Saturday, October 31, 2009


If you've never been to Venice, put it on your list of things to do. The "must do" list.

I've been there a number of times now and it just doesn't lose its magic. Yes, there are hoards of tourists. Yes, there are trinket shops one after another, piled on top of each other selling all variety of useless clutter. Yes, it is outrageously overpriced. Yes, you get lost the minute you step off the boat. And yes, it's all completely and totally worth the price of admission. The city is magic - pure magic.

So I guess I'm saying that we had a magical few days.

The main purpose of the trip was to buy beads for Maberga Designs. "Work". It just makes me giggle in a guilty pleasure kind of way that "work" is wandering the alleyways of Venice and Murano, meeting artisans who create amazing, little, colorful glass pieces of art and I have to buy them. Crazy.

The train ride from Maberga to Venice is about 7 hours. Train travel is the best. I read. I slept. I knit a sock that was big enough for an elephant so I unraveled it and knit a fingerless mitt. I ate a ham sandwich at 5.30 in the morning. By noon we were getting on a traghetto (water bus) to the island of Murano.

Murano is one of the little islands off the main island of Venice. It's the home of the glass industry that Venice is famous for.

Murano is like a mini Venice with way less tourism. Everyone there is involved in the production or sales of glass art.

Meet Alessandro.

He is my main bead artist. We spent a lot of time with Alessandro. I had a lot of work to do with him.

Here's Alessandro at work.

I wonder if he giggles that he gets to play with these beautiful glass tubes

and fire, making little, colorful pieces of art.

Other postcards from the holiday, um, I mean business trip...

a birthday picnic on a Murano curb

gathering inspiration and sketches in a Murano church

And when the work was done, off to the big island.

San Marco Square...

15 euro glasses of wine and some dancing in the Square...

the gondolas

A little note -- you don't have to pay the price of a gondola ride to experience Venice. We rode the traghetto all the way around the Grand Canal after dinner...awesome and way less expensive. Venice at night is awesome.

It's pretty awesome in the morning, too.

And it's way more awesome without two lively dogs.

PS. All the photos are compliments of my bead buyer guide and in house photographer (aka: David). Aren't they great? I have more if anyone is interested.

PSS. If anyone wants to see the beads I got...stay tuned here, or on my website ( or my etsy shop ( If you're in the southern Wisconsin area, you can find the finished Maberga Designs products at a great store in Lake Geneva called Abbellimento.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We're off to Venice!!! Murano to be specific. Bead buying and birthday celebrating (yes, I am still taking about and celebrating my birthday...celebrations that, yes, began 3 months ago with pal Mette and das Needle girls).

I'm thinking that it will be a more relaxing trip than the last one we went on.

a dopo!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

an old roommate, a new sweater

Guess what?

Yep. David's home. Home for the winter season. Home with a station wagon full of stuff from his apartment in Tuscany.

Maybe that would explain why I've been knitting like a mad woman on this sweater.

Did you miss that segue? Don't really see the connection between David (and his stuff) being home and my manic need to knit?

That's ok. Your confusion is understandable. Let me explain.

Here are our closets (armadio).

That's it. In the whole house. Three closets in the whole place. We did have a forth, this one

I know, I know...white trash, just leave that old furniture any where in the yard...anyway...

We had that forth one but I really didn't like it. It was cheaply made, rather ugly and when we rearranged my studio I decided it had to go. It had been David's closet.

D: "So where am I supposed to put my stuff if we trash (white trash) this armadio?"

L: "You can have my armadio. Look, it's bigger."

D: "And where are you going to put your stuff?"

L: "I'll use that little one."

In the middle of 95 degree June, when the only clothes that I had were a couple of sheet skirts, a linen dress and my bikini, it seemed like a really good solution.

Now, in the 50 degree days of late October, with anticipation of freezing to come, I'm questioning my decision. No, questioning is not the right word. That would imply that I might undo my decision. This is not possible. Remember that other armadio in the back yard? Yeah, it's not coming back in the house unless it's in pieces the size of our wood stove.

In the past few weeks before David came back, I stole a couple of shelves back from my old armadio, his new one. I needed some place to put my sweaters. There's no room for Swish Bulky, roll neck wooly goodies in my own space.

