31 October 2009

sometimes a pumpkin

...but today I was Cinderella. It's Halloween, but I think I'll choose another fairy tale instead.

I spent this morning in the palazzo all alone... and with no distractions other than my work my imagination had a field day, imagining the magnificent staircase and rooms in different eras. Have I walked up this wonderful staircase in beautiful gowns, with delicate slippers on my tiny feet? Or are my size 41 broadfit running shoes the only ones that know this marble?

I wonder if that is why I don't like television very much? Things are so much more colourful, the music so much more to my liking, in my mind. I have far more choice as well; the imagination knows no bounds! It isn't hard to prefer my own thoughts to what is offered on the free-to-air channels, but I do admit that they are useful for revising my vocabulary.

This morning I found the "sweet spot" in the "music room" of the palazzo as "Po Kare Kare Ana" reverberated, my vocal chords unfettered by listening workers. No, I didn't tape it! But I did think about the Kiwi soldiers who were living in the building, singing to their guitars in the same place 65 years ago. I wonder what songs they sang, as they wrote to their sweethearts at home?

Now to prepare the panels for the room, and tick that job off the list as well.

Today I am grateful for "Eskimo slippers".


I'm going out for pizza shortly. I was going to a Halloween dinner in another town, but the travel arrangements didn't work out. I was disappointed at first, but now I have an evil plan! The halloween torches with a selection of shadow images wont be wasted! I am ready to go out, and had time to play...

Dressed with Halloween earrings (brown owls with orange shining eyes, the black cat ones I have already worn this week, and the pumpkin ones I thought I had are not there... did I give them away, perhaps?) I shall slip a torch up my jacket sleeve... there will be a bat image shining down onto the footpath as I walk with my unsuspecting English friends. I wonder if I can manage two torches, perhaps a jack-o-lantern on the other side?

Who says that "grownups" can't have fun?

Today I am also grateful for a sense of mischief!

30 October 2009

friday came fast

I can't believe the week is over already. Wasn't it only yesterday that it was Monday? I tidied all my pots and pans and paints and brushes into the corner, made sure that the sponge was in clean water, and walked out of the building into beautiful sunlight. I am thinking of going back to work tomorrow and taking Monday off, but deep down I suspect that when tomorrow comes I will have changed my mind. I do work so much better when it is peaceful though, and I suspect from this afternoon's activity that all the apartment doors will be hung on Monday; that will be a noisy event.

We are having incredible weather, well into the 20s and with glorious blue skies. It's not even cold at night yet... the bathroom is still warm enough for me and that is usually the telling factor. Last night's fire was for ambience, not warmth.

Photos of autumn coming.

29 October 2009

drat drat drat

I am missing my temporary flatmate already. I have no idea what to eat tonight! He was only here for a short time while relocating to Rome, but it was rather nice having someone to share the shopping and the dishes with. We even managed some real conversation, but my lack of serious Italian did frustrate him terribly! I suspect I will also miss the unending supply of grapes that arrived home with him each evening. How did he know that they would always be gone the next day? On the plus side, I have my computer back, my pages will stay up where I want them, and my television now works. It also augurs well for the real flatmate arriving next year, that will be fun!

I found that I eat better meals when I have to think of someone else as well. I think I would be pretty hard to live with, but compromise might be worth the effort.

Something to ponder though. As he gathered his things to leave this morning he made the mild observation that being in my house was rather like living in a studio... I suspect he was referring to the endless number of work stations, my lack of domesticity and no apparent order in my chaos. Ah well, colourful and welcoming it is, you can't deny me that!

Today I am grateful for shared evenings.

PS I'll start with a beer and a bag of Hula Hoops (thanks CyNICal) while I think about dinner... maybe I should try a more Bohemian lifestyle for a bit?

PPS I progressed to peanut butter toast and milo made with full milk.

PPS With a glass of red by the fire, a magazine or three to read, the kitchen clean and tidy and Zacchi curled up at my feet I'm pretty OK. There may not have been a balanced meal, but there was no compulsory watching of TV at my house tonight!

full potential

I'll write this blog when it is fully formed in my head. This post is to make sure that I do it.

In brief, though, I think that we must always do what we can to reach our full potential. I don't mean striving to the point of stress or unhappiness, but working steadily to that place of completion, when you know that all is right in your world.

Maslow, I always did think that you knew what you were talking about.

