30 April 2009

art-er-ly things

I subscribe to several art blogs, so there is a good chance of something being in my in-box even if I haven't written emails! This one written by Mike Bailey I really recommend... look at the colour in the piece in this recent post!

Yes, it is glorious watercolour... a very good email to wake up to!

Today I am grateful for artists who write REAL art blogs!

accepting challenges

When the going gets tough it often helps to focus on the little things. At the end of the day, it is the tiny detail that makes a difference - the flower in the bottle on the windowsill, the smell of coffee brewing on the stove.

When the big stuff gets too big, make a list of the small stuff and start with that. Oddly enough, the big stuff gets smaller as you deal with the small stuff!


29 April 2009

change is in the air...again!

Sometimes I am sure change is in the air, for no apparent reason.
At other times I see something in nature that is quite spectacular, and I choose to read that as a definite sign of affirmation or of change. This photo doesn't capture the magic of the sun catching the edge of the cloud, but will remind me of how special it was.

I wonder, what is changing now?


the simple things in life

No matter how you look at them, these fragile creations are always wonderful works of art!Today I am grateful for being able to see such delicate structures in the mist.

(No, not the clothes pegs although I am pretty grateful for them too! Click on the photos to make them bigger...)

28 April 2009

tuesday, slow day

I am coming back to life, slowly! Driving on the autostrada for nearly four hours with huge trucks all around me yesterday wore me out! Monday morning travel is definitely to be avoided. The outgoing trip starting off at 5am Sunday morning took a fraction over three hours. That is definitely the best time to travel!

Today Zacchi is trying to tell me he is missing his daily brush. He wants good food, walking, AND grooming? Really! And to think that he was pleased to see me when I got home. A dog's life is better with Zacchi minders, truly it is!

Sunday was a truly bicultural day, New Zealand and Italy linked forever with a shared history. This is the first time I have seen our flags without other flags flying beside them as well. In Italian schools children learn that we really are the opposite side of the world. Despite that, we have many things in common. Our garden weeds are identical, for starters...
Today I am grateful for music playing on the computer as I pick up the rather disparate threads of my life again.

27 April 2009

book launch in San Casciano

Sunday, 26 April, 2009
21 Luglio-4 Agosto 1944 I GIORNI DELLA LIBERAZIONE. Le truppe neozelandesi da San Donato alle porte di Firenze.
(Comune di San Casciano Val di Pesa, Comune di Scandicci, Comune di Tavarnelle Val di Pesa).

This cooperatively written book, with eleven contributing authors, was made possible largely through the friendships formed through the Christchurch Italy Star Association and the Italians in Tavarnelle. It is released in Italian, but an English version is underway.

Several of the speakers emphasised that the book is not a military history book, but rather the story of the soldiers and the civilians of the two nations; about the people and their shared experiences. Personal recollections and many many photographs create a vivid picture of the time.

When I arrived a little early I thought that the auditorium was far too grand and big for a book launch. Two hours later it was full!In true Italian style the towns were represented by their mayors, the banners, and the inevitable band. The rendition of the Italian anthem was spirited, while the rather slower pace of the New Zealand anthem had me wanting to stand up and conduct to a faster beat.The mayor of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa was the main driving force in the project. He shares some laughter with the New Zealand ambassador partway through the presentation.New Zealand veteran soldiers and authors share the front row of the auditorium.Dr Monty Soutar, along with Jeff Plowman, Sindaco Stefano Fusi and veteran soldiers, signs countless copies of the book.
A large turnout of local people from four towns outside Florence made the launch extra special. People arrived bringing their photographs from wartime, eager to share their stories and show the Kiwis how it was back then.

Today I am grateful for the interesting life I lead in Italy.

25 April 2009

changing times

Anzac Day is over in New Zealand and I am reading the reports at my computer. Today is Liberation Day in Italy.


The village is very quiet. I guess people have gone to family, or are taking it quietly, as I am today. Life is changing in our little village. It's time Zacchi and I went walking, looking for cats to chase, trees to mark, making sure that some things stay the same!

24 April 2009

oops! i've done it again...

Out of bounds?

I assumed that the surface that I am painting on was ready for me. A lot of work had been done on it, but it wasn't really what I would call finished. Noone else arrived to work on it while I was there. So, in true Kiwi do-it-yourself style, I plastered and sanded and killed the mildew etc, not wanting to paint over bumps and living mould.

