Monday, December 27, 2010

So, here I sit, back in my home after a month away. Back at my computer in my studio which is the upper floor of my old italian stone house. I'm facing the 10' turkish rug hanging on the wall that David bought in Istanbul 11 years ago when we started this journey. I'm warmed by the wood fire, the sounds of my dogs barking out side in the garden, and the smell of chicken alla cacciatore coming from the kitchen. I can't help but think of Kevin Costner.

If you build it they will come.

Prior to coming up to start this post, I opened a bottle of prosecco, the wine of celebrations in my mind. "Guess what today is," I said to David. "Dude, I've been writing my blog for 5 years! Yeah, ok, like not really in the last month, but I mean, like I STARTED 5 years ago. Whoa."

Then we played that game that we like to play..."where WERE we 5 years ago?!" (note: I highly recommend this game. It's fun to reminisce as a couple, to view the passage of time and how it's manifested in your lives together, and, if your partner happens to be a lot older than you, it's a good way to check for dementia).

We were here, of course, 5 years ago. In this little stone house, trying to kick start a life "off the grid", or "in the margins", or if you prefer, without a tv. Five years ago there were no stairs connecting the first and second floors. No ceilings or insulation. No room in the house that was protected from the weather. No city water. Sometimes no water at all and, sometimes no heat at all - and sometimes both (or neither, as it were) at the same time. No jewelry business, no tour guiding, sometimes, no work at all. No high speed internet, no skype, no home phone. No dogs. Few friends, except the ones that were far away. A lot of knitting.

Hmm. That all sounds rather pathetic - except the knitting part, of course.

If you build it they will come.

I'm not really sure exactly what I think I've built here. Honestly, I'm not even sure if I'm referring to my blog, my house, or my life. They do all seem to be woven together. Or maybe a better textile metaphor would be that they are all three one big tangled ball of knotted yarn that I'm too impatient to unscramble but I've started knitting a sweater with it anyway. (only the knitters our there will understand that, sorry. I don't mean to speak in a secret code in front of the rest of you but, well, that's the way it is. Learn to knit if you want to understand - start with a wad of yarn the cat's been playing with...then you'll get it).

So anyway, thanks for coming - all of you who've come to visit, virtually and actually. And to the people who have helped landscape my garden and taught me how to prepare cozze. And those who have contributed time, money, moral support, a stove, and annual car posters. To a community of knitters that I'd only dreamed of having and who are real people and real mentors. And thanks to the gardeners who have taught me about compost and how to tend to veggies and what to do with them when I have them (you guys -- your job's not really done here yet). And those who have taught me the power of the internet with its vast community and infinite free patterns to share.

And I'd like to thank my host, Blogspot, without all the hard work you guys do I wouldn't have....

Oh, sorry, I got a little carried away there.

Anyway, thanks for coming...and here's to another 5.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello from Wisconsin Part II

Italy meets Wisconsin, again...

I'm supposed to fly out tomorrow...feel free to speak with the saint of your choice on my behalf.

Now, I've got to go. It's Sunday and everyone knows what that means. Yep. Go Pack. (and I don't mean my luggage)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hello from Wisconsin - Part 1

Italy meets Wisconsin....

at Christmas time...

PS. If you don't recognize the men in these photos a)you should be embarrassed, b) you can go here and here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guess what I'm doing tomorrow?

Yep, this.

Guess where I'm going?

Yep, here.

(not Puerto Rico)

Friday, November 19, 2010

So we were sitting in a restaurant last night, having some din and listening to some music with a couple of our Thanksgiving participants. They were Maberga virgins before last Sunday, now they can't get the place out of their minds.

In fact, the husband was talking all about his journey to the top of the world for American thanksgiving at work the other day. His colleague says, "yeah. I know Maberga! Ya know how it got it's name?"

Here's his story.

During the Roman times, Taggia (the town at the bottom of the mountain, our mother town, if you will) was a prosperous, reputable town (not that it isn't now, but I guess it was more so then...2000 years ago). Being an honourable, high class place, Taggia needed a place where they could send their know in the same way England needed Australia.