28 October 2009

christmas chocolate

The wonderful Italian chocolates, not available over the summer months, are back in the shops again. Will Power, wherefore art thou? I think it is most (un)fortunate that my favourites, Mon Cheri, are among the expensive and not to be munched every day. The box I bought for my sister is already half gone.

Today progress was difficult to mark at work. I did a little bit of this, a little bit of that... nothing really worth photographing. The surrounds of the round window are finished, I will add that photo later. I continue to be frustrated by a huge spa pool which is sitting between me and a wall I need to work on. Not only is it stopping my progress, but it also blocks my light. Other areas are held up because they need plastering. I will soon run out of the things that I can do, which might be a blessing as it will give knee and wrists time to settle again.

Today I measured for panelling up in the apartment where I worked initially. The acoustics in that room are amazing; I couldn't resist a little echo testing. Even my warbles sounded good - well, at least to my ear! (Don't feel obliged, I didn't actually record it for public viewing. Please keep in mind that these were tiny little sounds made very tentatively so that the other workers didn't hear me).

Today I am grateful for handcream.

i have discovered

that it is difficult to blow out matches with a paintbrush in your mouth
that quiche doesn't cook when the gas bombola runs out
that two dogs create 4 times more poop than one
that I would rather live alone than be second to a TV set
that my expectations from life don't change
that laughter really is the best medicine
that the generosity of friends is amazing

Today I am grateful for
yellow leaves on trees.

26 October 2009

bits and bobs

It's the little things that count. Every day I bend down to wash my brushes, fill my bucket, use the hose. This morning some thinking person had lifted the hose up to a much more user friendly position, tucking it in behind a downpipe - a copper downpipe, I might add! Why didn't I do that?

I have a love-hate relationship with the entry to our building. It is a shared space, quite magnificent if painted and re-dressed, but noone but me cleans it. I hadn't swept for many weeks, and it certainly showed. I was being obstinate... but in the end I crumpled. There are limits, after all! OK, so it's not a love-hate relationship with the entry, I love it unconditionally and wish I could restore it too to the grandeur it once had. It's the dirt I hate to see there.

I have a slight knee problem (recurring but not a major) but long doggy walks are out of the question. Those pleading eyes certainly know how to make me feel bad!

to be continued...

25 October 2009

different music

This weekend has seen some YouTube time, sharing different cultures through music. One video took a lovely tour through rural New Zealand to the tune of Pa Mai, kareoke style. If I had learnt to speak Maori when I was young I am sure learning Italian whould be so much easier now... at least as far as pronunciation goes!

I spent some quiet time perusing the many files, in a strange kind of nostalgic place. In the end I returned to Kiri Te Kanawa, singing a range of songs in English and Italian. These seem to suit my multi-cultural space.

Right now the autumn sun reaches into the house; the windows are open and the chanting of the soccer supporters floats up from the valley below. Daylight saving has finished,the leaves are turning a glorious yellow.

From my peaceful perch on the hillside I can close my eyes, listen to music, and transport myself anywhere I choose. Zacchi and Pickle, however, want me to stay here, go walking, and maybe, if I am good, they will let me photograph the autumn colours.

Today I am grateful for inter-cultural tolerance.

24 October 2009

beautiful sunset

Back in the "good old days" we had autograph books where we wrote little rhymes and messages. I hope mine still exists somewhere, but I haven't seen it for far too many years. It came to mind because this evening we have a particularly spectacular autumn sunset. I was driving home from a huge funeral when I saw it, and then from my kitchen it simply intensified as though it was giving Mirella a fabulous farewell.

The whole town farewelled this 59 year old, taken far too soon. She had been at the local Wednesday market every week since she was a child, and, as I heard so many times today, never said a bad word about anybody, and was always ready with a smile and a quick retort. The main street was simply choked with cars. The band (which often leads a funeral cortege) blocked the road from one direction, the traffic in chaos completely choked it from the other direction. I too parked in the middle of the street blocking others in.

An Italian friend who travels frequently said once that he likes to visit schools and cemeteries, as you can tell a lot about a nation by the way it treats its young and its dead. I think I would add to that the nation's health care systems as well.

I have been to more funerals than celebratory events here. Friends go to the homes prior to the event, and all leave for the church in a procession. I don't usually do this, but today was driving a relative of the family. We parked at least a kilometre from the house, and as the house was at a crossroad I estimate that there were at least 5 kilometres of cars outside the home before leaving for the church. Outside the church were so many more.

