Thursday, April 28, 2011


Dear Mom,

I'm writing to let you know now that I'm already thinking about Mother's Day. Yes, it's true, I have been a bit, um, shall we say, negligent in the past in celebrating my one-and-only favorite mom (Laurie, if you are reading this, I don't care what you say...she IS my mom, as well as yours - so you say). I just want you to know that I'm planning ahead this year.

I'm also telling you this now, in case, you know, on the outside chance that on the actual Hallmark ordained day I happen forget to tell you I think you're wonderful and deserving of some kind of special gift you'll know that my intentions were good.

In addition, I promise NOT to make you a set of these.

your loving daughter,


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


How 'bout some Tuesday randomness? Ok.

1. Thanks to everyone who's been worried about my Ruffino who ate a half bag of fertilizer (NO ONE!). He seems to be fine.

2. CAVOLO! That means cabbage. It's also the polite way of saying the swear word "cazzo" in Italian, which means dick. Cavolo is used much like "frick" is used in english for its harsher counterpart "f#ck". For this blog post I mean cavolo in the literal sense, since I planted some...cabbage, that would be.

I also planted some lettuce and zucchini. It's a start.

3. Nothing can put a girl off her dinner like glancing across the kitchen while eating to find this creeping up the wall above the stove.

What the cavolo is that?!

4. I have a new answer to that question Italians continue to ask me: WHY did you move from AMERICA to live in MABERGA? Are you nuts?! (I guess that's two questions). In reverse order, my new answer is this: Yes, probably. And because here I can wake up on a random Tuesday in April and while my dogs are running free on the mountain side I can sit in the middle of the road drawing the sun shining through the petals of a poppy."

Happy cavolo Tuesday.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter.

Here's a little present for you which, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with Easter except that I found it because I'm sitting here on Easter Sunday morning alone with the whole day to fritter away so I started it by catching up on my blog reading where I found this brilliant video on The Panopticon. Why, you ask, do I have the whole of Easter day with nothing better to do than surf the net? Well, don't feel bad for me. I had two lovely lunch offers, which I declined because I thought I had to work. Which as it turns out I won't be doing either because Ruffino ate half a bag of garden fertilizer during the night so I am now on 24 hour dog vomit watch.


Friday, April 22, 2011

they said I can stay...again

So, last week I received a text message (two, actually because it was really long) requesting my presence at the Office of Immigration on the 21st of April.

Ya know when you are on the highway, cruising along, some good music playing, the window rolled down a bit to let in a nice highway breeze, you might even have some beef jerky open sitting on the seat next to you and a 20 oz coke in the holder? Ya, you know the feeling? And then suddenly you see those folk who are Serving and Protecting with their blue and red lights in your rear view mirror? Ya know that feeling?

Yeah, that's what it's like to get a text message from the Office of Immigration if you don't live in the country in which you were born.

Well, there's a slight difference in my analogy here given the specifics of this situation...those being that I actually filled out about 20 pages of information telling the authorities where I am, what I'm doing...and asked them to contact me.

Getting a text from the immigration office, when you've ASKED for one gives you the pit in your stomach that you feel when you are driving the speed limit and pass a cop. Even though you are doing nothing wrong, you still feel the pangs of guilt and the adrenaline flood of impending doom.

I think our friend Pavlov should have done his research on drivers and aliens (that would be "immigrants" for you non-Americans...yeah, I know it's funny that we Americans call people from other countries "aliens" as well as beings from other planets). I think Pavlov could have done more with rapid heart beat than drooling.

So, back to the story...I'm invited to join the mass of humanity at the Office of Immigration. I accept.

But, given that I've been to this party before, I know that an "appointment" for 9am means that you stand in line with all the others who are there, by invitation or just because they need some help -- your appointment time means nothing.

So I show up at 9.10, park illegally at the train station across the street from the government complex that houses immigration. I debate whether to put my flashers on. This of course being the way to tell people (cops) that you KNOW you are illegally parked and "it'll just be a minute!". Remembering that I'm going to the sea of humanity at the immigration office, I decide against the flashers - I was worried that I'd be there so long that I'd kill my battery. Can you kill your car battery by leaving the flashers on too long? I've always wondered that...more so, I must admit, since I've moved to Italy and learned the art of creative parking.

