Wednesday, March 29, 2006

just one chapter after another....

Under the Mabergese Sun: A manual for all the non-Frances Mayeses who want la bella vita

This is the working title of the book that I have been forming in my head since moving to Italy. Ok, it’s not a book at all but I have been collecting chapter titles for the past 4 years. Every time something, um, interesting happens I think, “oh, now there’s a chapter title”. I’m not writing a book but if I did it would definitely be a how-to manual (Or, do I dare say, a DO-IT-YOURSELF!).

I’d like to share some of these chapters now:

Chapter One: "How to come from downtown Denver, Colorado and find Maberga…and become it’s only residents"

Chapter Two: "What you are supposed to do when the notary/lawyer “needs to make a photocopy” and leaves the room during the closing of your house purchase"

(This chapter has a subchapter titled: "Don’t be afraid when going into the bank with the briefcase, just make sure the teller knows it’s closing day")

Chapter Three: "How to read at night and keep the beer cold when the neighbor (and former owner of your new home) gets pissed off and rips out all your electricity"

Chapter Four: "What to say when you are remodeling the kitchen and a neighbor offers you a sink from their front yard "

Chapter Five: "Your real role at a pig slaughter" (this has two sections – male and female)

Chapter Six: "What to do when your husband is trimming the olive trees and cuts his heads with the chainsaw"

Chapter Seven: "What to do at a pig castration" (not a repeat of chapter six...ha ha ha, just kidding, honey!)

Then there would be a whole section of the book dedicated to entertaining….

Chapter Eight: "Menu planning when having the Calabrians for dinner - what NOT to serve"

Chapter Nine: "What to do when you have a houseful of teenage boys and the toilet doesn’t flush"

Chapter Ten: "What to do when you have a houseful of teenage girls and the shower doesn’t work"

Chapter Eleven: "What to do when you have house guests from California and no heat"

Then, of course there would be the general life section…

Chapter Twelve: "You, your 500 year old stone house in Italy and no hot water" (that one has a winter and summer version)

Chapter Thirteen: "You, your 500 year old stone house in Italy and no water" (again, winter and summer advice)

Two days ago came Chapter Fourteen:
"Duct tape -- a how-to when the tubes break that carry the flushed toilet water/discharge away from the house"

After this latest chapter I’m considering a new book title – Knee Deep.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Yesterday Franco brought over these from his chickens:

Isn’t that nice? Bird flu, smerd shoo…I promptly fried up a couple of ‘em and had me some lunch. Not really being an egg connoisseur, ie: I don’t really claim to recognize the taste difference between a just hatched and a store bought ( I can, however tell by sight – one has chicken residue all over the shell and the other is clean with a date stamp on it … far as I know, Franco doesn’t own a stamp) . All I can say is that that lunch was damn fine.

Also, my English student Tiziana’s husband works at the Commune of Taggia (he had nothing to do with my deportation scare). He helps to organize the city festivals (I’m sure he does a lot more, I just don’t know what it is). Anyway, he asked me the other day if I want to participate in the Easter artisan market. Sure, why not?! So now I am frantically trying to pump out some stuff to fill a table.

The equation for this production looks like this:

(Lynn’s brain)[(Franco eggs) + (Easter artisan market)] = EGG COZIES!.

For those of you mathy people reading, the ! at the end of the equation was not meant to be a factorial, it was a literary exclamation of excitement. Sorry. I’m interdisciplinary.

I would really like to take credit for the design of these ingenious little items but I can not. They come from “Weekend Knitting” by Melanie Falick. I love this book. I think I have knit just about everything from it.

So, I think these will sell like hot omelets:

In case you don't understand what an egg cozy is, I'll explain. When you ( "you" if you are english because it's only the english, that I know of, who eat these - or else it would be "when one") make a soft boiled egg for breakfast, you place one of these fun sweaters on top and the egg stays warm until consumed.

Ok, they probably won't make me rich but they will gather attention to my table and maybe people will look at my sweaters.

Besides, there is always the Christmas market when the egg cozies magically transform (with a little help from my egg cozy hangers) into TREE ORNAMENTS!