Mourners filled the street, the people there in greater numbers than for any festive procession. Here many follow the hearse on foot, sometimes walking as far as 4 kilmetres from the church to the cemetery. Today the band led the way. Huge wreaths are mounted on a separate vehicle, this following directly behind the band.

Outside we talked as the service continued in the church. We all silently reviewed our own lives, and resolved to live more for today, and to seek a better balance of work and relaxation.

The quote from the autograph book that I remember quite often was this:
"May there be just enough clouds in your life to make a glorious sunset".

Today I am grateful for honest communication with good friends.

23 October 2009

really tis friday

...aching feet, tired eyes, we wont even think about the legs and back for now, they are taking their turns, but it is FRIDAY and work is over for the day! Hoorah!

Now to shower, drink tea, pour gallons of moisturiser into parched hands and put the feet up for a bit. I am constantly grateful for my comfortable couch!

Photos later - maybe!

Today I am grateful for tasty pasta with lentils.

22 October 2009

feels like friday

Home, tired, showered and clean. It feels like Friday. Couldn't I start the weekend early, please?

The stairwell is progressing, a little faster today. I finally found a way to get some light. I climbed up onto the scaffolding that is waiting for the workers who will clean before I paint, and I removed two panels. Instant light! I had been working in the shadow of the monster.

This afternoon the kiwi do-it.yourselfer came unstuck! I was up there again, moving the second lot of scaffolding, when the boss came in. I had made rather a lot of noise and sent a shower of rubble down the stairwell. Too dangerous, he says, for me to be up there dismantling it. I didn't confess to how I got light this morning. The good thing is, though, that a light has been found. It is a little harsh, creating brilliant glare in places and dark shadows in others, but it is portable and I can move it to where it serves me best.

The plan is to finish all but the inevitable touching up and retouching of the stairwell by tomorrow evening. Being an optimist will help!

This morning the storms hit us for a while. Water poured down from the mountain, making gushing rivers down the pretty little streets. I watched with huge relief as it travelled speedily on its way over my concrete, not lingering to soak down into the cantina. Whew!

Today I am grateful for a red raincoat and yellow umbrella.

21 October 2009

oil required

Maybe I should drink olive oil instead of wine. I am sure my joints are starting to creak as I go up and down the stairwell. Or is it the change of season? It can't POSSIBLY be old age or over-exertion!

The beautiful window on the first landing:Today I am grateful for messages from afar.

20 October 2009

progress on the walls

Today another worker on site - there were three of us today, lost in the huge building until the smell of coffee drew us all to the same spot - reassured me as he said "Now it is starting to be something" or words to that effect. I have been an age already, working on the stairwell. Last week I undercoated, and trialed some colours. Yesterday I used rabbitskin glue and tempera (sorry TK and all the rabbits) to age the new paint. I haven't attempted to hide the joins between old and new, but hope that the top and bottom lines will hold it all in a satisfactory way.

As worked my way up and down the stairwell, with all my colours and mediums, the other workers seemed a little bemused at what I was doing. I guess they had reason as I had trays, tubes, rulers, rags, brushes of all sizes, and I roamed up and down touching up a little here and reworking something else there, not completing a single section. At coffee time they asked about my brew, the rabbitskin glue heating on the gas burner. They seemed unconvinced, slightly incredulous at the lengths I was going to to recreate what still looked like an amateurish mess.

This afternoon, after changing one section and reworking parts already "finished", I worked on those top and bottom lines. About half an hour before knock-off time the more senior man looked at the stairwell, smiled warmly, and affirmed that it was coming together.

It is about time!

Today I am grateful for positive comments.

PS Scroll back a few posts for updated photos.

19 October 2009


but still much to do!

The view from the top of the construction site is worth taking the extra flights of stairs.

Today I am grateful for willing helping hands and company for dinner.

18 October 2009

all about texture

Pasta is all about texture. It doesn't seem to matter how many different types you have lined up in canisters or packets along the shelves, chances are that the one you really want on any day is not there. Despite my efforts to keep life simple the range of pasta in my own kitchen continues to grow.

I am trying to learn the names of a few favourites, but they still all sound similar to me. There is some progress though; I can now stand at the supermarket shelf and imagine them cooked, visualising the appropriate sauce, vegetables or meat in each steaming bowl. I remember them better in translation: butterflies, little butterflies, big butterflies, snails, ears, little ears, shells, and yes, you can even buy alphabet pasta. I have yet to check which alphabet has been used, as the Italian alphabet does not have j, k, w, x or y. You can read the names of the letters of l'alfabeto italiano here.