Perhaps by now in the reading of this post you've forgotten about the connection between David being home and my knitting a sweater. Perhaps now you're wondering why I'm prattling on about closet space. Yeah, that's a reasonable ponder.

I've decided that, given my lack of sweater storage space, I would have to select just a couple of sweaters to wear all winter. Now, let me tell you, this would be a difficult task for anyone. Well, maybe not my brother-in-law Paul whose wardrobe includes 5 sweaters that are exactly the same. For him it would probably be easy to pick two. But he's probably in the minority of the sweater colling ability group. For a knitter...this task is near impossible. Like asking a mother to pick just two of her kids to live with her in the house, the rest being packed in boxes and sent to the shed...ok, bad analogy but you get the point.

SO I've decided to knit a reversible sweater. With one sweater I will get 4! Isn't this ingenious?! If the idea in my head shows itself in reality, this dream creation with be able to be worn forwards, backwards, rightsideup, AND upside down. Wait! That's not just 4 sweaters! that's, um, like, yeah, ok, that's 4 sweaters. Sorry I got a little confusioned with the variations there in my mind.

4 sweaters that only take closet room of 1. I'm a genius.

note: I am of course taking full credit for this idea because I am of course knitting the thing from my head. Truth be told, the idea actually came from these geniuses here, in the book Reversible Knitting.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hey there, sorry I didn't write yesterday.

I WAS HAVING A BATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yep. All day. The whole day I was enjoying and taking advantage of the fact that I had troubles with the electric company and I RESOLVED THEM! No small thing.

If you've ever lived...well...any where in which electricity is something that you take for granted coming out of the wall and that that power is controlled by some big anonymous company somewhere...well, you don't know will understand my euphoria in having a hot bath.

Not writing earlier today...well, that's a different excuse. My parents arrived this afternoon. Yeah, I could have written in the morning but I was too busy doing the vacuuming that I couldn't do when I didn't have enough electricity and when I was in the bath (vacuuming in the bath is very dangerous, even if you have a very long extension hose- it's just not a good idea...even if it's not dangerous it certainly ruins a perfectly good bath!).

So, you can expect that I won't be writing for another couple of days since that's how long my folks with be here. But who knows...maybe we will do a joint post tomorrow night when they brave the road to Maberga to come for dinner.

Ps. Sorry for the video/music accompaniment of the was either this or Ernie singing "Rubber Ducky", which, if you prefer you can find here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bad Maberga Day Follow Up

note: if you are new to OliveKnitting or an avid reader who is behind in posts (shame on you), you'll need to read the previous post or this one won't make any sense to you. In fact, as it is, it makes little sense to me and I lived it.

Remember that "slight panic" I felt yesterday thinking that maybe something had gone wrong with my automatic bill pay that would have caused the electric company to turn off my electricity? Yeah, well...there you have it.

In Italy bills are paid every other month. It seems that I missed the july/august payment (or rather, the bank missed the july/august payment - but I'll get to that in a minute) which means that, given that it's October now, I haven't paid an electric bill since June. I must say here that Italy, although being disorganized at times, it is a humane enough place that they only lowered my power instead of cutting it off completely. They knocked my power down such that I can still turn a light on and keep my food cold, but not have the luxuries of hot water and clean clothes.

Let me tell you what was involved my discovering this bit of, rather crucial, information. It's a long story so grab a bottle of wine or a venti latte or something and get comfortable.

I started my detective work at the post office. We had received a notice of a registered letter that was waiting for us and I hadn't yet picked up (I'll take the blame when it's it is here). I waited for about 45 minutes in line at the post office only to find out that I can't get the letter because it was sent to David.

"But I'm his wife. We even have the same last name!"

"Yes. But this is a registered letter for him, I can't give it to you unless he's signed the back of this little card."

"But he's out of town. He won't be back for a couple of weeks. The letter is from the electric company and I don't have any electricity(I exaggerated for pity). I need to know what they want!"

"Yes. That's a problem. But I can't give you the letter with out the signature."

After saying this she winked at me. Did that mean I was supposed to go outside, forge his signature and then come back in? I think that's what she was telling me. Italians, in my experience, are disorganized, humane AND they know how to work the system.

