunity to sit down and dine as Italians usually do. Transport yourself back 2,000 years. Imagine yourself here wearing a toga, being served a bowl of pasta.


It's time to move on to Rome, and in Dino fashion we find a parking space adjacent to the Tiber River, below those gorgeous plane trees. Sigh. I can't see those trees without thinking of Provence. But we're in Rome, so when in Rome...

Our good dentist, located nearby, gives us our seminannual cleaning and we're out in no time. Where should we eat? Why not a tavola calda, located right around the corner!

After a quick meal, during which we feel we're eating at a kind of MacDonald's with good food, we return to the car and drive back home. The sky is overcast and it begins to rain, so Dino covers up the paranco; moving firewood will have to wait.

November 7
I paint in the morning, and the sun comes out, so we can do some laundry and move firewood. Dino drives to Tenaglie to talk with the muratores, and I make a soup to serve at pranzo today, zucca with some Mexican spices, including cinnamon.

Brooke arrives for a pranzo Messicana. I'm not well versed in Mexican cooking, having grown up in New England, but come up with chicken fajitas that are marinated and grilled by Dino and figure out the rest of the trappings. Everything is surprisingly good.

Since Brooke is a very tall "drink of water", she sits at the far end of the table. When I tell Brooke and Dino to serve themselves from the many ingredients, Brooke sits in her chair and reaches, as if her arm is a long garden tool, reaching out to clip a branch from a tree. I'm fascinated. Of course I have to stand to fix my fajita, and it's fun.

After pranzo we all walk down to visit Priscilla and Majiolino, Pepe's asini (donkeys), armed with carrots. They're already at the gate when we arrive. When we continue our walk up to Pietro's, we hear Majiolino honking, as only he can honk. So we give him a honk back, and I'm wondering what I'm saying...

We ring Pietro's bell, and he appears wearing his very funny trowsers from Afganistan. They are marvellous, full and blowsy. He and his houseguest Joachim from Germany, have been picking olives. The day before they drove to see Diego to watch his crew pick olives. (Diego has about 4,500 olive trees!)

Diego lent them an olive cloth to pick his olives, and earlier today Pietro and Joachim returned the cloth along with their one lug of olives, which Diego crushed for them. We remember that Diego told us that he would crush our olives, but we have so very few that it's not worth the effort. Pietro has about thirty, so imagine one lug of olives for thirty trees!

We sit for a few minutes on the patio enjoying the view, while Pietro insists on serving prosecco. Then it's time to continue the walk and Brooke to return to Viterbo for practice. We tell her we hope to attend her next home game on Sunday.

We return to moving firewood, and Mai Elin arrives to help. There is so much firewood that we'll have to store some of it inside the parcheggio. So Dino will pick up a pallet to store them the next time he is in Tenaglie with Pandina, and will finish stacking it soon.

We sit around having tea, until Mai returns home to finish her homework. We don't envy her, but then her Italian will be much more advanced than ours. Brava Mai!

November 8
Dino arranges with Stefano to come tomorrow to work on the fireplace. There is damage inside the firebox and he'll fix the damage, so that we can continue to have fires.

I paint in the morning. Dino puts a tellaio (frame) together for the puchinelli painting, and I help him to stretch it, then sign all of the paintings that have not been signed. He loads them into the car and we drive off to Orte to deliver 11 more paintings to Omaimi, the shop where they will be hung for the next two months.

If you'll be around, let us know and we can direct you to the shop. It's just outside the borgo of Orte, and features interesting and reasonably priced furniture from all over the world, as well as my paintings. We're hoping that our paintings will complement the furniture and other items for sale.

Next month there will be another mostra, this time in the Orsini Palazzo in Bomarzo. It will take place on December 9 and 10. When we return from the U S at the beginning of December, we'll submit San Vincenzo.

November 9
Stefano and Luca arrive to work on the fireplace in the kitchen. There is damage to the back of the fireplace, so they paint intonico around as a possible stopgap. Dino agrees that if we have problems with the firebox showing decay this next winter that we will rebuild the fireplace and put in a steel header next year.

This will be a much larger job (think money) and if we do undertake it, we'll then extend the fireplace back and make a deeper box. These things take time. Who knows what state our finances will be in next year?

Stefano and Luca also insert a flexible grey material into a long crack between two rows of tiles on the floor, a crack that extends from the front of the stove, across the front entryway and into the dining room.

Dino tells me that the house has been moving since the time we discovered grey water leaking under the house, and probably for years before that. Since the house has been dry for at least two years, we think we are safe filling the crack. Let's think positively...

I've held back two small paintings from the Orte mostra. Each one depicts an eye. I'll paint a mouth on Monday at Marco's, after drawing a few examples out and asking his advice, and when it is dry we'll take all three. They will be hung close to eachother as a single installation.

I think the trio will be named "watching you". When moving the two "eyes" to enable me to rest something else on the cavaletta in the kitchen, I realize that by switching them, another more sinister expression appears. How interesting and, well, scary.

There will be a mostra in Bomarzo on December 9 and 10, and we'll put San Vincenzo in that one. There won't be a lot of space for multiple entries, but this painting represents our village and will be an excellent choice, no matter what is hung around it.

For every thing, there is a season...

When walking outside to speak with Dino while the muratores work on our fireplace, I hear a droning, a loud humming...I look up to find hundreds of bees, swarming around the sweet flowers of a nespola trees.

Nespola (loquat) trees flower in the winter, and the small tree growing on the terrace when we purchased our property ten years ago is now large. The large nespola tree outside our bedroom window is now a giant, reaching higher than the roof.

I admit I'm ready to be done with both, but that won't take place for at least another year. I want to plant two special apple trees on the front terrace in place of the plum and loquat, and would like to build a studio room off the current dining room where the giant nespola tree now stands. Until those two projects are realized, there's not need to chop down anything.

With less than a week left until we leave for the U S, I suggest to Dino that he not worry about installing the kitchen in Tenaglie before we leave, and I can see him begin to relax. Dealing with the muratores and other suppliers has been very stressful, but he's a master, and very good at the details.

We'll soon be ready to take on another project. But for now, let's relax a little, for isn't that what retirement is all about?

We drive to Guardea to the geometra, for he has not made a proper application for the new gas for our client, and a letter arrives from ENEL with the items missing. So we'll have another delay. But the geometra should have known better.

We sent the paperwork twice, realizing after sending the first set that we would have better luck not asking for a return receipt from the post office. Now that everything has been submitted, and submitted correctly, perhaps we'll have better luck.

Did I tell you that folks from ENEL arrived in Tenaglie recently to look at the sinkhole resulting from their dig to extend the electric line to the cantina of the house? They arrived when we were not there, did not call, but just threw an amount of wet asphalt on the problem, filling it up and making not a very neat job of it all. When the driveway is repaved, we'll fix that. But let's keep our eye on it, in the event the ground sinks again.

We stop at Lorenzo's for the iron for Candace and Frank's project, for we'd like to deliver this before we leave. Two of the poles are as long as Pandina, but everything is finished and either Dino or their muratore can put the pieces together as though they're constructing an erector set.

Dino puts the ferro pieces, which have been soldered and painted beautifully by Lorenzo, onto the rack on the roof of the little car and holds them in place by bungee cords. We're off to Tenaglie and see that absolutely nothing has been done in these past few days, and then drive to Orvieto to drop off Lorenzo's work to Candace and Frank.

Once they have a murtore on site, Dino will supervise the installation and pouring of cement into the terra cotta planters. Come to think of it, it's better to wait until we return in December to complete this next step.

It's time to order heirloom seeds for next year, seeds that we'll bring back in December, but I'm not sure where to order them. Last year we ordered from Golden Harvest Organics, but none of the seeds made it past two inches or so in height. Should I try a new source?

I remember Kendall-Jackson fondly and sadly, for their heirloom tomato festival in 2001 took place on Saturday, September 9th of that year. Peggy and Dino and I attended together and had a wonderful day, sampling tomatoes, ferretting seeds on a napking and saving them to use as well as buying an assortment of seeds from various vendors. Looking back, we talk about losing our collective innocence that day. Look at the date to understand why...

I have another headache, but difmetre and acetomol dull the pain in less than an hour. It's a beautiful and crisp day, and I hear Dino outside with a shovel, finishing the wood storage and taking on other projects. It's time to slow down, Dino.

We drive to Viterbo to a pack 'n ship store to pack up my portable easel and some other supplies, and hopefully will check it with our luggage. I intend to paint when I'm there, and look forward to painting when we're not visiting with friends and relatives. We're hoping to have a non-stressful couple of weeks.

At home we pack up Sofi's food and dishes and bed and take her to Mai Elin's for a sleep-over. Since we'll be in Rome with thousands of other confraternity bros. and their groopies tomorrow, we'll be leaving at 6AM and Sofi is not invited. Mai kindly agreed to take care of her, and they play in the bedroom while we sneak out.

With rain off and on today, we wonder about tomorrow's weather. It should be a fun adventure, and we're ready to go!

November 10
With Sofi sleeping away next to Maria Elina at her house down the street, we walk up to the bus stop before 6AM, and watch stars twinkle down from a navy-black sky. It's a crisp wintery morning, and we're glad that we've worn winter coats. We are surrouded by silence, and the feeling is magnificent. It's enough to breathe in the cold air and give thanks just for being alive.

Our bus is expected to leave at 6AM, and in true Mugnano fashion, a dozen or more folks appear as if from nowhere at one minute before 6. But the bus is long, and the driver has to turn around on the tiny street across from the bus stop. There is a gnashing of teeth as people stand precariously in the street in the path of the bus. At least three people try to direct the driver.

"Vai! Vai!" we hear Fabrizio call out, as his hand motions around and around to tell the driver that he has more than a few centimeters to go before hitting the ancient tufa wall near our century-old precious tower.

Dino moves the metal bench at the bus stop back from the edge of the sidewalk, and the rest of us huddle together until the driver maneuvers around Carlo's car and we hear the whoosh of the brakes and the door open.

We reach Rome, and then the Janiculum Hill just above Saint Peter's, before 8:30. After a short walk, we find ourselves seated in the midst of thousands of faithful in Saint Peter's Square, at least half of which are dressed in their most formal confraternity garb. It is lovely in the sun, and we're happy to wait.

There are literally hundreds of confraternity banners on this bright and sunny day, but at least two of them are covered with plastic. Now I ask you, "If today is not a day to show the banner without a protective cover, when is it?" How many times have you sat on a plastic cover of a piece of furniture as a guest in someone's home and wondered, "If not now, when?" Or are you too young to remember how popular plastic covers for living room furniture used to be?

Here are a few photos of people and locations of today that we will remember fondly.




And here are a few photos that we will remember...with great apologies. I am truly sorry, dear people of Italia, for the blight the American people have created with Italy's adoption of...the baseball cap, now an ornament embraced by many, including...Confraternity members?