While I was working on it today, dust mask on, hooded jacket and face covered with fine white dust, the owner of the apartment called in. Ooops... The last time we met was at an official ceremony; I was on my best behaviour, and all spruced up! I wonder if he recognised me?


On Monday someone else is coming to complete the preparatory and background work, and I can get on with the finer details of the painting. It was a little difficult sorting out who did what, and who will do what parts of the work where background colour meets design, but as far as I can make out I just have to do the intricate stuff, and "not get dirty".

I suspect that I have stepped over a boundary I didn't recognise, a little bit like mowing my own grass. Just quietly, I enjoyed getting the lower part of the surface prepared, but I am more than a little bit happy that I don't have to do the high part or paint the whole ceiling in the background colour. This afternoon was spent trialling colours and different mediums to see what will hold best. Acrylic is easiest to use on the various different surfaces, but shouldn't really be used over rabbit-skin glue. Decisions, decisions! Tempera wasn't holding on the beautiful original surface because there was no intonico, and where it did hold it needed to be re-sealed despite using the rabbitskin glue to mix it. This (unfinished) has dried too dark; I need a more delicate touch and possibly a lighter base colour.

Yesterday I treated the mouldy area below the plaster; it seems to be OK now. I left the part above the plaster as a "control".

Today I am grateful for the little bit of language we had in common as we discussed the work.

23 April 2009

stormy weather

Stormy weather makes for good afternoon naps! When the clouds roll in and the sun disappears I call it a day and knock off work. The room I am working in is not yet enclosed and has no lighting.

Today I repaired the smaller cracks over-looked by the guys doing the major repair work, and then treated the black mould in the previously damaged corner (the vaulted ceiling was a victim of the bad earthquake several years ago). The stucco here is not too bad to work with... plastering is a job I love to avoid, but the pre-mix here is very good.

Tomorrow it is back to sanding... and hopefully painting will start on Monday!Today I am grateful for a natural sense of caution as I walk with increasing confidence on the scaffolding.

22 April 2009

lost track of time

The days are racing away, I seem to have lost track of what day or date it is!

Zacchi minders, travel safely! I think you leave Rome today. On Saturday two friends were staying. One Zacchi knows quite well, and they tolerate one another. The other hadn't stayed here before. Zacchi thought that she might be the next Zacchi minder and made such a fuss of her... or was it just that her son has a pet rabbit and her clothes smelt good to him?

Beds and bedding were changed about before the Zacchi minders arrived from NZ and Zacchi has a new favourite place to sleep... mmm... that's MY big blanket... I'm not sure that I want to share!(Yes, there are watchful eyes under there somewhere!)

PS I forgot to write something that I am grateful for ... mmm... should I? Am I? OK, just for you, Teacake, I'll say it! Mostly (nearly always)
I am grateful for
the company of the ragamuffin who thinks he is the boss of this house!

21 April 2009

back to work

Ah well, the holiday had to end! It is dust and grime for the next few weeks!

Today I am grateful that I can still climb ladders!

20 April 2009

yesterday on Montecassino

small earthquake

If Italy's continuing earthquake news has reached you and you have any worries for me you can relax, all is well. The earthquake in our valley at approximately 6.30pm yesterday was a small one, centred between my village and Cassino. No damage has been reported and so far there have been no further quakes. I was driving and didn't feel it, although the epicentre was only 9.3 kilometres away!

Yesterday after intermittent rain the light here was incredible; this from the stairwell window at 7pm.

17 April 2009


Will post again next week; might take a break for a few days. Or not.

16 April 2009

going home


But I can come back again.

Dark glasses today.

Today I am grateful for all my adult children, wherever in the world they may be.


14 April 2009


There is a beautiful cat in the neighbourhood. I don't recognise the breed, but it is quite majestic. I was admiring it through the window... until I realised that it was stalking the chipmunk.

For the past two or three days chipmunks on either side of the house have been "barking" to signal danger. Whenever I looked out there was nothing to see.

This morning this beautiful cat changed in my eyes from magnificent to predatory... he sealed his fate when, unable to reach my dear little friend, he sprayed his scent all over the chipmunk's favourite seat on the patio.