So I went outside, contemplated the forgery but then thought, well, I have that option but let me see what else I can do first. Truth be told, I just didn't want to spend another hour in line - especially with the possibility that when I got to the front she'd call me a criminal, call the police, and I still wouldn't have the letter.

I went to the bank instead. There I saw my teller pal Mimmo. I asked for a print out of my account activity. No payments to the electric company in the recent past. So after a brief discussion in which Mimmo informed me that there's already been frostings in Chicago, I asked about the electric company.

"Hmmm. Nope. No payments to them since...ummmm, June."


"Hmmm. I don't know. Have you gotten any letters from them?"

I launched into the story of the registered letter and the post office.

"Yes, that's a problem."

"I have the money in the account. There wasn't a bill that was sent back was there?"

"No. But it could be because our bank was bought out by another bank."

"But that happened a year ago! You've still been paying my automatic pay bills."

"Maybe the grace period expired."


"Come back with the last bill and we will call them to find out." This was very kind of him, knowing that phone calls to the electric company are trying and confusing for anyone but a nightmare and impossible for a foreigner.

"Ok, I'll be back after lunch."

"Or tomorrow is fine."

Yeah, right. Whatever. I've got to do laundry and have a bath!

"I'll see you this afternoon. When do you reopen in the afternoon?"


2:35???????? Ok, fine. "See later."

I went home, collected any and every bill I could find. And I tried calling the electric company myself. They informed me that they lowered my electricity because I hadn't paid the last bill. I told them that I had automatic bill pay through my bank. They said that I didn't. I said that indeed I have had since 2003.

"No, you don't, ma'am."

Back at the bank at 2:35 I was with Mimmo again. He looked at my bills and called the electric company. He was put on hold for 20 minutes. That's not an exaggeration. I stood there waiting, while Mimmo waited and a queue grew behind me...a long queue. He finally got them and, indeed, they didn't like that the bank had changed name and therefore they had a new code for automatic bill pay and so the whole thing needed to be set up again.

Mimmo: "I can do this for you. But you should go to the post office and pay this old bill now. And then call the electric company to tell them you've paid so they turn your power up."

I signed 14 forms in triplicate and ran to the post office. They too have funny hours of operation and I didn't want to miss them.

Another wait of, only 20 minutes this time. Phew. Done. Solved.

I went home and called the electric company again to tell them that I paid, I had a receipt and they could resume my hot water/laundry power.

"We need to see the receipt."

"How? I can't fax it to you because I don't have a fax and the post office is closed."

"Go to a tabacchaio."

"A cigarette shop?"

"Yeah. Do it tonight."

Back down the hill to my smoke shop. We fax the receipt. And I find out that I can pay bills there too, I don't need to wait in those horrible lines at the post office. Great. Good to know. The smoke shop is my new favorite place in the world.

Given that it was now going on 7pm, I didn't expect the resumption of my electricity immediately. But I was comforted in knowing I'd done all that was needed. All would be better in the morning, or at least sometime today.

Ok, I wasn't really sure of this. So when I woke up I called the electric company again.

"you need to fax us the receipt."

"I did that yesterday."

"But you need to write the customer id on the receipt."


"Yes. But you still need to write the customer id on a piece of paper and fax that with the receipt." At least he didn't tell me that I had to write my fixed-line home phone number on the damn receipt.

"Ok. I'll do that now. And then when will my power come back?"

"By midnight the day after."

48 hours?! We're getting mighty close to me greeting my parents being dirty, in dirty clothes and in the dark on Friday.

I went back to the smoke shop.

"I needed to include my customer number with the fax we sent yesterday."

"But it's on you receipt." says my new best friend at the smoke shop.

Yeah! I KNOW! Hey, it's your country!

"Yes, but can we try again?" I say, more diplomatically.

So, now it's done. Solved. Again. Cross your fingers for midnight and the resumption of my power (electrically, that would be - I'm feeling rather empowered personally my this a strangely, out-of-control kind of way), it can't hurt given the randomness of everything else involved in this situation.

PS. Having told this whole story with the backdrop of Italy, I feel the need to mention here that in the past week I've also been dealing with bank disorganization with my bank in the US. The point, my friends: cash under the mattress.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm having a "Bad Maberga" day.