Anyway, I enter the waiting room and take notice of everyone in the room to find my place in the "line"..... which doesn't exist. You have to imagine who is in front of you. Of course I eliminate all the people I see in the waiting room who look italian. The waiting room is shared with those who are waiting for new passports (meaning Italian Passports) as well as people who want to file a "denuncia" against someone. (I can't really explain a "denuncia" because it doesn't exist in the States...I don't think. It's like when someone has done you wrong and it's pissed you off enough that you want to tell the police about it).

While I'm waiting I read the posters on the walls (I know I know. I should have brought some knitting). On one wall, "don't be a victim any more. Report spousal abuse" and "with 1 euro a day, you can save the life of a child". On the other wall, right next to the list that contains names of the people whose permits of stay are ready, is this one -- "Return and Start Again - do you want to go back home? We can organize your documents, pay for your passage and financially help you begin your life again in your own country." Hmm, that's good to know.

So I wait about 45 minutes until I catch the eye of "my friend" behind the counter. Ok, really, she's not my friend but we've made a connection. We have a lot in common, actually...she works in the immigration office and I need a permit of stay, she has a nephew living in New Jersey and I'm from Wisconsin, she lives in Taggia and I live in a random wild spot on the top of a mountain that has been, for bureaucratic purposes, attached to the town of Taggia. We're practically twins. She saw me in the waiting room and mouthed to me, "what do you need?" I said, "RITIRARLO!!!!" That mean "I'm here to PICK IT UP!!!!"

She mouthed, "come in!" with a big smile and did that Italian hand motion that mean come here (it's like the whole hand version English speakers use for "come here", except it's upside down, with the palm toward the ground - until I figured out what this was, I waved good bye to a lot of people who were telling me to "come here").

So, I went in, trying not to make eye contact with anyone in the waiting room because I was so clearly budging in front of everyone in the non-existent line. And I GOT IT! Just like that. Honestly, it was slightly anti-climactic since I'd been waiting for that moment for over a year. I think my friend behind the counter was possibly more excited than I was. She had been following my progress toward this day, feeling my frustration with me. She'd even made a couple calls on my behalf. This was a victory for her as much as it was for me.

I put my index finger in her machine for a scan. Then she handed me my card. We shared a smile and a bit of a laugh...ok, I danced, she didn't but I know she wanted to. And then she said, "It's for 5 years! I'll see you again then. Of course it will only be 4 years from now because it took 1 year from the time of you know...."

To celebrate I went to a cafe' for breakfast like the real local I am, "prendo un latte machiato (a latte) e un brioch con crema (a cream filled croissant)". As I went to pay, the waiter let me budge in front of another customer, "tourists first" he explained to the man. Oh well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

first grill of the season

The setting wasn't so bad with the fire pit there among the grape vines,

the beautifully set table next to the shepherd's stone house (the woman in that photo is our hostess...not a shepherd)

and not such a bad mountain/sea view.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Some days are just better than others...

Like today, for example.

It started this morning with sun on the mountain and a walk with the dogs.

Then I got to have an art play date with my friend which we decided chatting (even a little about art) and drinking coffee was more important. (I'm sorry to say that I didn't make any photos of Christine's beautiful house with the sweetest garden, a whole zoo of animals and a 270 degree sea view. Going to Christine's is a treat on many fronts.)

Then this evening I heard that David will be coming home tonight.

And, the cherry on the top of my day...

I discovered that Italy now sells light beer. Ok, so it's Tuborg Light, but this means that Bud light can't be far behind. We Americans always follow the lead of the Danes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is that a hoe in your bathtub or are you just happy to see me?

Yeah, it's a hoe in my bathtub.

Let me explain.

So, this morning I'm out working on the orto.

See, Folks! I do listen to your comments. As I was saying, Earle-in-Denver shamed me into getting my hoe to the orto to get working, um I mean, I woke up today thinking, "Geez, today is the perfect day to start turning some earth in the garden!". Yeah, ok the real reason was that I was home bound 'cause the car was in the shop so I figured, what the hell.

So I'm turning soil with my hoe (let me tell you guys, it was a heck of a lot easier just watching Augusto rototill it last year). Anyway, I begin to notice that as I heave the hoe above my head to try to get all the gravitational help I can, by the time the tool hits the ground the hoe part has swung around the pole handle making the head land with an ineffectual thud on the ground. This makes for some slow going with the hoeing, I have to say. I keep at it for about 10 more blows to the ground that do jack-nothing.

Neighbor Eugenio's truck is in his parking spot. Following the scent of his Marlboro Reds with my hoe in tow, I go looking for some help.