Small talk

As a foreigner, small talk with a new (to me) Italian usually goes like this:

Italian: “Da quanto tempo sei qui?” (How long have you been here?)

Lynn: my response depends on how well I think I’d been speaking Italian up to that point. The answer could range anywhere from “da poco” (just for a while) to the truth “sono qua da 4 anni” (4 years). My answer varies because the conversation always then goes here:

Italian: “Ahhh Complimenti. Parli bene l’ilatiano.” (Oh, wow, you speak Italian well)

Lynn: “Grazie. Sto imparando.” (thanks, I’m learning)

They then say is some form of, usually excellent, English
Italian: “I don’t speak English well at all. Or American**, either.” (either is pronounced ITHER).

And then comes The (pronounce “theee”) Question…

Italian: “So, what do you miss from the US?”

I get this question all the time and every time it stymies me. I mean, yeah, yeah, there are the obvious ones: family, friends, the NY Times Sunday edition (mostly just the crossword), the Dairy Queen. It’s not that I left the US out of some kind of social protest (although there might be some traces of that), I happen to like a lot of things American. It’s just that in my daily life, apart from the 4 obvious ones, I don’t generally feel any kind of big lack or longing.

Then today, as I was leaving the grocery store parking lot, quite randomly my car filled with the sweet voice of Garrison Keillor delivering “A Prairie Home Companion” on fm85.9 –“ the Rock of the Riviera”. I pulled the car over as a sea of longing / joy came ebbing / flowing. How lucky can one gal be…sitting in her car on a coastal road on the Italian Riviera (who cares about dangling lights off the back) looking out over the Mediterranean sea listening to Garrison Keillor talk about all things important from another beautiful part of the world that said gal happens to know rather intimately also.

I would say that I am prepared for the next cocktail party but I think that even the best travelled Italian would have a hard time understanding if I said, “I miss Lake Wobegon”. Shit, most Californians don’t get it. I think I’d have more luck trying to explain a snickers blizzard.

Just in case you were wondering…the normal-to-Americans, and much easier question to answer in small talk, “so, what do you do?” doesn’t usually come up. It’s considered a little rude here. If you think about it…really it’s nobody’s damn business what you do to make money.

“I’m in the Olive Oil business.” I was prepared for that one but never get asked.

**Contrary to what we Americans think, there are a lot of people who don’t realize that we speak English. And then there are all those who realize we think we speak English but they know we don’t actually.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

So, I didn't get deported. That's nice.

The other day I got one of those letters that you dread as an expat: “Report to city hall within 10 days upon receiving this letter. Due to law ABC123 we will be canceling your residency.” Ok, the letter was a page long and very much in legalize, which I don’t understand (don’t bother with is probably more accurate) in English so Italian, forget about it.

Collecting courage, appropriate documents and my European Union citizen husband, I headed to the city hall. David and I, on the way (me driving because my EU citizen husband can’t drive here, but his non-EU wife can) tried to get our stories together, what we would say, what our situation is, etc. Ok, I have to pause here to say that we didn’t even know what law ABC123 was so we started imagining the worst…which would be that I get kicked out of the country.

We waited in line in the incredibly new complex of a building, the Municipio of Taggia. We were received by a VERY friendly young lady who immediately excused herself for not knowing anything about this type of thing because her colleague, who is on vacation handles them. She asked around the office and found out that I have an identity problem (no shit, anyone who knows me could have told them that – I didn’t know, however, that meant I couldn’t be a resident of Taggia). She asked for all these: .

Those would be my crucial documents - Residensa (residency), permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay), codice fiscale (social security code type thing), passporto (um, that would translate to passport). She promptly pointed out that within these four documents I have three different last names.

It seems that our very forward, post-modern, feminist American society’s habit of having the wife become someone new when marrying(yes, it was my choice) is totally dumbfounding to this male dominated, old European country. (there was irony in that last sentence, in case you missed it). You see, my legal US name is - first name: Lynn, middle names: Anne Serpe, last name: Cornwell. But in Italy, the family you’re born to is yours…no getting around it, so, legally here I am Serpe. So some people here sign me up as a Serpe, some sign me up as a Serpe Cornwell, NO ONE signs me up as only a Cornwell (…you’d think they knew me or something) but Cornwell only is what is on my passport.