So these unwanted misfits were banished to a place far away in the mountains where they had to fight the elements and search for water and grow their own food. They called this place Mal Bergo, which of course in Latin means "the bad town" or maybe "the town of the bad" or, you know, something like that (my latin isn't what it used to be).

Over time, it's become known simply as Maberga...home to misfits who fight the elements, search for water and grow their own food.

Thanksgiving - Mal Bergo style

I'm just kidding. That's a 5 star hotel somewhere in Piedmont.

Ours looked like this

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's the coolest damn thing. You wake up on the day before you are having guests and your house is TOTALLY CLEAN, spotless, like I'd-eat-off-the-floor-and-you-have-dogs clean. That's just freakin amazing....

Yeah yeah yeah...thanksgiving planning at Casa Cornwell continued today with me brandishing the mop, vacuum, and dust rag for about 10 hours straight. How is that possible in a 900 square foot house, you ask? Actually, right now I'm asking myself the same thing. Let's do the math...

umm...ok, let's not.

Trust me, it took all day to clean my house. Thank goodness David did the last minute shopping and then cooked for, well, 10 hours straight.

We're having 8 people for dinner. I wonder what my folks are doing given that they will be hosting somewhere around 45 people on the 25th.

On a related note I'd like to report that our turkey arrived's a girl and she weighs a bouncing 6.7 kilo. do the math, I'm too tired.

If you're passing by Maberga tomorrow around 3, stop in. I think we'll have enough.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Oh my God, I forgot, I have a blog.

Thanksgiving planning is well underway in Casa Cornwell. We will have two Thanksgivings this year, one in the States and one here.

So the other day I went to order the turkey. You have to order a turkey in this country if you want to be assured of having one. They aren't just piled floor to ceiling in every grocery store from Nov 1 on. Oh no...

So I went to the butcher who is called "Barba Rossa" (Red Beard...he doesn't really have a red beard but he does have a beard and it's redder than, well, say, mine). Barba Rossa is the most awesome place to buy anything that I've ever been...seriously, Barba Rossa is to meat what Skyloom Fibers was to yarn (sadly closed now - some of you Denver readers will surely remember it).

So I illegally parked my car outside Barba Rossa's shop (everyone does this, it's just part of the shopping experience) and went in. I walked directly to the cashier and said, "I was wondering if maybe I might perhaps be able to get maybe a turkey?" She turned to the guy with a machete behind her (Barba Rossa's brother, he's got dark hair and no beard).

He said, "no problem. I can get you a whole adult 'maschio' (male) which would be about 14 kilo."

Ok. Time out.

Since this is a Thanksgiving story, I'll like to stop here and interject a few things that I'm thankful for:

1. I'm grateful for having had the presence of mind before going to order a turkey to look up what size I would want. (yes, at 41 I am for the first time in my life cooking a turkey - by the way, I read 1 to 1.5 lbs per person...if this is wrong, please don't anyone tell me because it's too late)

2. I'm grateful for knowing that 1 kilo is 2.2 lbs.


3. I'm grateful that I don't need a freakin' 14 kilo turkey. In case some of you are slow with the math, 14 kilos are 30.8 lbs.

Oh, and

4. I'm also grateful that we don't have 14 kilo turkeys running wild around Maberga.

Back to the butcher...

"um, wow. yeah. that's great. um, there will just be 8 of us."

"I'll get you an adolescent female"

I hope she's got breasts.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is progress always good? Right now I would say, no.

So the idralico came to Maberga today.

The idralico put in them tubes I've been waiting for. Actually, it was just one tube, made of some space-age polymer that is guaranteed for 50 years, AND insulated against freezing. Here it is...

Lovely, no? No.

Trying to be optimistic and find the neon blue lining in every cloud, even in one that runs across my back yard, I keep telling myself, "cool! Never ending water with pressure."

So the idralico, and his father, attached this eye-sore from the main water tube to our house. Then they made sure that the boiler didn't leak and that the water actually ran into the house. Cool. All working well. Then they left.

Approximately 10 minutes after they left, I washed some dishes. I washed dishes in some high pressure sink water that had no insects in it. Very cool.