I hope the nimble little chippie long outwits this stealthy foe!

Today I am grateful for the speed and agility of the little creatures at risk.

13 April 2009

new beginnings

The cats tucked up in the laundry, the final dust, wipe and sweep completed, the final cleansing spray on taps and door handles, the heating on, and Nonna poised with camera...




Today I am grateful for digital cameras and internet communication keeping family in touch.

12 April 2009

makes you think...

As I walked across the road to a parking building today I passed a woman wearing a T-shirt which read "If it ain't making you money it ain't worth it".

How could she wear that on Easter Sunday?

As the Mastercard advertisement says, the best things in life are priceless. It's "everything else" that requires money.

Singing a lullaby, reading a story, writing a song, exchanging a loving glance... no credit card needed!

Seeing your children happy and healthy is absolutely priceless.

Today I am grateful that I can share in my children's lives.

special moments

He's here, safe and sound, 12 days late and induced after an evening dash to the hospital to wait in the corridors after tornado warning sirens sounded. Mother is recovering, somewhat worse for wear but incredibly happy. Father seemed to be giving him his first jazz guitar finger exercises already.

It was a long three days. Nonna is heading for sleep now.

8lb 9oz, 21 and a half inches long, with long wavy light brown hair and his mother's nose. His name is Parker, named after the saxophonist Charlie Parker.

How can I catch that plane home on Thursday?

10 April 2009

the love tree

When I am in another country a piece of my heart remains in Italy. Another part is in New Zealand, and family in New Zealand, Australia, Scotland and America unwittingly pull me in diverse ways. Does that mean that I am broken-hearted? I can only be with one at a time. Or am I very lucky, to be able to love so many, to be linked in this special way with people in diverse cultures?

I remember reading - and have often quoted - that there is no need for a child to be jealous when a new child is born because each little baby brings its own love with it. The parents don't love the other less, but simply grow more and more love. When I leave those I love, I don't love them less. Sometimes the distances make the love, the joys and the sorrows, even more acute.

Where is home? It is where the heart is, that is true. I may prefer one culture over another, but when I am with those I love that place also becomes a home, however temporary.

I have always enjoyed the theme song from "Cheers" - it has the title line "where everybody knows your name". An email reminds me that in my new home everybody knows my name, and in my little village all know why I have left them for these wide skies right now. But here, after only a few visits, I am also warmed when people remember me and I don't need to say who I am when I answer the phone.

We all need to connect, and maybe that is why I prefer to be in small towns and villages rather than in cities. It is too easy to become an island in the city. The price of connection may be a loss of privacy, but that is a price I am willing to pay.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name:
Read the lyrics here.
Listen to the song on YouTube .

Today I am grateful for
friends and neighbours, old and new.

9 April 2009

criss-crossed skies

Today as we returned home from an early lunch the wide Alabama skies were criss-crossed with vapour trails. (Why do we talk about skies rather than sky? Is that a residual habit from singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas" repeatedly in my childhood?) It reminded me of how wide-spread my family is, but how easy communication and international travel can be.

We ate in an "Italian" restaurant - despite my best efforts to eat healthily at home this dining out culture is hard to counter... and so the scale counter goes up. Dining tip for the day: don't order an espresso and expect it to taste like espresso. I suspect that it was plunger coffee. The food was tasty though. I will soon need to locate the cafe that makes real coffee... the Red Door June was a craving quencher last August. My usual substitute, good old instant coffee, doesn't taste right in this water.

The weather now is glorious. Last night we forgot that I had sneakily turned the central heating down when I opened all the windows and I slumbered happily under the covers. I seem to need diurnal temperature variation as much as I need the seasons.

PS Friday... Heat purchased water in microwave, add instant coffee. Addiction provided for.


We are playing a waiting game here... grandson is taking his time! His mother arrived in rather speedy fashion, not waiting for the doctor or making it to the hospital delivery theatre. Just Dad, the matron and a very scared nurse aided her into the world. Fortunately she was baby number four and Dad was a veterinary surgeon, taking charge of the situation until the matron arrived. Her son is making up for it. Little Parker has already had us convinced that he is on his way only to have the last laugh and say "Just tricking, Nonna Kate".

Today I am grateful for medical checks that reassure us that everything is OK!