Have you ever seen anything more horrendous?

We're singling out a woman here who sat a few rows in front of us. Of the thousands of people joining us on this day, this one woman's face is one I really want to paint. Dino takes a number of photos of her, so that I can paint her later.

But a pin pricks my balloon after the service as the women around me and I banter back and forth; I ask a woman next to her how old she is. "Quanto anni hai?" a woman asks her.

I really can't believe her answer. "Sessant-otto!" (sixty-eight!) My jaw drops and I tell her, "Giovani!" when later Dino and I surmise she could be ninety. What do you think?


So, what kind of a life has she had to make her look so ancient? She must be a contadina, out in the weather with her crops, working the land. Adding to the look is the fact that she has no teeth at all. I'm hearing Iolanda in my subconscious, saying, "There but for the grace of God go I..."

What about the mass? Well, before the mass, Cardinal Armando Brambilla walks down the side path near us in his black garb, waving to everyone, and he seems quite jolly. We are surprised, pleasantly so, to learn that he is to give the mass. He certainly looks "papal". We think he is Italian. So he's worth looking up as a future papal prospect.

The mass lasts from ten to eleven-thirty. Papa is to appear at noon, and he appears standing up in a white modified jeep (the pope-mo-bile) at around 12:30, skirting the crowd and waving in his open car (what a security nightmare, although Dino is sure he is wearing a bullet-proof vest). The car drives right up the center ramp and before we know it he's sitting in his chair. Here he is...


There are at least four typewritten pages for him to read, and as thousands of us watch him on huge TV screens to the left and right of the front steps, he drones on and on. It is now after 1 P M (pranzo time), and people are beginning to leave, not even waiting until he is finished speaking. Isn't this pope the reason they came?

With not much emotion in his voice, it is difficult to pick up any particular feeling of thanks for the thousands who work tirelessly in their given parishes on behalf of the Lord and many of whom appear today after travelling from the farthest reaches of Italy.

Since thoughts of where to eat pranzo are right up there with blessings on high, the multitude makes a fairly hasty retreat, and we are happy to have a place reserved for pranzo not far away. Well, that is until we line up outside the front door of the restaurant as each of us is photographed with a Swiss Guard-costumed man before entering.

This is not a good sign, but the food is not bad, and we sit with a group of folks from Bomarzo, including Renzo, Felice and Marsiglia's son. After the meal we leave the group and walk around. Dino needs a special battery for his camera, and although the digital camera is only two years old, it appears it is already obsolete. Batteries are impossible to find. Sigh!

We are told to meet the group at a certain spot, and we're there a half hour early, but it takes another half hour to connect with them. Somehow we find the group and are back in sweet Mugnano at around 7PM. I'm really missing Sofi by this time, but she and Maria Elina have had a fun if not a quiet day.

It is so good to be home. The silence of this sweet village is so dramatic that it brings tears to our eyes as we descend from the bus. Walking up the hill from the lower fountain with Gianfranco, I ask him if he was born here. Yes, in the borgo. He's happy to be back in Mugnano, for so many reasons...as are we.

November 10
It's a cold morning, so when we walk up to mass we're joined by neighbors huddled in their winter coats, but hoping for sun later in the day.

Don Ciro is our priest, and as part of the mass the first two lines of the 23rd Psalm are read... It is so beautiful in Italian that I want to share the first two sentences with you:

"Il Signore il mio pastore, non manco di nulla; in pascoli di erbe fresche mi fa riposare, ad acque tranquille mi conduce." The next line is the one I like best..."he restoreth my soul". but it is not written here. What's really strange, is that it's written in the little Sunday guide as the 22nd psalm!

Tonight we drive to Tiziano's for some translation help with some ENEL papers. So we take it with us. I think Don Luca should be told. At least he'll know we're paying attention! I tell Tiziano and Enzo and Rosita, and we surmise that no one else picked it up. Tiziano tells us that he'll call Don Luca and tell him that "Signora Evanne" noticed the error. Won't he be surprised!

The day remains cold, and I paint off and on, including a Christmas present for Tiziano and a chicken painting for his parents, as thanks for making their chickens available for our story on Italian Notebook. Since Rosita loves the color pink, I'm painting it in pink.

I'm also sketching out a nose and mouth to paint tomorrow at Marco's to go along with the two eyes. I take a persimmon pudding out of the freezer to defrost, for the persimmons that I froze have to be thrown out. They do not freeze well. So we only have one more persimmon pudding for the winter.

That means no more holiday gifts, unless we buy persimmons in the market. If they're still available when we return in December I'll be happy to make more. But for now the kitchen is closed for persimmon puddings...

With the days winding down, we're preparing to pack and I hope will have few things to do. There is always painting and sketching to do, and I paint Tiziano's piece and the first pass at Rosita and Enzo's chicken. They've been so helpful to us; it's the least we can do.

Speaking of the Gasperoni's, we visit this afternoon to have Enzo explain two documents from ENEL. ENEL is every bit as confusing as dealing with the large power companies in the U S. Is this a consolation? I'm not sure. Dino thinks he understands the bills and contracts after the session with Enzo, so we will see.

While I painted, Dino drove to Orte to the furniture shop, and hopefully my paintings will have been installed before we leave on Thursday. The invitations for my reception will probably take a little longer. But with six weeks until the event, we have time.

Sofi and I are both cold and tired. Dino lights a lovely fire and we're in bed early. But we've begun to wash our clothes at night, now, because of the new contract we have signed with ENEL: To use power from 8AM to 7PM the cost is much higher, although it is lower if we use it from 7PM to 8AM and on holidays and weekends. I believe ENEL is counting on the fact that we'll use power during the day anyway, and this way the bills will be higher, although people think they'll save...

November 12
We've been shopping around for the saffron packets we take to friends in the U S each trip, but the price has doubled! Does it have to do with the price of oil? We decide to shop around, for we won't pick any up at this price.

I paint a first draft of our good doctor Bevilaqua's first golf painting, and it really looks good. There will be two golf paintings, long and narrow. I'll finish them when we return.

Pietro drops by, and I give him the painting of a priest in prayer that I've painted just for him. I'm not sure if he likes it, but he tells me he is moved by it and will hang it in his room.

Art is such a personal thing. Perhaps I should wait until friends tell me they love a certain thing before giving them a painting. But this one is of a priest in prayer, so I hope I did it justice.

This afternoon, Marco does not want me to paint the nose and mouth until I return with a square canvas to match the two for the eyes. So I work on Pan sitting on a balustrade for the session, and by the time Dino arrives to pick me up I'm done for the day, done until we return in December.

I did remember to bring a steamed persimmon pudding, and a little bottle of Corvosier to sprinkle on top, and Marco has an oven, so when Giovanna makes tea, I heat up the torta, and there is enough for everyone, including Dino. As usual, it's a big hit. I don't eat any, as I'm watching my cholesterol, but when we get home I'm starved and make a plate of pasta, so my good eating habits for today are for naught.

One of my Italian Notebook pieces was published today, the one on Salame dei Papi. What is interesting about the story is that some people think the name comes from the fact that there is no meat in it, so it can be served at lent, and that's why it is referred to as the salami of the pope. Huh?

This morning, Enzo Rosati and his son and Fabrizio arrived to install the new kitchen faucet and two new radiators. But we decide not to install the one in the dining room, as the walls need to be repaired, and until Stefano does that, the heater for that room will just be hung below the window.

Since the room is in chaos, and we have no dining room table, it is just as well. The room is used for my artwork and supplies. Yes, I do need a studio. But for now, we're doing fine.

Although Sofi moped around this morning, and I'm sure she knows we're going away again, she perked up tonight and seems to be all right. What fun she will have with Angie! That reminds me. We really must stop by to see Felice and Marsiglia tomorrow or Wednesday.

November 13
It's time for haircuts, and we drive to Sipicciano to Daniele, only to find he is closed for today! What to do? Dino calls Nick Bishop in Amelia, who we have met socially a few times and he can take me at 4 P M to do my hair.

But first we pick Maria Elena up at language class in Viterbo and take her to Il Gelsi as a birthday present. We will not be here when she has her birthday, so Sofi and I give her a hand painted plate from my ceramic days and then we have a wonderful pranzo together. Even Sofi joins us for part of the time.

We're home for enough time to wrap the lemon tree, and to take the kumquat trees into the loggia for the winter. We run out of fabric to wrap the tree, so Dino buys a capuccia (hat) for the tree and we'll put it on later. With fifteen or so lemons picked, the tree is finally acclimating to our home. If we would be here longer I'd make a lemon marmelade. If the lemons survive a few weeks we'll make it when we return. But I'm not stressing about it.

Nick Bishop is a master, and I really like what he does with my hair. Daniele's closing today was obviously fortuitous. Although my hair is a little short, it is an excellent cut and the color is really good.

So the more Nick gets to know me, and my hair, the better my hair will look. I think he's a master, and although I'm a very loyal client, I think I have gone to Daniele for the last time. I'm a little sad, for I like him a lot. I am just not as pleased with his work as I am with Nick's. I look forward to getting to know Nick, too, as well as his wife, Tiziana and young son, Sebastiano.

On the way home we stop at Pietro's for a short visit, for we won't see him again before we leave. He'll be back in March, but we will definitely miss him in the meantime.

The clock is ticking, and there is one day left before we leave. There will be no journal from November 16 to 30, so we'll post tomorrow night for November.

November 14
I drive myself to Orte for a pedicure with Giusy, and Dino drives in Pandina to Tenaglie, then to Orvieto to pick up the framed paintings. It's a busy day doing last minute tasks, and I'm looking forward to the trip, although I'll miss little Sofi a great deal. It's a good thing she'll be here with her dear friend, Angie.

Dino returns with the framed San Vincenzo, but the framing material for Pascale's Bull has not arrived, so we'll pick that painting up in December. I stop by Omamia in Orte, where my paintings will be hung, and the shop is in the midst of some work, so the muratore agrees with me that the sooner my paintings are hung, the better. With luck, they'll be hung for this weekend.

With rain off and on all day, Sofi stays by my side. We have plenty of time to do last minute things, so we're going to fit in a trip to Soriano to deal with...well, you don't really want to know. But once we've had our meeting, we'll not talk about death or cemeteries or anything like that. We want to have all the arrangements taken care of. Are we overly "anal"? I'd rather say we care too much for our family to ask them to do anything if/when it's our time.

The meeting in Soriano is a non-meeting, leaving us with the idea that funeral directors in Italy also want to "sell" something. So we'll do more research, and this project is not finished...yet.

So we'll say goodbye to the journal for November, and will begin the journal again upon our return on December 3rd. Have a peaceful Thanksgiving, or Ringraziamento, and we hope that you'll spend it with those you love, as will we.