I turned off the water in the sink. Nope. The water just kept running after I turned the faucets off. We're not talking here about a drip. The water was gushing, with all that beautiful high pressure right through the kitchen sink...whilst the tap was closed.

Ring, ring.


"Ciao, Lina? Hai l'acqua?" (do you have the water?!)

"Yep, Augusto. I sure do!"

"bene. bene." (great)

"Yeah, but there's a little problem. It doesn't stop. The water is gushing from the kitchen sink, I can't get it to stop, AND now I have to pay for the water so I've got to make it stop."


"yeah. Can you tell the idralico?"

So the idralico calls and tells me he will be here first thing in the morning.

"so I should turn off the water at the main for tonight?"

"si. Se non vuoi pagare per tutta la acqua persa" (yeah. unless you want to pay for the water you are losing in the sink).

So after making dinner tonight, I went out to the garden hose ... which is now connected to the old water tube from the mountain spring. I filled the watering can several times to bring water into the kitchen sink to wash the dishes.

As I was filling the water jug for the third time I thought, "wow, this is really funny. It's like what it must have been like in the old days when one had to bring water inside from the pump to wash." Then I stopped laughing when I remembered that just a few hours ago I had running water INSIDE my house.

So, as I sit here wishing I could have a high pressure city water shower, or even a bug infested mountain spring green water bath, I'm thinking maybe I prefer the old technology.

Good news is, if I have to go several days without a shower, I have a new hat to hide my unwashed-hair...

On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to thank everyone for your kind words of support about my better-than-half success on this summer's projects. Let me tell you, it wasn't easy but, shucks, with you guys behind me, heck, I feel like I can be below average whenever I want. I love this blog.

I would also like to thank Lois for giving me this award. That's so very nice. Thank you.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

From now on, I'm an optimist.

So here's the thing. Pessimism doesn't pay.

Remember that city water that we've been waiting for? How could you forget, I've been whinging about it for Yeah, years. I've been waiting, and talking and planning and talking and waiting for the city water to arrive at Casa Cornwell for years. I've got to be honest with you, I just never really thought that it would happen. Pessimism.

Then this heroic neighbor fought and fought, filled out form after form, raised money and interest, and then fought some more. There were arguments with bureaucrats and neighbors and then, when one group was satisfied, the other group started up again with complaints, always stopping or slowing the progress. I'd like to point out that this persistent neighbor doesn't even live in Maberga. He has an amazing rustico (read: ruin) that, with about a million euro and 100 years of work can be habitable. But all the same this neighbor stayed on the water cause. He must have been dreaming about that hot shower with loads of pressure that he could have when he finally moves into that house of his. Optimism.

So then when the bureaucrats finally gave the go ahead, the tubes came. Kilometers of tubes going from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Neighbors pitched in and the tubes were installed. And still, I doubted. So we had some tubes, the water still wasn't running through them.

Last Friday I passed this neighbor on the road. "Lina, the water is open."


"The water is open. You can turn on your tubes and have the city water in your house."

No. No I can't. I have no tubes connecting the main to my house. Pessimism dampened that fire that should have been under my ass to organize my water tubes.

So now all that clean, potable water with all its beautiful pressure, that should be showering down on my head, is just rushing by my house.

Lesson learned, from now on I choose optimism.

Let me start here with a look back at Project 20/20...which I have declared is over. Since it was meant to be a summer challenge and since I've just done the summer/winter clothes exchange thing and I'm thinking about turning the heat on tonight, summer must be over. Project 20/20 over.

Let's look at how I did: 12 house and knitted projects completed. Twelve. The challenge was 20. Twenty.

At this point we can take one of two perspectives.

12 out of 20 is 3/5th, or 60%, or a D-. Wow. Decidedly below average and a total drag to think about.

Let's try that again in a different way...

12 out of 20 is more than half done! My glass isn't merely half full, it's 10% MORE than half full! Plus, I have 12 + 12 (house and knitting) projects done that weren't done at the beginning of this brilliant initiative of mine. That's actually 24 projects...wait, I haven't quite finished a couple of the knitting ones, so let's subtract 2...that's still 22 projects which is actually more than 20!!!! That is truly awesome! Well done, indeed. (shut up you pessimists...I know that the project was 20/20 which is actually a total of 40 projects. Just shut up, ok?) Now my glass is over flowing!!!!!