8 April 2009

holly tree and bee


The sun is streaming in. It is wrong to be inside. I am off to paint a little, outside. If only the chipmunk would join me... or perhaps the scampering squirrel?

Berries, azaleas, trees... who knows?
Today I am grateful for laughter.

7 April 2009

change in the air

Today it is cold again. The storms have come and gone, getting my storm-crazy daughter excited each time. There hasn't been a tornado warning for days now.

The weather report tells me that it is 43 degrees F, but feels like 35 deg F. My memory cells don't remember that far back (New Zealand went metric in 1971, decimal currency 1967) so I had to convert... yes, 6 degrees C and feels like 2... but the central heating has been thoroughly confusing. Cold should be cold, right? Blankets and woollies, slippers... not bare arms and wearing jandals!

I am listening to Charlie Parker on Youtube... and have chosen to play "Compulsion", but I think I prefer "All the Things You Are".

Today I am grateful for warmth - warm people, warm smiles, warm houses, warm welcomes.

back to work

Move over, Changing Rooms. We make a good team here!(Part-way progress photo)

Knitting, making cushions out of recycled bits and pieces and painting murals on bright walls all have their place. However...

Today in a long-distance chat conversation my daughter said
well I'd better get ready for work I guess
Denial's a nice place to be but can't stay there!
Ok, the comment wasn't aimed at me, but... yes, I have been in denial about my own work and study while I have been happily decorating in a home very different from mine and playing Lexulous on Facebook.

So, it's head out of the clouds, back into the real world, and back to my own work, well... at least for tonight!


The world watches and waits as news unfolds. There are so many tragedies that it is easy to miss thinking of the victims of one as you mourn for another.

How tragic for the families of the victims of the quake, knowing that a scientist in the town warned of the danger but was dismissed as a scaremonger.

Across the road from where I am is a patriotic sign on the door, the American flag and the yellow ribbon for the soldiers in the Middle East. I wonder, do they wait for someone to come home?

All along the road you pass signs reminding us that Jesus is alive. But it is humans who are faulty, greedy, power hungry.

What do we need, other than shelter and food? All else is luxury. People, not things, are what matter most.
“He aha te mea nui o tenei ao? Maku e kii atu, He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!
You ask what is the most important thing in this world? I will tell you: It is people, it is people, it is people!
(Maori proverb)

Today I am grateful for the communication that tells me that Italian friends are safe and well.

6 April 2009

earthquake tragedy

I am on line reading the unfolding news of the tragedy in Italy. Sleep seems unimportant right now. (Earthquake date in Italy 6 April). Our thoughts and prayers are with all who are affected by this earthquake.

Growing up with earthquakes in the shakey isles I have never been afraid when they strike. People I knew had survived the 1931 earthquake. Pieces of china in my home held the story of this quake. As a child I marvelled that the land we drove over or landed on at the airport was once under the sea. As an adult I enjoy the art decor buildings that the make the new Napier famous worldwide. In 1966 the Gisborne quake left a lasting impression on me, but no lives were lost. in 1968 the Inangahua quake shocked the country, as did the 1987 Edgecombe earthquake which was shallow and destructive and also rocked most of the country. Gisborne suffered again in 2007.

Now, picturing my own little village with its ancient stone houses and its own earthquake history, and remembering the day the local school was closed because of a mild tremor, I view earthquakes differently. The tragedy of 2002 is not so far away. These are not lightly framed wooden schools and houses built to earthquake specifications as our New Zealand buildings are. Italy too lives with the earthquake threats, with higher risk factors with the population and ancient buildings. The history is a long one: the Abbey on Montecassino was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1349. The worst tragedy was as recent as 1980, with a terrible loss of life.

At times like this we are powerless to help those who have been lost. We can only support those who suffer, and take lessons from such tragedies, as nations and as individuals.

We often take life too lightly. Each day it would be great if we woke with the intention to enjoy every moment, to look on the bright side, to leave those we meet feeling better than we found them. Happiness can be contagious, positive energy can inspire.

It is sad that it often takes tragedy to remind us of the good; life is short and not to be wasted. Smile, when you look into the mirror. Dare to do something different. Live a little on the edge, but with excitement, not fear.