And I've only been out of bed for 10 minutes.

A bad Maberga day is one in such nothing in the house seems to work. It is one in which I am painfully aware that I live on the top of a mountain, in a not-so organized foreign country, in a 400 year old house. It's such a day where, due to everything breaking, it's seems that my house and therefore my life is being held together by some bubble gum and and string. A bad Maberga day is when I wish I lived in a 3 year old condo in the 'burbs with a big thick Yellow Pages in the drawer where I can find someone to provide 24 hour service for ANYthing but which I wouldn't need because nothing breaks in my brand new dwelling.

Yesterday afternoon the power went out. An incredible wind had just kicked up so I thought it was because of that. Sometimes a strong wind can detach the bubble gum holding wires in place. I tried calling the electric company only to 1. get cut off after the extensive digital recorded menu, 2. get no one to answer after the extensive digital recorded menu, 3. get frustrated by the extensive digital menu. Why would the electric company's first recorded question of inquiry be "what is the fixed phone line of the house missing electricity?" I don't HAVE a fixed phone line...nor do many Italians these days. I do, however have a CUSTOMER ID which THEY ISSUED to me. Wouldn't you think that would be a more sensible and efficient place to start the inquiry? Yeah, well, back to the story...

After a slight panic, wondering if they had actually cut off my electricity because of some lack of sensibility and efficiency involved with my automatic bill payment from the bank, I decided to check the trip switch. I have that new fancy one in the kitchen, remember? It was installed when I got light switches in the house last year. So I move the fridge, climbed behind it to flip the braker...nothing. I panic a bit more and then remember the electric box outside the house.

There you go! Electricity, lights, action! I don't know why the kitchen box didn't register the jump in current and the garden one did. Frankly I didn't care because it meant that electricity was indeed coming to my house and I wouldn't have to spend the rest of eternity trying to convince the electric company that I don't have a fixed phone line but still do need help with my electricity.

Prior to losing the electricity I had put the bathroom rug in the washing machine. It's an old rug, still lovely and functional but old. In the spin cycles her rubber backing began disintegrating. An explosion of rubber confetti in my washing machine. Which, combined with the 10 ton of collected dog hair that is in the washing machine drain at any given time (even just after cleaning it), the washing machine, of course, got stopped up. I was able to extract the poor rug from the pool of rinse water and rubber confetti it was sitting in. I cleaned the filter and the drain and anything else I could detach and ran the washer again to get rid of the excess water and some more of the confetti.

Yeah, I know...even writing that right now, I can see how utterly stupid that was.

Anyway, so after I got the electricity back I ran this other empty load. And...the current jumps again. I go hit the switch (outside) and all is fine again. Except that there is a message flashing across the little screen on the electric box saying..., well, I have no idea what it was saying but my understanding was that I was using too much electricity.

Ok, fine. I'll turn off the washing machine. All that's on now is the fridge and the hot water heater. Not even one light is on.

The power goes out again. I turn it back on and get the message that I'm using too much electricity again.

I go inside and turn off the water heater. Fine. It's now late in the day and I'm resigned to sorting out the situation in the morning. Ok, truth be told I was hoping the problem would just go away during the night.


I sleepily came downstairs this morning, straight to the bathroom for my morning pee. Where, of course, I found the washing machine with the standing water and little bits of rubber confetti all over the place (I didn't dare vacuum yesterday). I pee and wash my hands - ohhhh, ice cold water. That's right, the water heater's been off since yesterday. In a vain attempt at eternal optimism, I turn on the washing machine. It being cautiously optimistic (to soon for screams of celebration and delight, yet) I go to the kitchen for a coffee. I turn the computer on to check email.

JUMP! I lose power again.

Did you ever think about how important electricity is in your house? How many things depend on electricity? Here's the list in my house...

--edible food
--hot water
--computer and Internet
--washing machine
--the elevator, no wait, I'm just kidding about that one

I'm feeling eternally grateful right now to the person or people who engineered the modern toilet for making it work with out a plug.

So, if you'll excuse me now, I'm going to try to figure this out now.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Ol' Garden: inch by inch

Welcome to OliveKnitting's October episode of "This Ol' Garden".

I know that it's been a while since the last garden episode but...well, get off my back.

