Monday, December 17, 2012

I've just sat down to write a post-- a report on the weekend Christmas market, some funny anecdotes, festive photos, but then, as background noise to write by, I put on NPR.  Of course the whole programming was on the tragedy in Connecticut.  Background noise. I'm finding it tough right now to be amusing or festive.

It is so very very sad.  My heart breaks for the mourning families of the killed, for the school that will never get past this, for the community struggling to understand.  But most of all, my heart is breaking for a country, my country, my country that is quite obviously in a state of depression.

I don't mean economic depression.  I'm talking about social, emotional, and spiritual depression.  When a person exhibits self destructive behaviours, all alarms go off that this person needs help.  I think the same must be true for a country.  Mass shooting of children and teachers at a school is rather self destructive for a society.

I'm writing this from my home, my current life in a country that is not the one that I claim as mine.  Perhaps this gives me no right to complain or criticize, to cast stones.  No, not perhaps -- I have no right. 

And my heart is still breaking.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I was working in my studio this morning, cramming for my self-imposed final exam which is this weekend.  Crafter's final exam?  Yeah, that's when you get the brilliant idea that it would be fun to invite everyone you know and even a bunch of people that the people you know know to your house to look at what you've been making (and hopefully take some of it home with them).  Yep, Christine and I decided it was time to put our shit display(actually, it's not shit at's really quite nice, if I must say so myself...) and see what happens.  We're calling in "Natale in Maberga"....mulled wine, some tea and cookies and, if you want, some christmas gifts to take with you.  If you're in the neighborhood stop on by.

So, anyway, while was in the studio this morning, David brought our Christmas tree in and strung all our lights on it.  I love christmas trees.

We're not totally positive, but we might need to get another string of lights.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

David is so getting this for Christmas...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Efficiency, heat, ligurian dogs.....

Since I made that big life change, leaving the US and my full-time office job, I've been trying to work on my multi-tasking ability....getting rid of it, that is.  I've discovered that multi-tasking is an excellent way to do a lot of different things at one time in a totally half-assed way ("totally half-assed"....wouldn't that be "full-assed"?  anyway, you know what I mean).  Not to mention, multitasking just sucks.  So, as I was saying, I've been trying to cure myself from this illness.

This doesNOT however mean that I don't appreciate things that multi-task.  Quite the contrary....I LOVE things that do more than one thing.

Take for example our new kitchen stove.  That puppy, in addition to being nice to look at, heats the house AND cooks dinner at the same time.  Now there is some multi-tasking that I can enjoy. I suspect that David wishes he could say the same thing about me....but I digress....

And then there are my newly knit hats
Two-in-one, they are!!!!
And if your neck is colder than your head, you can just wrap that thing around you...instant scarf. I guess that makes it a three-in-one.
 Two hats and a scarf in one garment.  Come on....multitasking genius.

Lastly....and this doesn't have anything to do with multitasking but friend Christine and I now have a live website with our little jewel creations.  Christine paints tiny watercolors and I make them into wearable art.  Please check out for wonderful gifts for the holidays....for someone else or for yourself.  You could multitask by buying one for yourself which would make you happy and bring joy to everyone who looks at you wearing the same time. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

So, Q, my of my dogs, turned 6 today.  In the past I have shared dog birthdays with you all.

I'm sorry.

Yes, I'm very sorry for having done that. 

Those of you with dogs, have shared my enthusiasm when I have done this.  And I thank you all for that. 

And now, having just lived through the Halloween season on facebook....I feel tremendously guilty for my previous posts about my dogs.

Those of you with dogs and no children ....might understand why I'm apologizing.
Those of you with children and no dogs....just accept my apologizes.
Those of you with children and dogs....understand what you want from this post.

And...Happy Birthday Q. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ever wonder....

...what Father Christmas does in the off season?

Apparently he connects septic tanks to houses in Italy.  Who knew? 

Friday, November 16, 2012

big turkeys, small elephants and rubber bananas

Thanksgiving in Maberga.