C'e reveddiamo!

Evanne's first one-woman show!!


DECEMBER 2007

December 1-5
We remain in the U S until December 3rd, when we fly back to Italy. The flight is uneventful, but it takes us more than a few days to get over our "jet lag". It's been a marvelous visit, and we so enjoyed getting together with Roy's family and spending time with Terence and Angie and the girls. Here are a few photos...



..and also we went to a Stanford (vs.Notre Dame) football game with Peggy and Mike Murphy to see our pal, their daughter, performing with this year's Stanford Dollies!

On the 5th we're still a little wobbly, but Dino returns to checking on the house restoration in Tenaglie and Sofi and I take a walk around the Mugnano loop. I forget to bring carrots for Priscilla and Maggiolino, and they're standing bigger than life (they are really enormous!), hanging their heads over the metal fence. With no carrots, there's no greeting, so Sofi and I meander on up the hill.

Rosina sees us coming down the street and waits for us at the bus stop. She asks about the nipotini and can't understand why they won't be here for Christmas. I ask her about the Duomo reopening, and she thinks it is not ready. She also does not remember that this Saturday is the Assumption of Mary and that we should have a giro with the Confraternity. We'll have to ask Tiziano.

Dino travels to Viterbo and then to Enel in Soriano, where he finds out that the ENEL box will be installed next Tuesday outside the Tenaglie house. Later, there is a phone call from a technician to confirm. This is almost too good to be true. Stay tuned to see if ENEL is really getting its act together...

Tonight we drive to Schiffonia for cena with Giovanni and Hermelyn and their tiny daughter Elena. Elena is a remarkable 1-plus, and reaches out her arms to me right away. This precocious young child is beautiful and very smart, trying to sweep the floor with a big broom and move things around. She also eats everything in sight, and her parents happily take her inquisitive nature in stride.

It's an enjoyable evening all around, and we leave with brochures for the Narni Opera, vowing to buy our tickets early this year.

On the way to the car, Giovanni takes my arm in the dark and we look up to find the sky flooded with stars. Orion, the Big Dipper...they all seem so close we can almost reach up and touch them. I can see my breath in front of me, but the air feels fresh and it's so good to be back "home".

December 6
With an email from Nanda that my art will be hung at her shop on the 29th in anticipation of my reception on December 30th, I realize that I have time to paint a few more pieces for the show.

But today we have another mostra to think about, for we'll bring two pieces to the Comune in Bomarzo for this weekend's mostra. I'll only hang San Vincenzo and the ceramic demilune depicting the young man whose painting hangs above the door leading upstairs in the Comune.

Knowing that things are not usually sold at these mostras, I specifically want these hung, for they are characteristic of both our village and of the Bomarzo Comune itself. With a call later to Tiziano, we're hoping that Don Luca can take a look at the painting of San Vincenzo as a possible painting for the Duomo. We also continue to be hopeful that we will move forward on our quest to take over San Rocco for visual and historical pursuits. Don Luca does not seem to know who owns it...

Dino rushes off to Viterbo to check on the copper counter fabrication, and it appears the work will be ready tomorrow. So he really must get together with Tani today to make sure the columns under the sink are completed as needed. As we suspected, not much has been done in our absence.

Sofi and I take our giro around the Mugnano loop, and this time we remember the carrots. Maggiolino and Priscilla stand right by their fence, as if they've been waiting for us. When I feed them, they take plenty of time to chew, chew, chew their carrots.

I stick a couple of fingers through the fence afterward and rub their noses, but don't know if I should be careful. So Sofi and I leave it at that and begin to walk up the hill.

Before we're out of sight we hear a tremendous bellow, and it is one or both of them giving us a "hee-haw". This one sounds mournful. They must be lonely. We'll have to find out from Pepe if it's possible to give them more attention.

With the Bomarzo "show" to be hung today, we take the two paintings to the Comune. We hang them and with the help of a very rickety ladder hang a few things for other folks in the same room.

We pick up invites for my December 30th opening and mostra in Orte, and have a chance to look at Lucia's paintings exhibited there now. Lucia has been painting for more than five years and it shows. Her work is exceptional, and I remind myself that I have a lot to learn about painting.

A few weeks ago when speaking with cousin Eli on the phone, he advised me to do what I can to teach myself instead of relying on the knowledge of others. I'm enjoying the best of both worlds, crafting things myself and also taking advantage of Marco's talent to fine tune. I look forward to returning to his bottega on Monday.

Dino wants me to turn the dining room/living room into my art studio, and I'm ready to do that. In the next week or two we'll fashion what we need there, and I think I'll like painting there, for there is excellent light.

December 7
With the kitchen counters ready for transport, we drive in Pandina to Viterbo. The peninsula section of the countertop is 3 meters in length, just about the length of the little car. The owner of the shop gives Dino an old pallet to put on top of the car between the runners to give the countertop additional strength for its ride over the countryside to Tenaglie, and as they set it on top of the car and then the countertop, I document the event.


With an advance call to Arshi and Tani, they are on site and help to move the countertops into the cantina, agreeing that yes, the copper finish is quite beautiful. Although we were both skeptical about the edge of the counters, I see that the shop did a masterful job, and the finished product is just right.

Dino reviews the work yet to be done with the team, and the crew knocks off the list one by one, albeit slower than we would like. At least they are moving forward. When Dino tells Arshi that we expect the work to be done "prima Natale", he gets a scornful look, the worker thinking to himself, "Magari" (if only it were so)!

Lorenzo expects to return to the site on Monday with the front gate, and we'll make sure that the electrical work above the peninsula is finished before the kitchen supplier arrives at the end of the week to begin the installation.

More tiles are to be purchased for the columns below the sink, and that will happen on Monday. If the crew continues to work, it is conceivable that the inside work of the house can be finished before Christmas. Then the walkway and painting of the house can take place afterward. We remain hopeful.

The mostra at the Orsini Comune in Bomarzo begins with an introduction by the sindaco and other glitterati, but it's almost seven, and the event is to begin at six. So in characteristic "tempo Italiano" we stand around, viewing other people's artwork and talking with friends.

The exhibit seems to close down at around eight, and we take this opportunity to drive to La Fossate, where we have pizza and muse about the fact that ten years ago we ate at this same restaurant, celebrating the purchase of our property. How far we have come!

December 8
There is to be no giro today for the Confraternity, and we walk up in the morning mist for a mass with Don Luca. Afterward Vincenza arrives at our doorstep for the current festarolo donation, telling us she is not able to stop for caffé. We're so happy to contribute...so happy not to be on the committee this year...

Mid-afternoon, there is a telephone board meeting of Valhalla, the building in Boston that my family owns in partnership with two other families. It is an emotional meeting.

I find myself standing in the bedroom while I listen, looking out the window at a sky bloodstained like the set of the Verona Opera after a battle scene of Nabucco. I fear in some way that I am facing my mortality.

There is an evening of events at the Comune tonight, and another night to talk about my artwork at the mostra, but I lack the strength to attend. Instead, I read about finding the soul of my paintings and think about the angels I will begin to construct under Marco's tutelage, gossamer figures to hang from the ceiling.

I do a search on the internet about Cape Verde Islands, and learn that they are the islands off Dakar, Senegal. Twenty-three years ago, we stopped at Dakar on a cruise, and I can hear the music of the people even now in my head.

Immigrants from those islands inhabit most of the area around Uphams Corner, the neighborhood of Boston where our building is situated. There is talk again about a charter school as a tenant, and I'm wondering what I can do to help the local community.

That was always my father's wish, and in his honor perhaps I can apply for a grant with the school to begin a music program for them. There is much to learn about this school, if it is to be a major tenant, and so I go to bed with visions not unlike those of my father decades ago...

December 9
I remain in a somber mood, helped along by a cold, drizzly sky overhead as we walk up to mass. Afterward, Don Luca tells us that he'll be ready after the first of the year to travel with us to Rome to pick out altarpieces for the Duomo, as gifts from our festarolo committee. Dino takes the opportunity to ask him if he's seen my painting of San Vincenzo at the Comune, and he tells us he'll try to visit this afternoon.

I fix a pasta and cece soup, one of Dino's favorites, and begin to work on refashioning the dining room into a quasi studio for me. By rolling up the rug and moving some things around, there is room for a table and a few easels. I think the room will work well short-term.

With one of the golf paintings almost finished, I look for some inspiration for a subject for the matching canvas. The two pieces will surely be finished for my mostra.

In the back of mind the angels loom, and I'm thinking of them as installation pieces, at least seven or eight of them in different sizes. They are unfolding as angels watching over the children of the Boston charter school, and with a hopeful opening date of September 2009, I'll have plenty of time to fashion them and come up with a Boston gallery to show them in. Anything is possible, and so I continue to dream.

An Antonioni film of the Bomarzo Monster Park is to be shown at 4PM, so we change and put our rain togs on, leaving Sofi behind and driving up to the Comune.

The film is a romp, a look back at a more innocent park, full of weeds, with two young men playfully running through the fields surrounding more than a dozen four-centuries-old statues and a peek at the outside of the Orsini Palazzo, a building that now houses the Comune.

Sitting next to our dear friends Giovanna and Duccio, we smile at the scene of the stone ramp leading up the hill to the Palazzo, their property on the right, in some decay. The film was produced in 1979, and their purchase of the then-decaying property in 1990 evidenced a scene of decades-old neglect.

These days, the building is faced with intonico and a fresh coat of paint and a restoration inside including the restoration of a beautiful ceiling fresco. It's a welcome weekend getaway for them. This look back for them must be one of amusement, as it is for us.

So there is a somewhat political view of the Monster Park of today, now owned privately and spiffed up significantly. However, the large entry fee is considered to the locals as an outrage. We surmise it's important to keep everyone happy.

December 10
Today's weather is typical: first dark clouds and fog, turning into bright sun low in the sky, followed by lots of shadows and a return of frosty temperatures.

Dino retrieves the paintings from the Palazzo and finishes the installation of our holiday lights on the terrace. We'll light them tonight until at least the beginning of January.

I have a good session at Marco's today and a long one, and when I finish I have just about completed the two golf paintings for our good doctor in Viterbo. We look forward to showing them at the December 30th mostra in Orte and then letting him take them to his office.

With my growing number of paints, Dino buys me a larger paintbox to take on Mondays to the bottega. And now that I am using the dining room as my studio, I'm able to work more with less stress. I look forward to painting a few more small things for the mostra.

Although Lucia's work is far more advanced than mine, I am inspired by her years of excellent work; and I enjoy seeing her paint nearby at the bottega. Perhaps next Monday I'll even take on another major work.