This episode is brought to you by The Self (Italy's version of the Home Depot and the only shop open on Sundays to buy flowers) and my parents who are visiting next weekend and I don't want to give me shit about my neglected garden.

Ok, that's just a grown woman trying to blame her parents for her own problems...this one being slack. I HAVE neglected my garden.

This episode's challenge: what can you do with 50euro, a shovel, and an infinite amount of optimism.

Here are some before photos. That being, before slack. Before the Self. Before I spent the morning on the beach with my girlfriends. Before the imminent visit from my parents. I'll just give you the highlights, or rather, lowlights, as they were.

That's the whole picture, in all its neglected glory.

hmmm? Who can kill geraniums? Seems I can. Me, I can.

Oh, look! Another dead one.

I call this one "empty broken pot meant to be artistic, planted in ground". Perhaps it worked 6 months ago when I put it in that hole in the patio to disguise the, well, the HOLE IN THE PATIO. It's not really working any more, you know, as purely an artistic piece.

Here we have composting Cornwell style. That would be the morning's coffee grounds on severely dog trampled earth among severely dog trampled rose bushes. Lovely.

So I spent the day pulling weeds, picking stones, turning earth, strategically placing big rocks, and planting.

E ecco! (and here we are!)

a little color. I'm sure that mum will thrive given the compost and that dog fence.

check out the new strategically planted pots in this photo! Ok, it's just one pot that broke in half when I took the dead geranium out of it. Come on! Remember the 50euro budget?! A girl does what she can.

Newly placed big rocks to fill the space that my 50euro budget couldn't AND a great dog deterrent! See that big dog run away!

Awww. Doesn't that look sweet? A little more color in the former home of my tomato plants.

Ummm...well...that's it. Ok, there are some hanging potted plants that wouldn't photograph so well in the dark. It seems that the flash on the camera needs something closer to reflect on than the mountains on the other side of the valley. And the empty pot got the old geraniums...I decided I wasn't ready to give up on them (or myself) yet.

(mental note to self - me, not the store The Self - if you're really not going to slack, don't spend the majority of your gardening day at the beautiful Italian Riviera beach when there are many hours of gardening to do and you finish after dark. Particularly if you want to photograph them for your blog.)

And there you have this episode of This Ol' Garden. Impressive, no? I'm sure my parents will be gushing.

Ps. If you're wondering what the hell I spent 50euro on, like, are mums THAT expensive here?! No, they aren't. I also had to buy tons of potting soil. And a new door mat that will welcome the folks into the house so they don't spend too much time enjoying my landscape architecture.

Next OliveKnitting blog will focus on interior improvements.

Pss. I hope you all took the time (all 9 minutes) to listen to Arlo's accompaniment (the video of the day). I would like to thank Arlo - nice song, fun dialog. And my husband for introducing me to, among other things, this song, Arlo, and playing along with me in this life leading to a garden near the Italian Riviera that I get to work inch by inch.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

it takes more than enthusiasm

Remember this?

Yeah, that was the "I'm 39 and I've always wanted a knit coat" birthday present to myself last year. Anybody wondering what ever happened to that? Yeah, probably not but I'll tell you anyway.

So I started knitting away on my birthday coat. I had that beautiful sky blue yarn. It was nice and thick and I was using big ol' needles - I was cruising! At the point where I was decreasing for the armpits on the back, I realized how damn heavy the material was being created by this nice, thick yarn. Heavy. I held the almost finished back up and I could literally see it grow. The weight of itself was stretching it to heights you could not imagine. In the 3 and a half minutes I had it hanging, that back of the birthday coat stretched and stretched until that material went from sky blue to ocean blue, cascading down the stairs like a flowing river.

Ok, that was slight exaggeration with a little hyperbole and a mixed metaphor for spice.

The point is ... I frogged it.

(knitting vocab: "to frog"; verb; to quit, to give up, to rip back HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS of knitting while crying and cursing simultaneously)

Remember this?

And this?

That yarn look familiar? Yeah, that's birthday coat yarn.

Just a little knitting tip I learned in my 39th year...just because you totally love a pattern and you adore some yarn doesn't mean you can put them together. There are laws of physics, laws of taste, and laws of time, money and sanity that must be taken into consideration. In this case, physics got me.