I got on the scales this morning, not something I do very often. Pasta and pizza damage minimal. Chocolate and cheese... that's another story!

First fire for the season:I am looking forward to winter soups and healthy living.

Today I am grateful for sun-ripened tomatoes.

17 October 2009

15 October 2009

my little champion

Last night it was pretty cold. Well, comparatively cold. Our temperatures dropped dramatically, and the torso has yet to adjust to the new regime. Today I have three layers of (summer) clothing and am too hot. Yesterday two were barely enough to keep warm. It is time to hunt out the winter clothes.

But in the meantime I decided to heat the kitchen with the gas heater. I was given two some time ago when the owners no longer wanted them. One has always performed well, the other rather erratically. At the end of last winter I was down to using one, not wanting to mess about with gas. Two weeks ago the oven bombola ran out of gas, so I stole the partly used one from a heater. Yes, of course, Murphy saw to it that I stole from the good heater.

Last night I lit the "other" heater, not knowing which it was. I could smell gas, but the flame seemed to be fine. The connections checked out OK. I pushed the heater near the "natural ventilation" of the old door with holes in it, and I opened the window a fraction. I figured I was safe enough if I tried it for a short while. Zacchi, a gas heater magnet, came in. He loves the gas heater so much he has even woken me on a cold night asking to have it put on. It is his favourite spot, between the heater and the computer, for the winter.

He looked worried. Well, more worried than usual. He wouldn't sit in front of the heater. He went from side to side, around the back, sniffing, not settling, then looking at me, trying to tell me something. I assured him that I had checked the fittings, all was OK, it was just the gas from start-up. He wasn't convinced. He went to the oven and sniffed all around that bombola, looking at me as if to say "Listen to me! This is what it should be like." He did the whole ritual of sniffing around the heater, then over to the other bombola, twice more. When I still didn't move he gave little short barks.

I got up and turned it off. I removed the bombola and attached it to the other heater. I wrote "Bad Heater" in the dust on the ummm... bad heater. By then I was well and truly warm, no heater required.

Tonight I will try the other heater, with my little champion beside me.

Today I am grateful for my faithful companion.

14 October 2009

how did it get to be wednesday?

Today my "best room" (ie, the one that functions as lounge, guest room, studio, dressing room and so on) was measured for new window and doors. All my exhausting work across the road will be converted into double glazed objects of beauty with chestnut coloured wooden surrounds. I would love to continue through the whole house, but pian piano, let's start with where the winter wind blows!

Right now I am really really regretting ordering and part-paying for the kitchen doors; it would have been lovely to have them all the same, but with the treatment two little dogs would give them it is probably best that they are alluminium - assuming that they will arrive before THIS winter!

Tomorrow my Christmas present arrives early... and with her probably some earl grey tea! Better go sort the fireplace so it is all ready to light when we get home from the airport.

Today I am grateful for the exercise I am getting up and down the stairs.

12 October 2009

only 75 days

Today an incoming email proclaimed "Only 75 days till Christmas".

I am not sure I wanted to know how quickly the year has flown by. This Christmas I intend doing something completely different, but I have yet to decide what! Because I don't like the terribly commercial side of Christmas I think I will focus on a beautiful meal and a little excursion somewhere new. Thinking about what it might be is becoming like a game. Do I want to do this? Or that? Or maybe something else? There is something rather nice about looking at options, weighing up the weather, the distance, the possibilities. I used to avoid that because it highlighted being alone, but now I enjoy being a little self-indulgent.

I will visit the displays of the nativity scenes. I will probably go to midnight mass with friends. I will sleep in as long as Zacchi permits. And then, my kitchen will fill with the smells of Kiwi cooking!

But there are 101 things to do before then. I had better get back to them!

Today I am grateful for a promise kept.

11 October 2009

beneath the skin

A discussion about religion this morning had me sharing this post written by a UK Muslim woman. When I first read this I found myself saying "how true, how true". I think that the more I live in this "free, liberal" culture, the more I understand that such freedom can also be a form of entrapment.

I defend my right to dress in comfortable clothing, to wear jeans that fit in my definition of "fit", to wear make-up only when I feel like it, and to wear shoes that support me and wont lead to a shakey fall.

Today another beautiful bride was married in our beautiful, ancient church. As I headed up towards the piazza in my NZ footwear, purchased with good grip on cobblestones in mind, I passed a young couple going down. She had her hand delicately on his shoulder, walking a little behind, her head slightly turned. At first I thought she was unable to see. But see she could; once again it was the incredible shoes causing the delay. They made slow if beautiful progress down the sloping cobblestone path.