So, I went to the butcher about a month ago to order our turkey for thanksgiving.
"you want a turkey?"
"yeah.  you know, we're americans, it's thanksgiving time."
"oh right, you guys put the whole thing in the oven, right?"
"you don't want a turkey, you want a tachinella"
"yeah.  the little girl turkey.  that's what you ordered us last time"

So David went back to the butcher on Saturday to pick up our feminine poultry.
"sorry.  they didn't have any  tachinellas, we got you a tachino.  It's 15 kg, is that too big?"
Quick math...15 x 2.2 = 33lbs.  David didn't do the math, he just looked at the beast that weighs as much as our dog.
"yeah.  probably too much.  can you cut it in half?"

So, with half a monster boy turkey in the oven and pots and pans and plates and bowls on every surface, we welcomed our pals for Thanksgiving, Maberga style.  Of the 10 eaters last Sunday we had 4 Thanksgiving virgins.

 Um, yeah, only half of those four are t.g.d virgins.  The other two are Christine and Valerio and they're not, um, virgins.

Chef says....
Soup's on...
 Toast the chef, friends present and family not, thankful for food and all the rest....
Eat, some more.

Let's dance...

And eat cookies...

There were actually three totally beautiful pies that I didn't get a photo of because I was, well, dancing.

Time to retire upstairs for our annual White Elephant gift extravaganza.....

For those of you in the White Elephant dark, it is a gift exchange game in which people bring small, maybe silly maybe not, gifts and they are chosen by the guests by a lottery of numbers, each person getting a new gift or able to take the any that have come before.  Ok, that was a shitty explanation, you can google it if you're really curious.

Gianni got a knife and Ute got a key ring.

Toby got some frilly hand knit wrist warmers and David got, I mean David got an old t-shirt I had lying around the house.  Not my most inspired gift which is why it doesn't show up in the photo.  Toby and David were the other two thanksgiving day virgins, by the way.
 Daniela got a hand knit scarf and Piero got a hand knit hat and a banana shaped dildo.

 David got a pack of handmade Christmas cards.  And I got, um, well, an elephant.

 Valerio got a wooden butterfly and Christine got some hand knit washcloths PLUS the grand prize of the day -- the crate of tomatoes that didn't make their way into the bloody mary's.  Some people thought that maybe Piero actually got the grand prize....of course I'm referring to the hand knit hat.

Another great Thanksgiving in Italy.

I'm thankful for Christine who started this tradition.
I'm thankful for David who prepared ALL the food we ate, except the green beans (I did those!)
I'm thankful for all the friends that shared with us in our awesome day, including you guys who are reading about it.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

I'm not much of a morning person.  'Course, I'm not much of a night owl either.  Or maybe I'm both.  Yeah, let's say that I'm a morning/night switch hitter.

Being yanked out of bed when I'm not quite ready is just fine by me if I get to see this out my window

Absolutely amazing.  That's the town of Castellaro there on the hill and in the v of the valley between the mountains the island of Corsica is popping up out of the sea.  Yes, Corsica.  Let me show you where that is (for the geographically impaired)

Yeah, ok, crappy map.  I mean, it's a cool map, just not readable.  Maberga is up there top left where Italy meets France and Corsica is that yellow island (I don't think it's really yellow) above Sardinia (the green one....which, I believe is actually green).

Have a nice day.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Just for your Friday enjoyment...

A public service announcement, of sorts, from my friend Jacopo...

And, what I should have been told when I married a Cornwell (from brother-in-law Kevin)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Damn rain

So, it's pissing rain in Maberga right now.  It's also raining in many places inside my house.  At 9.45 on a Friday night I text the wife of my general contractor.....Ha ha...yeah, that's a funny way of saying I sent a message to my friend Lina who is the wife of my other friend who does all the work on my house... maybe you've heard me talk about Augusto.  Within 3 minutes my phone was ringing.