For you non knitters, let me explain it this way: I LOVE anchovies. I adore my mom's raisin oatmeal cookies. Should they be put together? Ok. moving on now...

So now I'm 40 and I still don't have a knit coat. I do however, have a SECOND frogged birthday coat already under my belt (and I've only been 40 for a few weeks).

Being older and wiser this year than last, I thought I'd try again. This year I did some research. I looked through all my knitting books and magazines, I surfed all my favorite spots on the net. I put hours into the sweater before I even cast on. Then it came to me, from that great knitting paradise in the Pacific Northwest ... KnitPicks.

Not falling sucker to the 39 year old's mistake, I even bought the yarn that the pattern was written for. I planned it so the pattern and yarn would arrive while I was in the States, I packed it tenderly for the long journey over the ocean, then neatly placed it in a prominent spot in my studio where it awaited my birthday.

This is what I chose.

I loved the contrast between the curvy flow of the jacket and the geometric stitch pattern.

So, I'm sitting in my birthday fort on my birthday with a bowl of birthday popcorn, some new birthday movies and I'm ready to cast on my 40 year old's knit jacket.

"'s kind of hard to read this pattern. Maybe it's too dark in this fort. (lamp added to fort) Now I can read it but, hell, this flow and geometry is too much to think about on my birthday, particularly when I'm trying to watch Brad, George and Matt while eating popcorn. I'll start it tomorrow."

40 years + 1 day: I did a swatch. hmmm, not bad.

I also meet a cow on the road

but I digress...

Then I made myself knit this flow and geometry every evening BEFORE I allowed myself to watch a movie. The two couldn't be done together. There was row counting and stitch counting and repeats and decreases. It was becoming a chore. No, it was a chore from that first reading of the pattern in my birthday fort. And it remained a chore every day, hour, every stitch. I got this far.

That's when I found a flaw in the written pattern.

Thinking that this was divine intervention allowing me to quit this horrendous knitting project, I got a little excited by my pattern conundrum. Then, feeling 40 and mature and all that bullshit, I decided to try to "stick with it", "solve the problem", "be patient". I looked up the pattern on KnitPicks for corrections - nothing. I went to Ravelry and emailed a total stranger who was knitting the same jacket - she had already frogged it. I wrote to customer service at KnitPicks. The lovely ladies there wrote me back and tried to help (they really do have good customer service) - too late. I frogged the f^$*er.

So now I have 20 skeins of beautiful coat weight yarn...I've started knitting this:

Older and so much wiser.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I'm really wondering when I developed A.D.D. Is there such a thing as adult onset attention deficit disorder? There must be because I'm definitely A.D.D. now and I definitely wasn't as a child.

Really, it's true. You can ask my parents, or my sister, or any of my childhood friends how I was as a kid (ok, those three profiles encompass 98% of my readership). I was a parents' dream (we're talking under the age of 10 here). I could keep myself occupied for hours, no DAYS without any problem. None. Collecting stones, gluing sticks to bark, making forts...all alone, for hours, DAYS. This of course made me a sister's nightmare, or at least my sister's nightmare. She wasn't that into stones and I wasn't that into talking about boys (again, we're talking about the pre-10 years). I'm not exactly sure how my childhood behaviors affected my friends...those of you reading, feel free to chime in in the comments, don't worry you won't hurt my feelings.

And now? I don't get it. My attention span now stretches all of ...well, not long. For example, I just forgot what I was saying because I got up to get a glass of water and some knitting - something to do between sentences. Oh, yeah, I was saying that I have a hard time focussing for a long time. I'd like to say I can watch a whole movie but I can really only do that if I'm doing something else at the same time - something with my hands. Just like that kid in kindergarten who needed to have flour filled balloon in his (or her) hands in order to sit through classroom group time. Yup. That's me.

When did this happen and how do I get rid of it? It's kind of getting in my way. It's negatively affecting my life. Here's some examples:

--my dogs only get 5 minute walks...they get 20 a day, but still only 5 minutes a pop.
--seen any finished knitting projects posted here lately? Nope, you sure haven't.
--I have a hairless, naked doll lying on my work table
--only half of garden is green, the half closest to the hose
--I can't seem to finish a blog post