So David had to fill out a form that said we live here, I had to fill out a form saying that I want all these documents to match, and all of us got in the car and went home.

On a knitterly note…

Here’s what I’ve been working on… .

David says that the front of it is “crazy beautiful”. As I spent two hours today tying up all those little ends (and the thing is only a quarter done) I was thinking it was, perhaps, just crazy.

And here’s a picture of those socks that I told you about several blogs ago:

The blue one is still waiting for it’s partner. That other really cute one is already paired up and happily honeymooning in the completed work sack. I have counseled them not to change their names.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hey, guess what David brought me home from's a picture:

I'll give you a clue, it wasn't lemons or a new pipe.

Yep, it's yarn! Check that stuff out... hand spun, hand dyed (from natural things like mushrooms and stuff!). Look at those colors!

Another little game... can you guess what I'm knitting with it? Free subscription to OliveKnitting blog for the correct answers.

By the way, the lemons came from very dear neighbors, Oreste and his sister Alba. Oreste was the last person born in Maberga (Maberga is actually a little hamlet at the end of our road that was destroyed by a fire about 40 years ago and never rebuilt-I'll blog some photos some time). Oreste and Alba have, in the past year been trying to save their parents' land and make a great vegetable garden. They knew that David was out of town so they dropped off the lemons so I could make limoncello for him for when he returns. How nice is that?! Obviously I haven't made the limoncello yet but have every intension! (Limoncello, for those who don't know, is a sweet lemon liqueur). The pipes are David's, no?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

just some updates...but not many...Thank God

David comes home tomorrow. Thank God. I've missed him AND the dog is getting on my nerves. And the cats are, too. Seems that all I've done since he's left is feed animals. The other day there were three cats and a dog sleeping in my kitchen/living room...I thought to myself "whoa, thank god for David or I would be one of those women". You know the type...way more animal contact than human, little personal hygeine, and a lot of pom poms everywhere.

My title promised some updates. I don't have any. Nothing has happened since the libretto...thank God, again. My sister wrote the other day and asked if anything new in my house has broken. Grazie a Dio, no. Well, I can't seem to turn the pellet stove off but, while it's cold outside and I want it on more than I want it off, that doesn't seem to me as something broken. Ask me again in June when it is 90 degrees and I might have a different answer.

I've been into socks in the past couple of days...I have some really nice pictures of the socks I've made but for some reason blogger won't let me post them. I know it will kill you, this anticipation, but you'll just have to wait.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cops, Cars, ...Touchdown!

So David was pulled over by the cops a couple of weeks ago. Here in Italy they can pull you over even if you didn’t do anything wrong…just to check everything and see if they can FIND something wrong. I guess that’s not too different than in the US. So, he got pulled over and they got a cool hat trick of things wrong.

1. We never stuck the stickers in the “libretto” (the title) which would verify that, in fact we are the owners. Let me explain. See this: (imagine a photo here of a green piece of over sized paper folded in eighths with typing all over it – I forgot to take a photo of it and it’s now in the car, and it’s cold and dark outside and the car is parked a long way away) That’s the libretto. That goes everywhere with the car. It IS the car. Every time the car changes hands, a new sticker is added. Every time the car moves (with its the owners) to a new town, another sticker. (David and I quadrupled the stickers for our little Fiat – well, we would have had we actually stuck them in the libretto.) And if you don’t have the libretto, you can’t drive the car – so we learned.

2. The “revisione” expired, ummm, a while ago. The revisione is kind of like an emissions test that must be redone every two years but (as I found out today) MUCH more extensive. We knew that we needed to get this taken care of…I mean, it’s hard not to realize it when, ever time you get in the car there is a big sticker in the corner of the windshield that says 2003 . The Italian car involves a lot of stickers.

3. “patente?” Yeah, strike three (I know, I’m mixing sports metaphors – who cares). David handed the nice policeman an international driver’s license and a US license. “And your Italian license?” Apparently, contrary to what we had heard, if the libretto of the car you are driving is in your name you must have an Italian license. It’s an obscure law, that none of the other cops who have pulled David over in the past four years were aware of, but this cop earned his three-pointer.