"cosa c'e'?"
"Yeah, well, my house is raining inside, well, in lots of places."
"vicino la stufa?"
"yeah, of course near the stove...that's been going on for years.  But I'm not worried about that because you said you'd fix that.....soon."
"e allora?'
"well, 'and so''s also raining in my studio in like 10 places and the window in the stair well is crying."
"piange la finestra?"
"yes.  the window is leaking water at both's crying."
"Yeah, I don't expect you to come tonight. I'm just saying that my house is frinking not water proof.  Wouldn't you say a house should be water proof?"
"yeah.  It should be.  I'll just put towels everywhere for right now. And of course move my precious jewelry and very NOT water resistant paper mache to another place.  Dude, problems.  we got us some problems."
To my "general contractor", my good friend, almost my brother, I say..."have a good weekend."...Knowing full damn well that dude won't sleep tonight and will be knocking on my gate at about 8am tomorrow.

Damn rain. It really sucks for people who try to keep it out of other people's houses.

Correction to last night's post....He came this morning at 10am.  I was off by two hours.

I got this super cool video from Mike, of the comments fame.

I'd have to take some measurements, but I 'm pretty sure they couldn't do that in downtown Taggia, or, well, any where in Italy.

Completely unrelated....thank you to everyone who has sent me supportive and thoughtful emails/comments about my last post.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So I got word yesterday that a dear childhood friend of mine took her life on Monday.  We hadn't had much contact since we'd both left our parents' homes, maybe two emails in 20 years.  This happens, it is normal, to be expected and still it's not acceptable.

Another friend, from this same era in our common lives sent me her obituary.  Reading it, and not knowing because of our lack of contact, I can only glean that at 43 years old she was still the same remarkable person I knew when she was 10, 11, and 15, 18 and 22.  It's all very sad, painful, and, yes, a waste.

This morning, before I got the obituary, I went on facebook to see if anyone, any of the facebook "friends"  I have from that time in life, had any information. A couple of things became really clear...

1.  I have very little contact, even in this age of gluttonous communication, connection with people who meant very much to me at very crucial times in my life.  and

2. In this age of gluttonous communication, in this time in history where we can tell each other whatever "is on your mind" at any second of the day and send it to with everyone with a computer (with photos) what we actually share with each other is totally banal. 

I won't make it to the memorial for my friend on Sunday to hug her parents or to meet her children.  I won't be there to tell them all how important and incredible their loved one was to me, too.

In memory of my friend, with whom I shared innumerable life experiences many of which influence my life still and with whom I regrettably lost contact, I will instead write 10 letters.  Real letters, not typed, written in my own script, written with my real voice and written about my real life experiences to people important to me.

This is not enough to honor the end of what should have been a long and beautiful life, but I think she would appreciate my action.  Alicia was a woman, and a girl, of action....she would like letters.  Letters are a gift to receive, filled with drama and, if you're paying attention, immensely real and filled with potential action.

Please, join me in reconnecting...really reconnecting with people who are and have been important to you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

autumn harvest

Mine looked like this
Yes, my orto, despite not being watered for 3 months (by me) is still giving me free food.  Awesome.

Being as thrilled as one could be, I did a harvest dance. Then I went down the hill to find a door mat and I saw this...

and his sister
Sister clocks in at 280 kg and brother at an even 300 kg.  Dudes not familiar with kilograms, let me do the math for you....that's 617.3 lbs and 661.4 lbs, respectively.


As impressed as I am by their girth, I can't help but feel a little sad for them.  Do you think they wanted to be so obese? Do they look happy?

On a completely unrelated note, expect that it was my reason for going down the hill, seeing the big ass I went to 4 (count them, f o u r) shops looking for door mats.  I didn't find one that didn't say "welcome!".  Yes, in english.  Whoever wins the US election, I'm pretty sure that the selection of door mats will continue to be more extensive than in Italy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Seriously, you guys, if we do any more to the house I'll have to stop writing this blog 'cause there won't be anything left to write about...except knitting, of course.  In how many posts over the years have I written about Casa Cornwell's black water (aka: the shit tube)?  Yeah, ok, in reality it's probably only been like 3 or 4 posts.  In 6 years of blogging, that's not so much.  It does, however, seem like a lot more to me because even one problem with a shit tube is really a lot. 