December 11
Dino leaves early to meet with the Enel folks and the muratores at the house. Yesterday he picked up 30 or so more bricks of mattone to build the columns under the sink, and later this week the columns will be built in place. He drives them over in Pandina. I remain hopeful that the kitchen will be installed by the end of the week, and why not?

Sofi and I take our giro, which is highlighted by a visit to Maggiolino and Priscilla. Sofi waits on the far side of the road while I coax the mother and son over to the fence and slide one carrot each through the mesh, watching it disappear.

There is no hee-haw-ing from them today, and they remain tranquil. I've given up hope that they'll join us in our Babo Natale giro. Pepe thinks they are too unruly to deal with the commotion. I love seeing them, anyway; and yes, I will paint them.

We notice a nurse coming out of Marsiglia's brother's house just before noon. The detective in me tells me its Giannino who is ill, for his wife's laundry hangs over the line, but not his. We hope that he is all right, although he has been ill in recent months.

Next door, a very deaf but healthy Pietro works his amazing garden. I notice about eight bee "houses" along the back, and radicchio, several kinds of lettuce and black cabbage, the Tuscan kind.

That reminds me. It's time to pick some of our black cabbage and cook ribollita, the twice-cooked soup made with white beans and this special black cabbage. If this sounds terrible, you have never tasted the thick kind of pap, which also includes thick stale bread and a good dollop of the best olive oil just before serving. We'll post a recipe for it after trying it ourselves, probably in the next week or two.

We drive up to Orvieto after pranzo, for a visit with Frank and Candace and to pick up a piece from the Orvieto framer. It's possible the framing material she is using is the same we have purchased in Viterbo and will use to make our own simple frames. I think it's important to exhibit framed pieces, even if the framing is simple.

Dino and Frank pick up the framed painting while Candace and I talk, and it looks great. We're encouraged to do our own simple framing and will add that to the mix of things to do before the end of the month.

With the Babbo Natale gifts ready to be wrapped and our persimmon puddings already distributed, we are not facing the Christmas "rush" that our friends in the U S are dealing with. If you know us well, you'll know that we don't believe in Christmas gift giving other than homemade goodies to friends, considering it to be a byproduct of the consumerist plague looming over the U S. Enough said.

Well, our good friend Don Salter has an annual tradition that we find amusing: he buys a special bottle of scotch that he likes very much, wraps it in Christmas paper and give it to a good friend. That good friend buys something he'd like and wraps it for Don. Then each one accepts the gift, rewraps it and gives it back to the initial giver. It's a somewhat convoluted way of giving oneself what one wants, but one of which we heartily approve.

With Dino already in bed later in the evening, I prepare tiny white beans to soak overnight for ribbollita. While standing on a tiny stepstool and reaching up into the cabinet above the stove, the container of beans slips from my hands and half of them seem to explode in the air, reaching the far corners of the kitchen in a kind of firework display.

Sofi sits on the couch and watches, while I sweep up what seems to be hundreds of the tiny beans, knowing I have missed many of them. Tomorrow I'll get out the vacuum cleaner to find the rest. And so it is to bed...

December 12
Dino leaves for Tenaglie, with Pandina in the shop for some minor work. It's no problem to be without a car, for our only jaunt out is for our giro to feed a merenda (snack) to Priscilla and Maggiolino and continue the loop up the hill to our house.

The two are quiet today, seemingly sad. Do asini generally have sad expressions? They are used to seeing Sofi and I now, and I wonder about them, as though I should do something more to bring happiness to their day.

After all these years, is it strange that I am still an optimist, wanting to share happiness? I sometimes conclude that I am out of touch. But as Eva Cassidy sings, "You can only be you, and I can only be me".

There are beans to cook, and ribollita to finish, so we pick the first of our cavolo nero (Tuscan black cabbage), the leaves appearing similar to narrow romaine lettuce, only taller. I read that the more I pick, the more will grow, so we will have this all winter. Either we'll eat ribollita often, or I will have to come up with more ways to fix it. Either way, I've wanted to grow this green for years.

The ribollita is a big hit, the beans perfectly cooked and almost nutty in taste. We've used the tiny beans called Il Purgatorio cannellini and it's worth choosing better quality beans. It should taste even better tomorrow, when we reheat it (reboil..ribollita).

There's a drive this afternoon to Centro Legno in Viterbo, the marvellous fa-da-te (do it yourself) wood shop, where we pick up wood strips fashioned specifically for frames. We're going to try to make simple frames ourselves for the oil paintings, and the wood comes in different diameters. Come no?

Dino's car is not ready, so we will wait another day. That's fine with me. But when we drive by to see if it is ready, Giorgio tells us he needs to keep it until tomorrow. While Sofi and I wait for Dino to finish conversing with Giorgio inside the garage, I spot the most wondeful Ape (pronounced AP-ay).

An ape is a three-wheeled vehicle used by countryfolk to run around in, at very slow speeds. They do errands with them and sometimes reluctantly lug their wives around sandwiched next to them in the cab in front. It sounds like a bee, and "ape" is the Italian word for bee; hence the name.


I bet Terence would love to get his hands on it. But then, what would he be able to do with it? Sorry, Terence. We don't have room for it in the parcheggio. Perhaps as a garden planter?

December 13
The temperature is cool, but not as cool as it will be this weekend. Weekend highs are expected to only reach 6 degrees Celsius. All in all, that's not bad, either. We have wood stocked and don't imagine it will be a deterrent from doing anything, other than I may skip a morning walk or two. Yes, I really am a wimp.

Dino drives to Tenaglie and hopes the electricista (why is this feminine?) will arrive as planned, but he does not. He will come on Monday, along with the kitchen supplier, so Dino puts up a few lights and returns around noon. The muratores are nowhere in sight.

Sofi and I do our giro, taking carrots to our tall friends. I had no idea asini could be as tall as regular horses, although they seem shorter in length...another quirk of nature? We continue our walk after only a short stop to feed our friends, and there is no one out except Vincenzo, who is walking down to his campo and greets me on the way.

"Una domanda..." (a question) I ask him. "Why is Italo's lemon tree not covered? He answers that the tree sits in a kind of grotto made by the former walls of the old Orsini palazzo, so it is protected naturally. Oh. Here is another exception, and the Italian life, as well as the language, is full of exceptions...

I serve the ribollita for pranzo, and yes, it is even better. Dino also eats a meatball sandwich on ciabatta bread. This bread, called ciabatta (slipper) bread, is always available here and is characterized by its crunchy crust and long flat shape. It is used often by country folk (a not very sophisticated effort, but so what) to sop up what is left in the bottom of the bowl.

This bread is available in many cities in the U S and England, too. If you try it, rip sections off instead of cutting it, serving it with soups of all kinds; that is, unless you're using it for a sandwich or speak the Queen's English...

Tonight Duccio will arrive for cena, and I'm fixing osso buco, made with veal from the back of the shin of the animal, where the meat is especially tasty. It's a long process, and if the meal comes out well, I'll post the recipe on the site.

RIBOLLITA

Ribollita means "reboiled", and it refers to the soup's character on the day after you have served the original soup, when it tastes even better the second time than the first.

We were first served this unforgettable soup on the day we found our property. We were staying in a five-hundred-year-old casale in Tuscany at the time, and the owner fed us while we breathlessly told her about the house we had just found.

This soup, and the trip, are the seeds for the name of our house, "L'Avventura" (the adventure), and even now my heart skips a beat when I remember that meal and that day.

Jamie Oliver seems to have the closest to the ribollita served to us on that day years ago in Tuscany....Thanks, Jamie!

Take a cast iron pot, at least twelve inches in diameter, add 3-4 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil and as much of the soup as the pot will hold. Heat it up over a low flame and serve with glasses of red wine.

But for the beginning, the day before....and this is where Jamie comes in...

Ribollita

11 oz/310g dried cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
1 small potato
2 small red onions, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
2 sticks of celery, trimmed
3 cloved of garlic, peeled
a pinch of ground fenel seeds
a pinch of dried red chili
1 400g tin of good quality plum tomatoes
310g/11 oz cavolo nero, leaes and stalks finely sliced
12 large handful of good-quality stale bread, torn into chunks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Add the soaked beans to a pan of water with the bay leaf, tomato and potato, to help flavor the beans and soften their skins. Cook until tender at a very low temperature and they will take up to an hour or more, but check and taste one now and then after the first thirty minutes. Drain, reserving most of the cooking water for later. Discard the bay leaf, tomato and potato.

Finely chop the onions carrots, celery and garalic. Heat a saucepan, add several Tbsp. olive oil with the graound fennell seeds an chili. Cook very slowly on low heat with the cover ajar for around twenty minutes until soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.

Add the cooked and drained beans with a little of their cooking water, and brink back to the boil. Stir in the sliced cavolo, then moisten the bread with a little of the cooking water and stir it in. The soup should be thick but not dry, so add more cooking water if it is too thick. Continue cooking for at least thirty minutes.

Season the ribollita with salt and pepper and sit in plenty of good qality extra virgoin olive oil before serving to give it a glossy velvety texture.

We watched the Republican debate in Iowa last night and will miss the Democrats' debate tonight, for we certainly won't subject Duccio to this program. We are not like the Italians when we eat, the T V on for background noise...? What? We are amazed at the sight of a T V playing on occasions when we are invited to Italian friends' houses for cena. Aren't you?

The osso buco is a big hit, although Duccio silenty catches me hiding the minced carrots and celery and onion under the meat served to him in a soup bowl. We know he hates vegetables, but thought I could disguise a few in the incredibly tasty broth. Fa niente.

OSSO BUCO

Osso Buco (veal with a hole) are braised veal shanks; my version includes anchovy-spiced gremolata.

4 Tbs; (2 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup onion, chopped finely
2/3 cup carrot, chopped finely
2/3 cup celery, chopped finely
3 sprigs parsley
2 tsp chopped garlic 2 strips lemon peel with none of the white pith beneath it 2 oz. pancetta, diced
2 Tbsp. cognac or other brandy
1 kilo + (approximately three pounds) large veal shank
bones, cut approximately 1 1/2 inches thick with meat
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (approx.)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, coarsley chopped wiht their juice
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried
2 bay leaves

Gremolata topping:
finely grated zest of one lemon
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup finely chopped flat leafed parsley
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 whole anchovies under salt, boned, rinsed, filleted and mashed; or 4 anchovy filltes under oil, rinsed and mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a large, heavy and deep pan with a heavy bottom, or use 2 pots if you can't fit the veal in a single layer, adding 1 extra Tbsp. of butter for each pot.

Melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter, add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté over medium-low heat for two or three minutes, then add the pancetta, continuing to cook mixture for about ten minutes more until vegetables are fairly translucent and the pancetta is cooked. Add the strips of lemon peel and garlic and cook another 2 or 3 minutes until mixture is wilted. Remove the pancetta mixture with a slotted spoon and set it aside, leaving any butter residue in the pan.