The result? After an hour and a half by the side of the road they fined him for violation numbers 2 and 3, took his US license for violation number 3 and took the LIBRETTO for violation number 2. They decided to overlook violation number 1 – what did it matter anyway what stickers were in the libretto if they TAKE it?! The nice cops followed David to a cash machine where he paid the fines (if you don’t pay cash they impound the car…they don’t take VISA), they gave him his instructions and sent him on his way.

So there we were, David without a driver’s license, can’t drive. I can drive because the car is not in my name but without the libretto, no one can drive our car. Enter friends extraordinaire, Mercedes and Flavio who lent us their car “for as long as you need it”.

A long introduction to my experience today. Today was the appointment for the car to be revisioned. Thinking it might lead the inspector person to think we really take care of our automobile and it therefore should pass, I vacuumed the car. I believe that was the first time that has happened, well, maybe since the last revisione. Gosh am I glad I did that.

I should have realized this was no normal check when I got to the place this morning and every other car in line was totally polished and shiny and no one had, for example something like this: dangling from the back. The first question, when the guys saw the car, “Did you GO to a mechanic before this appointment?!” It was a bit rhetorical, the question, as it was obvious that I hadn’t. That would have been a good idea. I wish I had thought of it. Anyway, these two guys checked out every detail possible on the car, every function the car has, got a try, everything! This was all before they even checked the emissions (I was emitting a little myself at this point).

After about an hour they gave me the libretto back in which they had stuck all the appropriate stickers (a small miracle that we still had them!) and had written all the things that the mechanic needs to fix within the next month (that he would have fixed had I gone to him BEFORE the appointment). The list includes: 1) The readjustment of these

so they actually point the washing fluid at the windshield when they squirt, 2) tightening of a rather loosely installed battery, 3) something about a break light that I didn’t understand - it seemed to work just fine to me, 4) the slowing down of our right blinker which is a bit too enthusiastic when called upon to single an upcoming turn (I always kind of found it endearing but the guys with my libretto didn’t), and, 5)of course, that dangling thing.

Bottom line…I got the libretto back and can drive our beautiful car again. GOOOOOAAAAAAL!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sometimes a girl just wants a new bag

Yesterday I went to visit our friend Flavio in the hospital. Poor guy - took the day off of work on Friday and ended up breaking his ankle in three places when his vespa fell on him. I’m sure that employers everywhere would say that there is a lesson in that. I say, yeah, there is a lesson! Italian healthy care won’t LET him go back to work for 3 months! In fact, they even have “health police” who come around to your house to make sure you are really at home. At the hospital Flavio, his girlfriend Mercedes, and I were talking about the differences between health care in the US and the Italian system. I was all set this morning to write an in-depth, intellectual, compare and contrast essay about the two systems but sometimes a girl just wants a new bag.

So I made this:

And I’m so pleased with myself that this is what I’m writing about instead.

Look! Here’s the back:

Here it is in action:

Doesn’t it hold that ball of yarn nicely? I think so, too.

In case any of you are really curious about the health care comparisons, I didn’t really have that much to say anyway. Basically in Italy they take much better care of you and your health actually seems to come before the bottom line (your employer’s or the HMO’s) but being in the hospital gives the impression of something out of WWII.

Well, that’s about it. I’m off to work on that pair of socks that is so nicely contained in my new bag.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Can you see it?

Look closer. Wait, I'll show you the same picture in the dark...

See those red lights glowing on the wall switch and on the water heater? That means that it's on. The water is warming up as I type. Isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? I'm just about in tears myself.

My hero, David, arranged for this beautiful moment. He called Mimmo, the plumber (and all around great guy), who works with his swedish wife, Madelaine (and all around hysterical - in the greatly funny way- woman). Upon hearing of our emergency they came promptly to attach the very wires it was that gave me a terrible shock. Unfortunately for them they had to do it by candle light since it was already dark outside and, well, I had that incident that lead to the overhead lights going out. Anyway, they would have done so in the dark anyway since they, as a practise, turn the electricity off before touching wires (they are so professional!).

So, I am happy to report, I will smell much better tomorrow.