Well, friends, I'm here to tell ya, we bought a house for our black water.  After 8 years of living in this house, we now know where our poop goes.  What a feeling.

It now goes in here...

which is buried here
Yep, there's Augusto working hard.  He's the one on the right....outside of the hole, holding no tools.  He's more of an "organizer"...and damn if he didn't organize this project.  Just before my parents arrived I asked him if he could find a place for our poop to go, since where it had been going isn't really working out so well any more (don't ask). "But not until my parents are gone", I said.  Mom and dad left Thursday, this is how it looked on Friday afternoon.

Isn't that the nicest looking septic tank you've ever seen?  Here, look again...
Here's me giving it a thumbs up

And a high five...
'Course it's not actually hooked up to the toilet yet, but this is a step in the right direction, I think.  I feel hopeful

I was actually so excited about it that I did my annual ironing session outside just so I could look at it between blouses.

So friends, here's to no more blog posts about reconnecting shit tubes with duct tape.  Cheers.

PS.  Can you believe that I actually received 3, count 'em, THREE requests that I forward pictures of my new septic tank?   I won't name names, you guys know who you are.   I mean, I'm excited about it but it's my shit.  Do most people get excited about sewage and I'd just never realized it until I organized my own?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

short but really sweet...

was my family's stay in Italy.

Maybe sweet is not the right adjective.  Monumental, is probably more accurate.

Let's start here...

My dad had his 72nd birthday.  It was lovely, even though my car broke down, I had a row with a toll booth operator, and was pulled over by the cops. 

Yes, all that shit is about me and not my dad....but, well, I'm not a parent but I think these thing affect them twice as much as they do the children.  You can see this in that photo above.

No, he always looks like that.

Anyway, we did this

and then a lot of this

and then some of this

Mom got to join the knitting club for a day (note that she's the only one knitting.  Mom takes her tasks seriously)
And dad got to kick Teddy's ass in cards (truly monumental.  I think it's sweet that they coordinated their outfits)
Mom taught Christine and me (mostly Christine) to make her famous chocolate/orange cheesecake
Whilst the other Wisconsinites watched the Packers....seriously, if you are from Wisconsin and can watch the Pack play while on holiday in Europe, monumental....even if they lose.
AND, are you ready?

Cousins Bumpy and Doug got engaged (ummm, they both aren't my cousins, just in case you were wondering what Wisconsin people do...for the most part cousins don't marry cousins.  Doug's not my cousin but he's been around so damn long, he's already a cousin of mine, married or not)
Yes, that is a chilly pepper on her finger.  Seriously monumental moment.  I was there, got it on video but the participants would rather I keep that shit to myself (just between you olive readers and me, check YouTube in the future)

September 2013 wedding in Maberga. Yes.  they are marrying in Maberga.  Monumental.

I'd also like to take this chance to tell you all how totally monumental my parents are. Maybe monumental isn't the right adjective, but it fits with the thread I have going here on this post.  They are sweet, loving, supportive, and really good sports about my life...however that life might be when they happen to find it.

Like, for example, my latest obsession with bikes with 4 wheels.

Like, for example, helping me with my jewelry business and changing the seat on my toilet (sorry, no photos), vacuuming my dogs' hair and preparing dinners in my less than equipped kitchen.

You guys are pretty swell (I'm talking to my parents now, but of course I think all you olive readers are swell too, but really I'm talking to my parents)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

mom and dad, day 1

So, a much anticipated day has arrived.  Today.  Mom and Dad arrived today.  I love when they come to visit.  I love sharing with my parents my life here -- my house, my friends, my life.  Wonderful.  I love spending time with them.  Unless they lie to me, they love it all too.

As always, I also have a little anxiety when they come.  It's not just them, it's when anyone comes to Maberga.  I don't know why but shit always breaks when I have visitors. Just ask TFC, Denise and Wayne.