Put the pan back on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Dry the veal shanks with paper towels, adding salt and pepper. Turn the veal shanks in the flour, coating them all over and shaking off the excess.

*Note: do not coat the veal far in advance, for the mixture will become soggy and prevent the veal from becoming crispy.

When the temperature is quite hot, add the veal to the pan and brown the pieces on all sides over medium-high heat in the onion and prosciutto-flavored butter until golden, 6-7 minutes. Add the cognac to the pan and carefully set a match to it, vaporizing the alcohol. Pour in the wine and cook over medium heat until only 2-3 Tbsp. of the liquid are left. Remove the veal with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Return the vegetable mixture to the bottom of the pot, then the veal pieces, arranging the veal pieces side-by-side, standing upright with their marrow openings on top. Add the broth and tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, pepper and salt. The broth should have come approximately 2/3 of the way up the side of the shanks. If it does not, add more liquid.

Bring the liquids to a simmer, cover the pot tightly and put in the lower part of a preheated oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the veal is tender when a fork pierces the meat and a dense creamy sauce has formed. Baste every twenty minutes or so. If the mixture becomes dry, add a few tablespoons at a time of heated beef broth, as needed.

While the veal is cooking, make the gremolata by chopping together the lemon zest, orange zest, parsley and anchovies. Add the 2 tbsp. remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and mix with a mortar and pestle to turn it into a kind of paste.

Approximately thirty minutes before serving, turn the temperature off, add the gremolata mixture, mix it in with the juices and veal pieces and cover for 1/2 hour. Then reheat gently and serve.

Duccio always has something to teach us, and tonight we talk about the trouble the Italian government is in. Our good friend tells us that Italians love to follow buffoons, and use the example of Berlusconi, who just won't go away.

Bossi, another Italian character, wants Northern Italy to seceed from Italy. He thinks that part of Italy pays too large a price for Rome's shenanigans and creates a stir wherever he goes. Leaders who actually accomplish something are just not as much fun to talk about as those who are charasmatic and effluvial...

Effluvial...why would I use this word to describe what Duccio calls as buffoons? The word effluvial is characterized by waste discharged by a power plant. I think it fits, don't you?

December 14
Dino tries again to stir up some activity in Tenaglie, with not much luck. But at the plumbing supply shop, a man tells him that he saw us in Pandina driving a long counter down the road.

When Dino told him it was our client's rame (copper) countertop, he was floored. This countertop will be a big deal in Italy, so perhaps I should write something up for a magazine. If it comes out as planned, the kitchen really will be handsome, at not an enormous cost.

I sketch away in our kitchen, but have no interest in taking a walk today. It's just too cold, and yes, last night's wine got the better of me. It doesn't take much. A difmetre pill does the trick, and lightens my spirits. So I'm happy to heat up last night's osso buco with papparadelle for pranzo.

We leave for Deruta for our favorite lamp shop, and pick up four lights for our client's cantina bedroom. It is a good thing they weren't shipped, for we had to have them alter two of them.

That done, we drive to Viterbo for a few errands and then home. It's just about freezing by the time we arrive home, but great to be greeted by holiday lights on our terrace facing the village. I do believe that we will not have a tree inside this year, thinking that less is more.

With scores of email responses to our invite to the mostra on the 30th arriving, its fun to hear from friends. Now that we don't have a tiny internet connection, we're able to open larger files, and that is very helpful. It seems as if we've never had a problem, but we have suffered by a paltry connection for the more than five years we have lived here.

December 15
It's cold this morning, very cold, and we're out early, doing errands and dropping off flyers for the mostra. By the time we return home it's mid afternoon, so Dino ponders about the frames for my artwork while I continue to sketch. I'm doing more drawing than painting these days, but realize good painting is like good Japanese food...it's all in the prep work.

With the month half gone, we're ready to post the journal, along with a few recipes. We'll try to come up with a Christmas picture...soon!

December 16
Cold, cold weather continues, but the neighbors tell us it's warmer today than yesterday, perhaps because there is less wind.

There is hardly anyone around when we reach the piazza in front of the little church, but I meet Renata at the door. She tells me that Serena and Mauro and Salvatore are in Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche. There is a mostra there this weekend, and they decided to take Salvatore along. Brrr. It must be very cold there.

She tells me that Salvatore is simply amazed by the sight of all the snow. I don't know if he's ever seen it before. So I tell Renata that in the U S, the children make snowmen with the snow. "Si, certo! Piu pazzo di neve" Renata tells me, when I ask her what the Italian word for snowman is.

Don Ciro is our priest, and during Communion, Signora Argentina's helper stands her up and moves her to the front of the line. She's really not understanding what's going on, so she takes the wafer from him in her hand and then won't put it in her mouth; doesn't know what to do with it.

So Don Ciro sweetly takes it from her and sets it aside in his hand. I am next in line and he gives me a different one.

After the mass has concluded, he refrains from changing and returns to walk over to Argentina and the Romanian woman who cares for her, talking with her sweetly and gently. We are all just about moved to tears by his peaceful handling of this sweet woman. A few days ago I saw her walking with her helper, and walked up to her and greeted her.

"Do you mean ME?" she said in Italian, with a wide-eyed grin. "Si, certo! Come no?" I responded, in those two phrases I have down so well I am sure that anyone would mistake me for an Italian after hearing me.

She beamed and her helper and I looked at eachother sadly. I can hear Iolanda saying, "There but for the grace of God go I."

I have about an hour to work on my drawing; then it's time to tell Sofi "c'e reveddiamo" for now and leave for Diego's. He's invited us to join him for pranzo, perhaps in thanks for referring Pietro and his priests so many times. Va bene.

We sit with Diego and his wife, Luciana for pranzo, and converse solely in Italian with them. I am simply amazed that we are both able to do this. They are so kind to us and so understanding, not worrying what tenses we use. There are conversations about sheep, shepherds, land to buy, land to rent, and oh, yes...cooking and food, not to mention Gregorian chants and Provence.

Diego is more modern than I would expect him to be in his thinking of food, agreeing that with certain fish, yes, particular types of cheese may be used. Yikes! Beep! Beep! Is that the Italian Food Police rushing up his front driveway?

There is a magnificent rooster of sterling silver on a nearby dining room table, and I ask Dino to take photos of it so that I can draw or paint it. I then ask Diego if rooster can be eaten.

Not really, he responds, although he has tasted the red rooster comb (or cresta)...it is evidently a delicacy. The red color is from blood, so a bright red comb indicates that the rooster is healthy. I hope you're not eating while you read this...it's all rather disgusting,no?

So about eating the best kinds of chicken or hen...he tells us that a castrated rooster or gallo is called a galuffo. It's not in the dictionary, so you'll have to take my word for it. It is tasty, so look for it on the menu, not that you'll be able to find it...

The meal is a delight, and he sends us away with more marmelata, this time from the tasty little clementinas we love to eat around Christmastime. We also buy a large container of his olive oil. It is just the best anywhere in Italy, although we have other oil that we used for cooking everyday. It doesn't make sense to cook with the best olive oil; instead, use the best to drizzle on soup, salads, and use regular olive oil for cooking.

We pick up Sofi and take a ride to Orte to Omaima, where my mostra will take place beginning on December 30th. Nanda is not there yet, but we take more invitations and some really good-looking flyers, which we hope to distribute to all the bars and shops around.

The problem with this wonderful shop is that there is not enough traffic. There is parking, it is not difficult to find, but people don't know about the place. So hopefully Nanda or her shop manager will post in the local papers for weekend activities at the end of the year. The more people attend, the more people will see my work. Since it is so reasonable, perhaps this will be the start of a good relationship. Speriamo

December 17
I wake up after Dino has left for what he hopes to be the kitchen installation in Tenaglie. I'm very tired, and this kind of tiredness often has to do with an emerging migraine. It will be interesting to see if it is a sign. If so, I have my difmetre, so am confident I can conquer it subito. Last night I ate salty snacks, so perhaps it is the salt that contributes to the onset.

It's very cold outside, so I work on the drawing, not interested in a frigid walk. Sorry, dear little Sofi. But there is no headache, so for that I am grateful.

I urge Dino to speak with Marco about the framing challenges we are having, and Marco comes up with what we first think is an excellent solution. Do you remember that old tape that we all used to use to close up cardboard boxes years ago? It had one glossy side, one that became a wet glue when wet. We would use a sponge to make the glossy side wet, and then apply it to the cardboard box, where it would keep the open sides closed, once the flaps were in place.

Marco tells us it's often used for mostras, instead of expensive framing. He only has a small piece to give us, but Dino takes it and drives all over Viterbo to locate some, with no luck. We'll be in Rome on Saturday, so if we're lucky, we'll find it.

These days, all packing tape is comprised of plastic, and that's not a good solution. Sigh. One step forward and one step back. I wonder if hardware stores in out-of-the-way towns might have some. Dino is not encouraged.

I have a good day at Marco's, finishing the two golf paintings, as well as the drawing I've worked on all week, and take a fresh look at Pan sitting on a balustrade, looking out over a formal Italian garden. We decide that the garden will appear in snow, and my first pass at a wash is excellent. One by one I'm knocking off unfinished pieces for the mostra. Now if we can only find some paper tape in time...

It is very windy and cold, and good to be at home in front of a lovely fire to end the night. Tomorrow I'll take a stab at a few little canvases. If people love the roosters and hens so much, I surely must produce a few more before the 30th.

December 18
This jam-packed day begins with Dino driving to Tenaglie and Sofi and me following an hour or so later. The tiles are laid out and we discuss the design; then I sit back and wait for Tani and one of his cousins to actually install them.

The muratores work on the roof of the studio, the space around the windows in the little bedroom, but don't get around to installing the ceramic tiles for the wall behind the sink until after pranzo.

In the meantime, ENEL folks arrive to turn on the gas, but the line is blocked. People from the water company in Amelia show up, as does the rep. from the heater company. The radiators get plumbed, checked and are turned on in the cantina, where everyone is working. So although it is very very cold and windy, at least we are warm inside.

Sofi and I stay to watch the end of the tile laying, and then drive home. Dino is not far behind, for the muratores stopped work at around 6PM. Today the electricista and his partner came and did a number of things we needed them to do. We were especially pleased that they had the punchlist Dino gave them and were checking things off.

We can really see some headway. Hopefully tomorrow the peninsula counter will be laid in place, the columns for the sink will be constructed, and as soon as the grout is dry, I hope 24 hours, they will mount the sink and then put the dishwasher and counter in place. It's remotely possible that this will all happen before the week ends...

Did I forget to tell you that the shower door in the cantina still does not latch correctly? Dino will travel again to Orsolini with the replacement parts to see what still won't work. If it's a miracle, the correct part will be in stock.