I couldn't help myself. After weighing up all the American options, looking longingly at the turkey panini, I chose the salad with gorgonzola.

My on-line Italian lesson for the week is about an Indian drink made from cow's urine. Yes, I had to check, it sounded so off-beat it had to be true, and sure enough google produced many well researched and informative articles about it.

I'll stick to water for now... the size of the free refill drinks here would undo all the gains from eating salad instead of traditional southern cuisine. I do enjoy the shrimps, and recommend browsing Uncle Ben's website for some healthy not-so-southern meals.

This morning's thunderstorms had the front-of-house squirrel tree-hopping for shelter in the evergreen by the driveway. Between storms it was back into the spring foliage and open branches. I too would prefer spring and new growth to stagnant and stale.

Today I am grateful for healthy food that reminds me that (on some level) we are what we eat and think.

5 April 2009

making cushions

Bright little yellow cushions on a red couch make me feel like decorating my own home. I have been resisting adding decoration until I get the "bones" (ie, rocks) of it in order. But joining in with the renovation here has given me itchy fingers...I want colour in my home, and comfort.

I think there could be a cushion and curtain effort coming up when I get home... or maybe not! The diary is already pretty full.

Ah well...

Today I am grateful for
bright colours and the use of a lovely sewing machine.

4 April 2009

wide and high

There is a song I used to sing as a kid, with the words "the prairie sky is wide and high" deep in the heart of Texas.

This isn't Texas, but each time I visit I am struck by how wide the sky is. I guess I have always lived near hills.

The sky is pale here (when not stormy!) In Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, it is cobalt blue above cerulean; where I live in Italy it is cobalt blue over cobalt blue light.

I wonder, how deep is the ocean, how wide is the sky?

Today I am grateful for sunshine and warm weather.

2 April 2009

mostly i accept

Mostly I accept without comment the things that work very differently in my new culture. After all, I chose to live there, with my eyes relatively wide open. I had been "coming and going" there for a couple of years, had read Frances Mayes and Marlena di Blasi. I had watched all the home improvement programmes, the ex-pats following their dreams. I assumed it would be reasonably similar for a migrating kiwi. There have been a few surprises, but every day the good outweighs any minor frustrations.

This one has me flummoxed though. I have almost finished my supply of watercolour paper purchased in New Zealand... yes, Italian watercolour paper. I brought it back to Italy. I haven't managed to find a replacement source near my home.

I have searched and searched on line. I carried my last purchase half the length of Italy by train from Riccione. Here in the USA I have found a supply at a relatively good price. Dilemma! Do I buy it here and take it home to Italy again?

In my search I found this... beautiful white paper that is green!
Well done, Fabriano. Now your next challenge is to supply affordable paper down in my part of Italy...


Daily delight...

Today I am grateful for the little chipmunk who visits us every day.

american cats

American cats are not allowed outdoors, so when I bought a little damp outdoors indoors there was much curiosity. How could I tell them to get down off the table?Today cats are grateful for... visiting Nonnas!

1 April 2009


I have been prescribed a cream for an ongoing patch of skin damage, solar keratosis, which has been treated by burning with dry ice over the past ten years or so. The specialist who prescribed the cream was most insistent that I return to be checked after two weeks. Unfortunately the cream wasn't available until one week before I travelled.

Two weeks into treatment I have an itchy rash over most of my body, and my eyes have been bothering me for about a week. I have had a headache for ten days, I am not sleeping well and at times I think my fibromyalgia has recurred.

I am writing this because, unsure about the cause of the rash (it is pollen time here, I am eating a different diet, I am in a house with four cats), I researched the side effects of Aldara cream.

Wonder drug or dangerous medicine? I don't know, but I will stop using it and hope that no real damage has been done. I have had no adverse reaction at the application site (forehead) but enough of the reported side effects to wonder if this drug requires much more testing before it is prescribed. Surgery may have been a better option.

There will be no sun for me this summer. Perhaps I should have moved further north? (Just joking... I'm a wuss in the cold!)

Today I am grateful for cautious dermatologists.

end of the month

Tomorrow is the "pinch and a punch for the first of the month" day.

I wonder where that strange ritual came from?

We are spring cleaning, here in Alabama. It has been a long day... so no "real" post but some sitting back to relax instead!

Today I am grateful for
happy company as I worked.