"Ciao, Eugenio. Can I ask you something?"


"Whenever I use my hoe, the head ...



Long blank stare. Ok, it was probably more like 5 seconds but it felt like a couple minutes.

"You need to soak it."

He takes it from me and pounds it on the ground a few times to try to lodge the head in place on the handle (which, for the record I HAD BEEN doing...albeit I was pounding it the wrong way around and therefore loosening it...)

"yeah. You have to soak it."

You can't really tell the expression in my neighbor's voice since you are reading this but it was basically -- duh. soak it. like, who doesn't know to soak their hoe? duh.

I thanked him and walked away mumbling something about there being a lot to learn.

Another thing I learned today...when you live in the country, a bucket is a really useful thing to own.

I have a ways to go, but it's a start. And from now on with my swollen handle, hoeing will be so much more pleasurable.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

hang in with me...

So, in the past 5 years I've found a lot of excuses for my lapses in regular blogging. I have a new one.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

Any of you guys read it? I'm reading it in paperback and it's been waiting for me on our shelves for a couple years already, so I can safely say it's not a new release. If you haven't read it you should. (a little advice...try to get it on your Kindle or ipad...the f#&^$^er is a tome and I've nearly knocked my self unconscious several nights as I've fallen asleep while reading). It's a very compelling story but it's not late night reading sessions that are keeping me away from's embarrassment.

It's the story of a guy's life in India after he escapes prison in Australia. Without giving too much of the story away, let me just say that this dude faced some stuff that, when I sit down to write here, just makes me feel like the biggest wimpy wuss who ever lived and was shameless enough to write about it.

Yeah, ok, so he invented a lot of his story but still...

Other things keeping me from posting:

1. The orto. I'm just kidding. I haven't done sh*#t on that yet this year.

2. The on-going repairs to my car. I wish I were kidding about this one, but I'm not. My beloved Fiat 500 has been experiencing a series of minor ailments which have caused 2 -3 trips per week to the mechanic over the past several weeks. The latest one... I drove home from a party the other night realizing that my headlights didn't work... again. You may wonder how my car troubles affect my ability to blog...they just do. Trust me on this, ok?

3. All the knitting I'm doing! I finished the "ironic poncho" and love it (although, still feeling that my irony is usually lost on most Italians, I don't wear the poncho outside of Maberga). Photos to come. And then I've started a new project which is a secret so I just can't tell you about it.

4. Sitting around staring at all the projects that I did last year that need to be REDONE this year. I hate maintenance. Although, once I get past the paralysis caused by my realization of what needs to get done, I will have a lot of blog fodder.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Is it just me?

So I was at this party last night, chatting with a friend. I asked her how work was going. She has two jobs. By day she is the cook in the lunchroom at the local elementary school, and in the evenings and weekends she is one of the chefs at an outstanding restaurant.

As a former teacher, and student, I don't have such great memories of school lunchrooms. I asked my friend what it was like for her, working in the lunchroom. She said she LOVES it. She said that she way prefers that work to her job in the restaurant.

I said, "yeah, I suppose you don't get complaints from students like you would in the restaurant."

She then launched into the following story:

"Well, some times I do. Take the other day for example. One of the kids came up to me and asked if he could have a little more salt for his spinach. I told him, NO! I decide how much salt goes on the spinach, and it's just right. But then, a second kid came up to me, again asking for some salt for the spinach. Suddenly I had some doubts, I mean, if TWO kids ask for more salt for their spinach. So I asked one of the teachers. I said to her, 'how do you find the spinach today? Is it a little bland?' And she said, 'well, maybe just a little.' So I knew then that I hadn't put enough salt on the spinach! I had to immediately go around and put extra salt on 45 kids' spinach."

Last night, while listening to my friend tell her animated story we both had a chuckle about her mistake with the salt. But then this morning, when I woke up and remembered her story, I realized how very far from my grasp of normal this was. I mean, upon reflection, well, there are a few pieces of the story that just don't fit into my puzzle of how the world works. For example:

--the lunchroom cook is also the chef at one of the finer restaurants in the area.
--they serve spinach to elementary kids...and they EAT it.
--an 8 year old kid knows when spinach needs more salt.
--a second 8 year old kid knows when spinach needs more salt.
--two 8 year old kids care enough about eating their spinach to ASK for more salt.
--the lunch lady cares enough about the food she serves to individually salt 45 plates.

Does any of this strike you guys as odd?