If we can get the inside work finished except for having the door and wood person return to install the rest of the doors and windows, we'll take our Christmast picture to show you what all the fuss has been about. So we'll see.

Speaking of Christmas pictures, the card from Terence and Angie and the girls arrived with three photos on the front. One is from our front terrace! What a thrill! We'd so love to be with them all at Christmas, but then we did have lots of time with them this past month. How fortunate we are.

December 19
It's paint, paint, paint for me, hoping to add more to our growing list of paintings for the mostra. We hear that people specifically love the roosters and the chickens, so I'll concentrate on them, with the exception of one that I'm trying to finish with two young women dancing in a Renaissance-era style.

Dino drives to Orsolini to meet with Il Magnifico about the recurring shower door challenge, then on to Tenaglie to hope that the columns are being constructed correctly to hold up the sink. Tani appears committed to finish, so we are encouraged.

Dino just hates the ribollita, and I admit I don't really like it either after it has been heated up a couple of times. I suppose it tastes better in a restaurant. Perhaps it's the day-after-day concept that makes us think we're back in a school lunchroom.

There is not much luck with the shower door challenge and now we'll see what the manufacturer has to say. Dino stops at the house in Tenaglie to see the muratores finishing the roof on the studio and getting ready to begin the columns for the sink. Dino drills the hole that he'll need to install the sink, and perhaps that will ready to be installed by Friday. So we really could have the kitchen almost done by the end of the week.

With our door and window person sick, he tells us he can't finish the installation until after the first of the year. So we can slow down a bit after the kitchen is complete. If we can make this happen by Friday, we'll take our Christmas picture there. Come no?

I all but finish a very large rooster painting, my largest yet. It's the crevocoeur, the wild French black rooster, and since the smaller one has been sold, I'd like to have another to offer at the mostra. I'll finish it tomorrow.

Dino puts gesso on two of the older canvases, and I'll be ready to paint on them by the end of the week. With another session at Marco's on Friday, perhaps I'll start to paint "the dancing lesson". We still do not have the tape we need, and perhaps will find it in Rome on Saturday. I'm not particularly hopeful.

Dino comes home to tell me that there are flyers and posters all over Amelia and Attigliano. It will be interesting to see if they result in good traffic...or any traffic!

Giordano Angeletti, Shelly's son, is getting married in January, and she's all excited, making plans and finding places for people to stay. We're happy for him, for he is a really kind young man, and wish him every happiness. We look forward to the wedding in two weeks.

December 20
Well, it's time to check in with the American Consulate in Rome, so tomorrow morning I will find out how to apply for social security. These days I continue to forget things, so along with other quirks of nature, I admit I'm getting old. I forgot to call this morning, as Dino reminds me when he arrives home from Tenaglie.

The columns for the sink are finished, and tomorrow the sink will be installed. It's time to get Sgrina back to install the dishwasher and stove and cooktop, but who knows if they'll be willing to come during Christmas week.

Dino has an idea for our Christmas greeting, so by the time you read this you will probably already have received it by email. Think roosters...

Rooster, roosters are all around us, and this afternoon I paint a close-up of a rooster's head. Dino tells me when he comes in from the cold that it's "photo realism". I suppose that means it looks realistic.

Tomorrow will be a make-up day at Marco's and I want to begin a canvas of the dancing lesson, now that I have finished the drawing. Since the canvas is larger than the drawing, I'll take the drawing to Viterbo to have it blown up the proper size.

Then Marco will help me to use carbon paper to transfer the design onto the prepared canvas. Dino has prepared two older canvases of mine with gesso. They need one more coat, so tomorrow afternoon I'm hopeful one will be ready to use.

I'm finishing painting after painting, but this weekend there won't be much painting. We'll travel to Rome for a holiday pranzo with Pietro and his dear friend, Astrup, who he calls The King. We're looking forward to dining at Hotel Russe with them, and Sofi will spend the day with Valerie outside Rome.

December 21
With a pedicure appointment this morning in Orte, I drive and Dino takes Pandina to Tenaglie to install the sink in the cantina. Since it's around zero degrees, I walk down to the parcheggio and start the car. It is covered with ice, but in the fifteen minutes it takes me to get ready, the windshield is defrosted and there is plenty of heat.

Dino consuls me to take the A-1 to Orte because of the ice on the road, and I do, with Sofi mewing in the back seat. I manage to drive by the rest stop and then traffic just stops. There is an accident ahead, for the police, a tow truck, an ambulance all come screaming down the shoulder. People get out of their cars to look, in Italian fashion.

Italians are really nosy. Whenever I walk into an office I notice that everyone looks up from his work. I think Italians have a difficult time concentrating. And perhaps that is why when I want people to look up in a shop, they don't. Trying to get someone's attention while they are on the telephone is all but impossible. But today they are out of their cars to see what is going on.

I left early for my appointment, but the minutes drag on. So I call Dino but he is in a bad zone. So the call does not go through. I call again and again every five minutes. I don't have Giusy's telephone number to tell her I'm delayed. Finally Dino picks up and agrees to call her for me. I arrive twenty minutes late, parking in an illegal space with the car jutting out over the white line, Italian style. I'm expecting a ticket when I return.

There is no ticket when I return, and Sofi has been waiting patiently. So we drive on to Viterbo, which is a real mess. I have the drawing blown up for today's lesson, and we leave right away. Viterbo is not a fun place on a busy day, and this Friday before Christmas is the worst...

At home I put the finishing touches on the rooster closeup, and fix pranzo. Dino arrives an hour later, and kindly adds a layer of gesso to the canvas I want to work on today. He then takes me to Marco's and drives to Tenaglie, where he watches the sink be installed and it is gorgeous. We'll drive there on Sunday so that I can see it. And the kitchen folk claim they will return on Thursday to finish the kitchen. Va bene.

The day after Christmas is a big holiday all over Italy. It is the feast day of Santo Stefano, and I think because his day is the day after Christmas people think they should celebrate him instead of going to work. Italians are a practical lot.

I begin a new painting, first by putting a large sheet of carbon paper on top of the canvas, then the blowup, and take a ballpoint pen and mark out the lines. It's incredible to me that this is the same technique that has been applied for hundreds of years...well, not with the ballpoint pen, but you know.

Marco is distracted today, and I'm pretty much left to myself to work out the faces of the two women. I want to paint the faces today, for it is the most difficult part of the painting. After a few hours he comes over to me and gives me a few pointers.

Before I paint the eyes and nose, I rip off a corner of the blowup, a sheet that is now in a roll, in case I want to refer to it. I draw the eyes and nose myself, in the same size as the one I am to paint. Again and again I learn to draw something first before adding a drop of paint. I'm satisfied, as is Marco, so I get to work.

By the time Dino comes to pick me up, I've finished the hair of one woman and most of her face, with the eyes and mouth to work on next session. I think we'll have a session on Monday, but Marco tells me no, it won't be until Friday. He knows I am a session behind, so tells me I can paint on Saturday if I want.

I'm disappointed, but agree. So we take the large canvas home, as well as the smaller Pan, that I am to finish at home. It is really coming out fine after all, the distance in his view covered with snow.

We go to bed early, for tomorrow we'll leave early for Rome. Tomorrow is a terrible day to drive to Rome, but so what. We're looking forward to pranzo with our friends. Marco has called a few art stores, and there is one where we think we can find our special tape. Once we drop Sofi off at Valerie's, we'll see if we can find the tape and then perhaps take in a museum exhibit or so.

December 22
Although rain is in the forecast, the three of us take off for Rome, the big city that we love and can never get enough of. Sofi stays with Valerie on Monte Mario just outside Rome and we're able to walk around in the crisp air, enjoying the walk and the sites.

Monte Mario is the highest (139 m) hill of Rome. It lies in the NW side of the city. The name comes from Mario Mellini, a fifteenth century cardinal who owned a villa there. The area is one that was considered to be "off limits" to Romans five hundred years ago, for it was considered a slum, and quite dangerous. These days it is beautiful, with huge mansions interspersed with many modern apartment buildings, some with marvelous views.

There are churches to step inside today, and the big French cathedra, San Luigi, is one we stop to visit. There is a Caravaggio here that is quite splendid, and it's worth a study in itself for its use of light and shadow. Caravaggio's light is ever so much more bright than just plain light. It shines with an intensity that almost sizzles...and so we pick up a postcard and I'll experiment with the design.

Cobblestones, cobblestones everywhere... It is only later that I ask Pietro how many years they have been under foot in Rome.

"Only since medieval times, " he tells us all at pranzo. During Roman times, there were these huge basaltino rocks. There was a pope who changed the streets to cobblestones".

Now which one was that? I'm not sure, but here's what I found on Al Gore's favorite source, the internet...

"Reminiscent of the much larger cobblestones used to pave the roads of ancient Rome, today's sampietrini were first adopted in the middle of the 16th century in St. Peter's Square - hence the name sampietrini, which literally means "small St. Peters" in Italian. Their use was then gradually extended to the rest of Rome.

"Like their ancient cousins, they are made of basalt, the commonest type of solidified lava. During Roman times, the material came from caves on the Appian way, in the city's southeast outskirts, where lava had arrived from craters in the nearby Castelli area, about 280,000 years earlier".

Thanks to monstersandcritics.com for this...

So we've been invited to join Hans Rasmus and Benta and Erik and his wife Lizen, and of course, Pietro, for pranzo at Hotel Russe. It's right off Piazza Del Popolo, and quite a lovely spot.

For a few hours we sit around a large round table in their dining room and get to know each other. It's quite a marvelous pranzo, and for me I taste scallops in breadcrumbs and rack of lamb, then a hot chocolate muffin with passion fruit sorbet. Dino has the same. Others have fish and pasta and it's all topped off with simply marvelous white, and then red wine.

We're told we really must travel to Norway in mid-July with Sofi to sail on Hans Rasmus' sailboat, so of course we will. By then we'll be a little tired of all the hot weather in Italy, and will welcome the cool Norwegian air.

Our Norwegian friends are kinder than kind, and we admit we have not met a Norwegian yet whom we do not like. So what was with the Vikings? After seeing the movie Beowolf, I'm feeling more tenderly toward them, and the arrival of several part-time residents in little Mugnano has certain added a twist.

We say goodbye for now, and I admit I am sorry that Pietro will not be at my mostra on the 30th. He will be with his children in Norway, so we'll raise a glass to him then.

Spazzola di para...is a kind of rubber tool used to clean shearling coats. Since I wear one, we're looking for a place that sells these little items. In a shop that sells guanti (gloves), we're told that a little shop down the street that sells ferro (iron) will have one...and they do. It's 3, and works right away.

Rome may be a very big city, but it is full of artisans, and little shops that cater to people who just won't live anywhere else. These are the tiny out of the way shops where people eek out a living doing what it is they know best. Somehow they afford the rents, or retire when they can't...but for now, you can lose yourself in Rome and find artisans of any kind that you will never find in the suburbs...