Optimism is way better.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Age or time served?

So, it seems that I've already learned something in my 41st year:

It takes more than a hoe to make a vera contadina.

Yeah, ok, so I finished project 12 but, well, I'm not so proud. Have a look...

Let's compare that to what Augusto "helped" me to do...

Yeah. Well, what's there to say? I need a motozappa? Like that would help. I mean, it WOULD help, assuming I could use it, but tools are not really the problem here.

Remember Rolf?

Rolf said to me once, "Lynn, you need to be a certain age to garden." Actually, since Rolf, of the former East Germany, speaks to me in Italian because he doesn't like speaking English and I don't speak a lick of German, said something along the lines of (translated) "Age, she needs for to work for the garden" or something like that.

According to me, Rolf is for to be right.

Thumb-sized eggplant anyone?

Yeah, ok, let's look at the birthday sweater instead...

A little better than the garden.

Age or just time served?

On a completely unrelated note...METTE HAS A BLOG!!!! Please do go check her out HERE.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

(a little background music for today's post)

"L'alba, fa bene al cuore, fa male agli occhi" --Franca, la barista. September 16, 2010

"Sunrise, good for the heart, bad for the eyes."

My writing isn't good enough to explain the sensations of the day I spent saying hello to my 41st year. Let's just look at the photos from the top of the world, which is where I spent the day.

When I reflect on a year finished, I like to think of the things I've learned. Looking back on my 40th year, I can proudly say it was this...

Interpret that as you wish.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It started like this...

I'll let you know how it finishes when it's finished.

Thanks everyone for all the birthday wishes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Let the games commence... and recommence...

So I'm thinking that beans weren't such a wise choice for the Orto.

Yep. That's the crop. Did I mention that the bean plants took up approximately one-third of the total garden space?

Are you wondering why my beans are not green? Or rather, are you wondering why I let them dry on the vine? Yeah, well, about a month ago all the plants were heavy with fruit and David was home. I said, "do you think we should pick those?" He said, "I think we should just leave them and pick them when we can have dried beans."
Seemed like a good plan at the time.

Now, I'm not so convinced.

Here's why:

1. fresh beans are nice. I didn't eat any fresh beans from my garden.
2. picking beans sucks. picking beans off of dried out and brittle plants sucks more.
3. fresh beans can be eaten without removing their pod. Shucking dried beans might suck more than picking dried beans.
4. I planted, watered, weeded, watered, weeded, waited, waited, waited, picked, and shucked my crop of beans to get this

and I can buy this

for about 43 cents at the store.

House project number it only 11? No wait, it's 12! There was an 11, I just didn't write about it. I reorganized my studio, which used to look like this

and now looks like this

Yeah, ok. You can't really tell the difference in those photos. Trust me, there is one, a BIG one.

Anyway, number 12: get a grip on the orto...might even plant some new stuff.

Knitting project 12? Well, my birthday happens to fall this week. This of course means that I head to the top of a mountain, or the bank of a river, or the beach (or all three - but not at the same time) and I cast on my birthday sweater!

As you long time readers know, I like to spend the day of my birthday alone (casting on a new sweater in some beautiful spot!). This tradition was born out of necessity. Several years ago I realized that, because of work, I AM always alone on my birthday so it's a good idea to celebrate myself. This year David helped me kick of the festivities before he left town...

with a picnic by the sea followed by a trip to the river with the dogs and mexican feast at home. A great start to my week.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

So, where were we...

Oh yeah, I was getting myself a life. Here it is...