Happy Woman's Day

Well, Day of the Woman was really yesterday but I didn't get to blogging yesterday. I was too busy being treated like the incredible, smart, strong, beautiful queen of a woman that I am. Coffee in bed, all dished done for me, the kitchen floor was washed - all this to demonstrate to me how appreciated I am.

Actually it went more like this...

wake up, normal day, normal day, go to first lesson of the day and student says, "did you get some flowers for woman's day?", I said, "no", normal day normal day, I go home, "David, today is woman's day." "Happy woman's day, honey. Do you want some flowers?"

The kitchen floor is still dirty but you don't notice because all you see when entering the house are these

Day of the woman here in Italy is quite celebrated. These beautiful yellow flowers are THE gift for the women in your life and you can't find a woman walking around town without a bunch of them in their hands. They are called mimmosa. Maybe you can't tell from my very small picture but they are very Suessian in that they are a collection of yellow puff pom poms (there seems to be a pom pom theme developing here on my blog ... for those of you who are questioning this new found fondness of mine for pom poms, I can only explain it as it relates in my mind to Dr. Suesse...not cheerleaders). Luckily for David, we have almost as many mimmosa trees growing around our house as we do olive trees.

Unrelated to any of these, but yesterday I actually finished (except for the cool "olive" designer label) the Colorbomb.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

From Olive's Kitchen...

Recipe for Bits-n-Bobs Colorbomb Sweater


1 extra large sack - yarn bits-n-bobs
16 days - knit two, purl two ribbing
11 days - home alone on the side of a mountain
1 fresh puppy (no older than 5 months)
1 March 10th designer submission deadline (optional)

Pre-heat house to 70 degrees. I find that pellets work the best but if you must, you can use central heat.

Begin with the ribbing -- knit 2, purl 2 thoroughly for 16 days. Make sure to not cut corners on the length of time of this step and do not add any imagination or creativity at this point. This is very important for the Colorbomb creative yeasts to have sufficient time to rise during this monotony. Put ribbing in a closet (or a sack under the bed if your house has no closets). Set creative starter aside.

In a large basket, dump contents of extra large sack of bits-n-bobs. Slowly add 11 days of being alone on the mountainside along with the starter. Once creative juices begin to flow, add the puppy. The result here, you will find, will be a minimum of 18 walks a day. Again, very helpful for the creative juices to have time to stew while you enjoy these 18 breaks per day in the natural world.

Finally, add the submission deadline. This is optional based on the chef’s preference. I like to add it or the Colorbomb will end up under the bed at some state of incompleteness.

Weave in all ends and wear.

Thursday, March 02, 2006



I’ve been cursing that phrase for the past several days. How long ago was it when I last blogged about the water heater switch? Well, what I failed to mention that day was, when all was said and done – zero hot water, one unwanted shock permanent, four hours of precious knitting time lost, and one deflated confidence - I also lost the functioning of the overhead light.

So, for the past several days as I get up to pee in the middle of the night and wander into a dark bathroom, I curse loudly the man (and I’m SURE it was a man) who invented that hyphenated, hip phrase “do-it-yourself”. Yeah, I did-it-myself alright. Why wait for the overhead light switch to brake down on its own when you can DO-IT-YOURSELF?!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I have a hard time throwing things away.

I have a hard time throwing things away. I mean, you just never know when you are going to need, for example, one (or 20) of these:

Whenever that time comes, I’m prepared. (Yes, I actually take the time to wash them and store them).

Here is my collection of jars.

It should be a much larger collection but David strongly “requested” that I let some go last autumn.

Here are the lids…
I’m not exactly sure why I don’t keep them together with their jar. I think I just like to see a lot of one thing all together.

In the past couple of days I’ve been very busy making these:

Those are my new designer labels (Yes, that would be more “Olive” designer labels than I have completed designs. Oh well, I’m optimistic).

They look like this on a completed item:

Cute, no?

AND, when you make so many little things like that in wild colors, you get a lot of these:

True to form, I let my pile of little scraps of yarn build up as I made more and more labels until it hit me.

POM POMS!!!!!!

Mette, dear friend and knitting mentor of mine, I told ya I’d find a use for these!:

I'm delirious with pom pom possibilities.

I’m not sure but I might be spending too much time alone.