We pick up Sofi, who we are told is heavy (that's not true, as confirmed by Angie) and the little one sleeps in my lap on the way home; all the while we're listening to Christmas Carols on our IPOD.

It's been a real treat, and we're hope just as the skies turn dark and start a fire in the fireplace, realizing we must get our list ready for Babbo Natale and confirm it with Livio tomorrow in church.

December 23
This morning is warm as we walk up to church. We have the list of children who are to receive gifts tomorrow night from Babbo Natale, and ask around to make sure we aren't forgetting anyone.

I let Tiziano know that he can come tomorrow night before 9 P M if he wants to see Babbo, but Tiziano spends every Christmas Eve with his relatives in Giove, so tells us sadly that he cannot. Secretly, Dino tells me he knows where the house is and we'll drive there before beginning our Mugnano giro and drop of a persimmon pudding for them all.

Where is Enzo this morning? Well, Tiziano and his mother locked him inside the house by mistake and he cannot get out. We all laugh, but I'm wondering what kind of lock they have that they need a key from inside to get out.

Dino takes a number of invitations to distribute this morning, and we're thinking of the Tappet Brothers, Click and Clack, on the radio in the U S who have a fixit show on the radio on weekends. They have what they call a "shame-less products division" where they hawk their wares, so we call Dino's distribution of our invitations our "shameless products division". Dino thinks the show should be called, "Non solo galli" (not only roosters).

I wonder if we can play our IPOD while we walk around, and we might, playing Christmas music. It's really silent on our walk, and this might be a good idea. If the weather holds, it won't be as cold as usual during our giro.

It is determined that we will take Don Luca during the first week of January to Rome to pick up the gifts from our festarolo committee. It will be an opportunity for us to practice our Italian, for our priest does not speak English.

Perhaps when we are there the three of us can also visit the Causes of Saints office, to look again at the description of San Liberato. I do believe the illustration of the man in the boat set afire is our own San Liberato, and that the caption is wrong. We will see...

Dino drives off to Il Pallone to shop for groceries and more sweets for his gifts for tomorrow, and I fix a roast pork and homemade applesauce for pranzo, although I'd rather be painting. I really must finish the painting of the chicken for Enzo and Rosita, as thanks for letting us photograph their chickens for our Italian Notebook story.

I've returned to painting, and finish the golf paintings for our doctor with advice from Dino on the sand traps and marker for the hole on the green. It's good to take on some new subjects, and I'm thinking about one rather strange future subject that is a play on words...carillon vs. carry-on.

It has a man's hand pulling a suitcase across a road. Sticking out of the closed suitcase are two legs of a rooster, with a few feathers fly through the air. I've seen some modern art paintings lately, so this may be my foray into the genre. But it will be January before I think about it seriously. For now, I've only to paint the subjects at hand to prepare for the mostra on the 30th. Hope to see you all there.

December 24
With the gifts for tonight's Mugnano ragazzi finished, we're having breakfast when the doorbell rings. It's the twins, now living in Bomarzo, with bottles of bubbly for each of us. How sweet!

With their grandfather, Pasquale, at their side, we each get a kiss, and learn the new address where they live in Bomarzo. Tonight we'll surprise them, with Dino driving Pandina to Giove and then to Bomarzo before parking in Mugnano and finishing our gift-giving.

Marco lets me come to his bottega this morning for a makeup session, and I bring three jazz cd's that we've compiled from our music and another gift. While Dino drives to Viterbo for errands, I work on one of the faces of my newest large painting, and Marco gives me advice on light and shadow. I'm not completely sure about painting eyes, and this is difficult for the subject's face is not large. But when the session is through I have a much better understanding, and we take the canvas home for me to work on this week. We'll return on Friday for our last session of the year. < p> After pranzo we drive to Tenaglie, and the cantina is looking marvelous. This next week there will be a major change in how it looks, and I look forward to seeing it almost finished. They're almost ready to rent out the cantina and the house above, so if you're interested let us know and we'll forward your information to the owners.

On the way back we run into Lorenzo, our fabbro, at Tenaglie's presepio, for there will be a living presepio (presepio vivente) tonight. Unfortunately, we're all booked up for the night.

It's home for a short nap and then the preparations for Babbo Natale and his jaunt around...


Pandina, Dino's twenty-one-year-old Fiat Panda, is the Babbo-mo-bile come sled tonight. We have two nearby towns to visit, for neighbors who are not in Mugnano tonight. As we're driving across the bridge into Umbria, I'm imaging Pandina as a magic carpet, flying us through the air. The little car does like to go fast...and there's a full moon out tonight. It's as if we're in the movie ET and we're flying home...

Dino cranks his window down and waves and "Ho-ho-ho's' everyone in sight. But it is cold and dark, so there aren't many people out at eight P M on Christmas Eve. Just the same, the looks on people's faces are very funny: blank stares and then big smiles and waves. One person sees Dino before he sees her and we've driven past her before he realizes someone has "one-upped" him. "Beep! Beep!" and a wave are his response.

We drive first to Tiziano Gasperoni's grandmother's house in Giove. We know the house, but they do not know we are coming. Babbo gets out of the car, shaking his leg. We've fastened the leather strap with the reindeer bells to his ankle. So he really has to "shake a leg" to make a lot of noise. Babbo likes to make noise.

The shutters are closed, but we can see light inside. Enzo looks out and cries, "Porca Miseria!" Well, that's not exactly what we were hoping for. But he's laughing, and he and Tiziano walk down the steps to greet us.

We have candy for Tiziano and three of his cousins, all of whom are young adults, but Tiziano will always be a ragazzo to us. After a little chaos and laughing, the candy is distributed and I take a photo of everyone.


Next stop is Bomarzo, to find the twins, who recently moved from the house above us. Cristian and Eduardo are their names and we like them a lot. So we drive down near the Palio field and look for their address. Luckily we find it and they are all really surprised to see us. The boys make sure I get a kiss from each of them and manage hugs for Babbo, then it's time for a photo and we're on a roll...

On the way back into town, we stop at Michelle and Claudio's, for there are a large group of folks there, including two visiting children. We were clued in, in advance, so have something for each of them. With not much time to stop, we take a photo or two and then drive on to Via Mameli.

Donato's house is first, and his mother, Elisa, has her photo taken with Babbo and her grandsons. She doesn't see much anymore, but knows we're there. Otello is so moved he follows us out the door and hands us a bottle of prosecco. Si, certo! Grazie! There's time for a kiss for Elisa, then we cross the street to Luigina's.

At Luigina's, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is on TV, so I brag a little about my cousin Erica, who made the Grinch's costume. I'm very proud of her, and someday she'll come for a visit. But tonight there's no time to tarry...

We come across Italo standing by his front door, so the car bounces to a stop and we get out. Babbo has his picture taken with the lovely Vincenza and her papa, Italo. We're invited back after our giro...

In the piazza, Christmas music can be heard from speakers in the Universita Agraria office. How wonderful! Giuliola opens her door across the piazza and leans over the balcony with her daughter to see what's going on. We're on our way to Franca's, to find Ester and Andrea.

On the way back we are stopped at Livio and Gigliola's, and presented with a really terrific ornament. It's a big, beautiful round thing, flat on two sides; each side has a picture of one of us, taken the day we had the mini circus event for the children during our Festarolo year...Was that so long ago? How wonderful!

Back through the square it's time to find Salvatore's house, which is up many, many stairs behind the church. This time, his father Mauro is at the door with two glasses of prosecco for us. We take photos of Erica and Salvatore, and Mauro takes one for us as well.

Everyone seems to know we are coming, and after five years, we can't imagine not carrying on the tradition. It's sad to think that before 2003, there was no Babbo Natale in Mugnano. Times have changed, we're happy to say.

We next stop at Giulia's house and, as usual her cousin Federico is also there. As you can see some of the houses were a bit warm compared to the outside temperature. That accounts for Babbo's fogged glasses!


Valerio and Elena's house is always a fun stop. Tonight, Elena does not greet us, but leans back behind the door and comes out with red antlers for each of the three boys. I take that as a cue, and raise my hands in what I think is reindeer fashion, and hop around the table, followed by the three boys. We take the photo, then are out the door with a big wave.

Jacapo is next, and his mother, Tiziana, also has her photo taken with Babbo.

We've given Pam and Ken their goodies at Michelle's, so finish our mission across from the Duomo, where Anna Cozzi's twin grand daughters are found.

Well, once Babbo arrives one starts to scream and the other just stares at her sister. So it's not a very good Babbo photo. But as we're out the door they've calmed down. So we're assured that next year they'll be ready and waiting.

Thinking that everyone will be at Pepe's, we walk over there, but no one is at home. They're at Giuseppa's (Antonio's mother), but it doesn't dawn on us, so we drive down to Vincenza's and stop for a drink, where they're just sitting down to a baccala primi (fish first course). Thanks, but we're on our way home after a little glass of wine. But before we get in the sled (car), we run into Mario and his mother-in-law Augusta.


Babbo changes clothes and checks out the photos, we give Sofi a big hug, and then return to the piazza for mass in the little church.

The priest is one we've seen before. We later hear that he's from Argentina. He's a very uplifting kind of priest, bobbing his head up and down to make sure we agree and I'm thinking he reminds me of one of those dolls on the dashboard of a car, moving up and down while the car moves along. Tonight it's a command performance, and he enjoys every minute of it, even though his homily is quite...long.

We're sitting in the back, for we arrived late, but little Valerio can't wait to skip across the back of the church to Dino and ask him if he's Babbo. Dino feigns innocence, but we're realizing he is Mugnano's Babbo, even if he's not the only one.; so later when the photos are distributed, the children can be smug about it all. Nevertheless, everyone loves it, especially Babbo.

The big finish is with the three altar servers: Salvatore, Giulia and Federico, encouraged to yell into the microphone, "Buon Natale! " December 25


We don't attend mass, for last night's mass was enough, thank you very much. Instead we eat a late brunch of baked French toast. Last night I soaked slices of thick bread in a mixture of egg and milk and cinnamon and placed the tray in the refrigerator.

This morning, I take out another pan, rub butter on the bottom so the pieces won't stick, then put the soaked slices in the pan and bake it while Dino cooks bacon in the loggia. With mimosas, followed by cappuccinos and French toast, we're ready for a relaxing afternoon.

It's so warm outside that I take an easel onto the terrace and paint. Dino wants to tape the edges of the canvases for the mostra, so we finish six or so and then take a walk up to the borgo to distribute photos.

We stop at Vincenza's for a visit, including our first meeting with two-month-young Lorenzo, son of Leda and Alessandro. Pepe is there, and we now learn that last night he and Candida were at Giuseppa's. I have no idea why we did not stop at her house, just to say hello as we have in other years. But today is another day.