This guy had a birthday last week,

And seeing as how Ruff and Q's

favorite sitter

was shacking up with me, I thought it a good opportunity to get on this

And go here

to surprise that birthday boy

Luckily for all of us, that birthday boy's lovely sister was visiting to celebrate her birthday (which is just a few weeks after her big year apart, poor mamma Cornwell - she must have been cursing life 50 years ago, 'specially given that her two infant children had been proceeded by 4 other siblings, all one year apart...but I digress)

They had been cycling around Tuscany when I met them in Siena

And crashed their party

They didn't seem to mind, though

Then little sis came back to Liguria with me

where we did some of this

And a lot of this

And danced a few times to this

Life ain't so bad when you get one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a little life

So I just got out of the tub, pulled my night shirt over my head and a scorpion fell to the floor...from the t-shirt I'd just put on. That's nice.

Apart from that excitement, there really hasn't been any - excitement, I mean. I know I've been neglecting my blog, friends. Sorry about that. But, well, you have to have a life in order to write about it.

Along those lines, tomorrow I'm gettin me a little life. Those of you who know about this plan- keep the traps shut, per favore. You never know who is listening, or reading, as it were. I'll have the camera and will be sure to report back. I promis. Maybe.

Did that scorpion climb into my shirt while it was folded in my armadio or did he just find a soft, white bed while I was in the bath? Either way, it's a little disconcerting. I might have a tough time falling asleep tonight. You?

a presto

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

so much going on

So, I just got one of those gentle nudge emails from Wayne (of the comments). I guess I've been a little lax in my blogging, huh?

Sorry about that. You see, I've picked up my knitting needles after months of non-use and I've been working night and day, day and night with no time to sleep, or work, or clean, or make jewelry, or blog, or anything at all. I've been working on this

A masterpiece, no?

As you can see, it's almost done so I should be able to resume normal life soon.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

wet gold

David and I spent the morning getting water to come to our house. What did you do?

What? Water from the city, you ask?

Oh no no no, don't be silly. Just because we have some tubes and a water meter doesn't mean we have the city water. No. Let's remember that it took 3 years to get those installed, so actually getting the city water to run through them and into the house...well, who can say how long that will take.

No no, David and I spent the morning in active guerrilla style combat finding who's taking the water and how we can get in on the action. Maybe we were more like 007 and Q - doing some serious espionage. Actually, it felt more like we were Laurel and Hardy or Lucy and Ricky.

Here's what happened...

About a week ago a neighbor, let's just call him Pier Paolo, accused us of disconnecting his tubes and taking his water. Water, which Pier Paolo also claims we don't have the right to. (Do you sometimes, while reading my blog, experience a certain "Groundhog's Day" effect?) Let's not dwell on the lies of disillusional neighbors. I'm sure he means, well probably not but anyway...

One thing led to another and my husband was shouting vaffanculo at Pier Paolo.

For those of you whose italian isn't so good, vaffanculo literally means go make yourself a butt...or something really intelligent like that. It's obviously an expression that is reserved for those rare (or not so rare) times when, by pure reflex, your left arm whacks your right arm right at the inside elbow causing the right forearm and hand to gesticulate aggression to another person or party. If you are having a tough time imagining it, go here.

Now THAT'S integrating yourself in the local culture! Well done, Honey.

So when the situation calmed down, and Pier Paolo stopped shouting "David, you can't send me in the butt!", we all apologize to each other and decide to play nice. Pier Paolo left the mountain with his tube reconnected.

A few days later we notice that there is only a trickle of water entering our vasca and that my bath water has a greenish-yellow tinge and smelled of sulfur. Lovely. Now, I'm not accusing Pier Paolo here, but we think Pier Paolo did it.

Actually, we don't think he did it on purpose but rather he was trying to clean the tube of built-up crud that was causing none of us to have water, which promptly sent said crud into our vasca. So this morning we emptied the vasca.

And David washed it with some bleach. (I suppose my next load of laundry should be whites)

Then we decided it was a good idea to find more than a trickle to fill it back up. We tried to go at the usual spring only to find, that, alas, that font is dry (or should I say, nothing more than a trickle).

This is where the espionage comes in, or the guerrilla tactics, I should say...

I won't go into all the ugly and wet details of how and where we found water (because you just don't know who is reading this and then I'd have to kill you all) but we did. We also connected Pier know, just to be neighborly.

Wet gold. We got it. Do you?

Friday, July 30, 2010


I'd like to write more right now, but I'm busy...