This year, for the first time, mom and dad didn't rent a car.  I said, "come on!  Save a few hundred euro and use one of our cars."  Knowing full well that this was the ultimate jinx on my cars.  So when I went to the airport this morning and my car made it like the fiat 500 champ it is, I said a little thanks to the universe.  Doubly so when we made it back to San Remo with no motor problems.

umm, other things that could break while they are here are: the washing machine, the toilet (don't's a longer post at another time),  my computer, or my stove.  The heaters could go out too but it's not heater season yet so I wasn't so worried about this.  Of course, all these things would be a big bummer for ME but not them because they are staying in a hotel.  So, I'm pretty safe, right?

So we spent a lovely day, coming  back from the airport, checking into their hotel in San Remo and then dinner at Casa Cornwell.  So far so good.

Then I sent them on their way home to their hotel in San Remo.  I sat down in the kitchen, poured myself a glass of wine and said a little prayer that they would make it down my road.

As I sat in the kitchen, checking email, thinking that I have a half hour until I call the hotel to make sure they made it I heard a crash.

Um a big frickin crash.  "what the f....?"

the shelves in my pantry/wardrobe/storage for everything came down.  I hadn't touched them.  I hadn't even walked pasted them.  One of the braces just decided it was time to retire.


So I started cleaning this up.  I lost all my vases and candles.  All my sweaters and blankets and quilts and towels and winter clothes were just there strewn amongst the shards of glass.


So I started cleaning it up.  Not a big problem, except....where am I going to put this stuff? Yeah, well, here

in the kitchen.  Fine.  No problem.

then I remembered my parents.  I called the hotel.  "Can I speak with the Signori Serpe?"

"Sure, they are right here."  at the desk?????

Mom gets on the phone and proceeds to tell me how lost they got getting back to the hotel.  It took them an hour and a half (should have taken 25 min).

I've created this life here that is, shall we say a little out of the norm.  When people come to visit I try to put a cap on the weirdness of how I live.  Which means that I clean the house as if the Queen were coming, I try to keep all "normal" services working (eg: car, heat, stove, bed, water, you know...that stuff).  I dust and vacuum my house, I wash all the floors, try to get rid of as much dog hair as possible, I stuff the fridge and the cupboards to the point that everything is beautiful.....then, life happens.  The shelves fall in.

Parents get lost sometimes.  And kids sometimes have to pile their shit in the kitchen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

So I've kind of been in production mode lately.  It occurred to me sometime last week that my folks are coming next week and I will need to have all my christmas jewelry ready to send home with them.  Even after running this little business for like 5 years now I still have a hard time remembering to remember christmas in September.  It really shouldn't be that big of an upset to my annual rhythm...I mean, when I used to teach I constantly thought of (dreamed about, longed for) Christmas is September.

In addition a friend of mine asked if I wouldn't mind doing a little jewelry/knitting/papier mache show for 18 of her closest friends.  That's happening tomorrow.

So last Thursday I put myself on house arrest...I didn't leave the mountain for 5 days straight (yes, this was just before my last post.  That Mette in the comments sure knows me well).  Nothing but work work work, if that's what you want to call playing with beads, yarn, and paint.

Here's a little preview at the maberga designs winter 2012 collection....


Um, yeah, ok that last photo isn't part of the collection.  I did make it though, and it's really quite tasty if my must say so myself.  The recipe came from this lady...
Her name was Charlotte.  She's my friend Christine's mom.  She used to make it for all neighborhood gatherings, and picnics and stuff like that.  It's called a zucchini pie but you can really put in it whatever you like.  Christine made me one for my birthday, remember?

Here's the recipe if you want to make one too:

Charlotte’s Zucchini Pie

Preheat oven to 200 °C or 400°F.
Grease pie plate with butter or oil.

  • -4 tbls. Oil or butter
  • ¾ c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • -1 small onion, chopped.
  • -1 small red pepper, chopped.
  • -3 to 4 cups diced zucchini
  • -1/2 cup oil
  • -4 or 5 eggs, beaten
  • -1/2 cup of yogurt, Greek or plain, unsweetened. (optional)
  • -1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper

Mix all together. Pour into pie plate. Bake about 40-45 minutes.
Until firm and golden brown on top.

That's about it for now.  I really need a movie and a beer....and maybe a little knitting.