Sofi has been with us all the while and behaves beautifully. We get into the car and stop at Michelle's to give them their photos and have a drink. Then it's time to go home.

With the change of schedule, we forgot to feed Sofi! I can't figure out what's wrong with her until I realize she's been whining because she is hungry. I have never forgotten to feed her before, and she's been so good that I give her a big bowl of roast chicken. So sorry, dear little one!

We fix sausages and grapes, a delicious and somewhat easy thing to prepare; that is, if one has seedless grapes. We do not, but that's not a big deal. I also fix a grapefruit and avocado salad. Tomorrow we'll have osso bucco.

I paint some more, Dino does some work on the computer, then it's time to watch a little TV and go to bed. It's been a wonderful day, especially with the many telephone calls to friends and relatives. Tomorrow is another holiday, Santo Stefano, so we'll do some more visiting and painting and who knows what else?

December 26
The day passes in a flash. More osso buco to cook, this time a double batch with some superb meat from a butcher Dino likes a lot. The taste is great, too, served with couscous this time, and it's a very good blend of tastes together.

We work on many of the frames, and when we're through we've most of them done for the mostra. There should be about thirty pieces in all. I suppose that's not bad for fifteen months work.

We take Rosita and Enzo's framed "Golden Chicken" and also a painting that Tiziano expressed interest in. He's such a good friend and has been so helpful that it's the least we can do.

At their house over tea, we talk about the road in front of their house, which has finally been repaired. Will it be paved? Probably not, but it's a good stradabianca (white road)...for now.

We drive up to the borgo, for a visit with Antonio and Paola, and meet a woman whose birthday is June 9, the same as our nipotini, and she's a twin, too! She's about twenty years older, but how interesting. Dino tells me he met someone in the last days whose birthday was the same as the girls as well. The astrological symbol for that date is the gemelli, or twins, so come no?

We borrow the zucche painting, and it will be hung along other work that has been sold or given as presents, at the mostra on Sunday. But I think we'll take the private paintings down after that first date and return them to their owners. Everyone we see at Paola and Antonio's knows about Sunday's happening, and I'm looking forward to seeing many friends.

Back at home, I work on the two women and then set it aside to paint a new rooster. Dino thinks the mostra should be called "Non Solo Galli" (not only roosters). Many restaurants and bars and shops in Italy are named "Not only....". It's not very creative, but Dino will have fun with it.

Sofi was given a cooked osso buco bone, taken from our pranzo, complete with marrow. I took it outside, and for an hour or so she guarded it so fiercely that we could not even walk by her. When Dino got her attention after a while, he took what was left of the bone away. Now I remember that Sofi is like any dog with a bone...don't get near it. That is why we don't give her bones. We like her happy, but a domesticated happy. She still has old osso buco bones from a year or more that she chews on, and those seem to be her favorite anyway.

After a sunny afternoon the weather turned cold, and when we were out it dropped to about three degrees, Centigrade. So overnight it will probably dip below freezing. I look forward to a sunny day tomorrow, and a day of painting. Dino will be in Tenaglie, hopefully putting finishing touches on the cantina kitchen. This restoration project just will not go away...

December 27
Today is the anniversary of my father's birth. He'd be 102 if he had lived. What changes he has watched from on high in these past eighteen years...

Did I tell you that I finally reached the woman in the consulate in Rome who arranges the social security applications for U S citizens living in Italy? She tells me that I'm a few weeks too early, for the first payment does not arrive until the month after a person turns the proper age. So I'll try again in mid January.

In the meantime, our documents from the U S government affirming that we have no criminal records, arrive, and we're one step closer to having all the documents we need to apply for Italian citizenship. One thing at a time...We can't apply for that until May.

I spend a good part of the day painting and making exhibition-type frames with Dino for the pieces for the mostra beginning on Sunday.

In the afternoon we drive to Tenaglie, but no one has been on-site. The kitchen folks won't be able to work until next week, and that's about what we expected. In it's upside-down state, the cantina still looks marvelous.

We're invited to put up the exhibition as early as tonight, but we're not ready. So we drop off most of the pieces and will return on Saturday with the rest of them. We take an exhibit poster to our friends at NonnaPappa, for Fidelia, the owner, has come to the shop and asked for one. She tells me that her mother has a new basotto nano named Alberto. He is four months old. So we'll have Sofi meet him soon.

At home we hear of the terrible news in Pakistan. The Bhutto family seems star-struck like the Kennedys...Benazir Bhutto's father was executed in the 70's. It all does not seem fair. Now we wonder if people in the U S find this a subject to talk about. When living in Europe, we think people here have a more well-rounded world-view. I don't know if that's true. It just seems that way to us here.

We're interested in the story about the San Francisco Zoo, and I'm wondering if locals think it's time to do away with the Zoo and send the animals packing to San Diego. I'm really wondering if animals have some of the same thinking patterns as humans, until we drive on the back road to Tenaglie and go by a herd of sheep lining up at a kind of tented makeshift building in the middle of a field.

"Are they being shorn?" Dino asks...and then we look at each other. Could they be lining up to be slaughtered? We don't think so, for there is no truck nearby. But this seems like a strange time of year for sheep to be shorn. What do you think? I'm sure at least Don Salter will want to clue us in..

And on that somber note, we turn in...

December 28
We were hoping the exhibit announcement will be in this weekend's paper, and are told to pick one up today. Dino brings one home and there is a good-sized article about the mostra and about me, living in little Mugnano. It will be interesting to see if people come after reading the announcement. It will be interesting if anyone comes at all...

I have no idea where the morning goes, but after a short pranzo, Dino takes me to Marco with the last painting for the mostra. The more I work on it the better it gets, but it needs a lot more work. So perhaps it will be in the mostra only on Sunday, and I'll return it to Marco's to finish it. It depends on how tired I am tomorrow.

I have an appointment with Nick in Amelia for my hair, and Dino wants me to meet him in Orte when I'm through to mount the exhibition. It's all becoming pretty overwhelming. I don't know what to think, other than I am thankful to Dino for all his help and support and thankful to Nanda who owns the shop and has invited me to show my work for at least a month, and possibly even longer. I'll let you know how it goes.

But for tonight, I'm really tired. So I turn in early, as the hours count down...

December 29
This morning Sofi and I drive to Amelia to Nick's to get my hair done, and she waits patiently for me in the car. While we're away, Dino has an adventure of his own with Pandina, who has a problem with her starter.

After turning the car around on Via Mameli by pushing it (!), he starts it on the hill by compression and somehow gets it to Giorgio, the mechanic, in nearby Attigliano. Giorgio needs a part to fix it and Dino knows that Mauro's company in Orte might have it.

Giorgio calls and they have it, so Dino starts the car again with a push and picks up the part. By the time I'm through, he's on his way home from the mechanic and Pandina is back at full strength.

We finish the last of the osso buco for pranzo. We loved it, but enough is enough. Afterward, we drive to the showroom in Orte and mount the exhibition. I admit that once it's up, my nervousness seems to have dissipated. Nanda is a dream to work with, and she's out and about ordering food and buying wine for tomorrow.

Candace and Frank meet us at the showroom and after a tour we leave for NonnaPappa for cena, with Sofi in tow. Fidelia, the owner and chef, loves Sofi, and perhaps the next time we go there for a meal her mother's new basotto named Alberto will be there for her to get to know.

Candace and Frank leave tomorrow for the U S, so we bid them goodbye and settle in for a cold night. It's below freezing, and I'm looking forward to dreamland.

December 30
It's the day of the reception, and with my exhibition already mounted, there's nothing to do except attend mass and prepare pranzo, before leaving for Orte.

It's a very interesting afternoon, during which I learn more about myself as well as those who are close to me who have come to wish me well. Duccio and Giovanna, dear friends from Rome and Bomarzo, have even purchased one of my hens, an act that moves me greatly. Their genuine support of my work is appreciated more than I can possibly express.

There is one significant "no-show", from a woman I thought was a friend and whose lack of even a phone call speaks volumes about how she feels about me. No matter. I wish her well just the same.

I have a real fondness for Nanda, the woman who owns the showroom, and we look forward to getting to know her better. During the beginning of the show, Dino dashes her away for an hour to view a property in Bomarzo; one that we think she will really like.

They're back in time to see many friends and enjoy most of the afternoon. It's all good news, including the arrival of our good doctor from Viterbo, who chooses one of the golf paintings.

The painting he does not choose is a favorite of at least two women, so I'm learning which pieces create an emotional connection with the people here today. It's interesting that the paintings with which I feel an emotional attachment are also those that people want to learn more about.


I've wanted to find someone who speaks English to give me some lessons, and a couple who are moving to Orte arrive with friends and are accomplished artists. I'm looking forward to getting to know them. This next year will hopefully find my work progressing toward a more complex and realistic style, in concert with my love of the paintings of Dutch and Italian artists living in the Renaissance.

We rearrange the exposition after taking work that is sold or on private loan, and drive home after discussing the idea of private dinners in the showroom when Nanda returns. It's a wonderful way for people to spend time amid the furniture and accessories and art in a relaxed atmosphere, and I am assured that my work will remain there for at least three more months...if it is not all sold. Either way, we are genuinely pleased.

We're so very proud of our little dog, who remained with us during the entire event and behaved beautifully. She is truly endearing to us as well as a number of others who joined us here today.

It's been a very good day.

December 31
I forgot to call Aunt Bea last night after we returned home, but will make sure I call her tonight before we leave for Pepe's house and our New Year's Eve celebration. Yesterday, both Paola and Vincenza made sure that we join them, so why not?

Since Pepe loves Sofi, and since she is so very afraid of fireworks, we'll bring her with us tonight. Her behavior yesterday at the mostra proved that she is a delight to have around, even in the midst of a crowd of people.

While I sit here and write at around noon, she lays nearby but shows me that she is fearful of the firecrackers that go off all over the valley in anticipation of tonight's festivities. There must be something in the sound of them that elicits fear in most animals.

Yesterday I met an artist who has just moved to Orte, and she may be the link I am looking for; a teacher of fine art painting who speaks English. I will certainly continue with Marco, but hope to take some lessons from this woman as well to gain some artistic fundamentals. I am encouraged as we move forward to a new year and continue to follow my dear father's sage advice..."Learn EVERYTHING!"

I hold the thoughts of a dear friend's declining health in my heart, and although I am not a person who believes in wishes, I am hopeful that she will return to good health very, very soon. Last night I called her, and her strength of spirit moved me greatly. It is her gift to me of a reproduction of a sketch of two women dancing that resulted in my newest painting, The Dancing Lesson, and I hold thoughts of her in my heart as I put brush to canvas and continue to refine this, my latest work.



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