It could be that I am the one trapped in my own stubborn ways, or that I am unknowingly envious of the beautiful and the elegant. But, at the end of the day, I know which form of supposed entrapment I prefer. Give me the hijaab over the heels any day!

Today I am grateful for a mind of my own.

10 October 2009

on glass

Today I visited the next task, painting on a large mirror already glued to the wall. It will be a challenge. Still, that's what keeps life interesting!

The task:
Paint on vertical glass (I will be using only light red, yellow, blue and a mushroom/brown colour to achieve all my shades).
Pick up the colours in the room, with a muted yellow of the curtains and the bronze of the door being the dominant tones.
Blend a lively freehand painting with a mix of classical Italian and modern furnishings.
This must be completed around the palazzo work. Luckily it is in the neighbouring building.

Wish me luck!

Today I am grateful for home made pasta.

9 October 2009

patience, or lack of

Ok, so patience is not my middle name. I promised myself that if I stopped fiddling tonight and put my brushes away (twice dipped into the orzo, nice colour for the cabinet actually) I could take the masking tape off and see it without the splashy edges.Now to resist completing the details, working on the faces, and touching up the little bleeds and rough edges; it is a long way from dry.Later: This second photo is taken when dry, today, Saturday, in daylight. The effect when the painting is on my mantlepiece is much more dramatic. I am happy with it, even though the camera doesn't catch the light and dark effectively. I will finish the details tomorrow. Distance helps sometimes.

PS: Some of the not-so-straight lines are actually the paper cockling because I didn't stretch it. They will settle out later. It is 300gsm hot press, but I use so much water that I really need to stretch this too.

friday night progress

I am trying very hard to keep this loose and fresh, knowing that at the "tidying up" stage I will be tempted to go into too much detail.

It is almost ready for me to pull off the masking tape, when the clean edge will make it so much nicer. I am trying hard to resist... it has to be dry, have one more wash, and then I can really start to have fun with it. Can I wait until tomorrow? Or will I use the hairdrier on it?

Posting this has really helped me to see the flaws. They jump out when I am one removed from looking at the real object, where the eye tends to see what the brain thinks should be there!

never-ending story...

When I finished touching up the fresco and a few lines in the entry of the palazza I thought that my work was almost done. It seems to keep growing though... I have not finished the walls, or their decorations, but have started on the lower stairwell while I wait for the plasters to finish their part.

Yesterday a new set of scaffolding went up in the stairwell on the top floor, a part where I go only to peek at the view or to look at progress in the apartments. I wondered what repair work needed doing. Today the boss, with a cheerful grin, said that the scaffolding is for me... and it is NOT the part where I know I have more scaffolding work. I don't think he was joking.

Today I am grateful for the beautiful views all around me.

8 October 2009

i suppose

I suppose I should be grateful that the dogs insist on taking me walking, no matter how tired I am. It's really good of them to care so much.

Zacchi, to show that he is pleased with my efforts, trots along like a little champion, not pulling, not running on the road, not even sniffing the cats or the rubbish bins.

Pickle, on the other hand... has a mind of her own!

Today I am grateful for some exercise after a tiring day.

7 October 2009

slow but steady

Today was a bit tiring, and there was not so much time for the watercolour tonight. A little bit of progress, but not as much as I would have liked. I came close to losing the likeness on the seated figure while working on her eye make-up, but I think I have saved it. There is more work to do around the eyes of both women. I need to bring back the smile of the younger woman which disappeared in the last wash, and add the details of the eyes once the flesh tones have dried.

I am working in variable light conditions and must walk away in that "betwixt and between" stage when it is not quite time for the artificial light but the natural light is too fickle.

Today I am grateful for steady balance on the ladder.

6 October 2009

day two after painting walls

The shift from sponging walls to look like marble during the day to painting a watercolour in the evening is a big jump but a welcome change as well. Here is the next stage. I am blocking in colour to get some depth, then I will work more on the mirror images. There is a cabinet of china to go in the background later. This photo was taken with only the light of a lamp and I quite like the effect. Perhaps I will use this as a reference for final washes.

Today I am grateful for my midday dinner (thanks Franca).

5 October 2009

gently does it

As promised, to keep me honest, the first stages of the double portrait. It has taken me a while to get the correct mirror images, best angles and composition sorted, but I think I have got it now.

I am working from photographs which I have reversed to give the mirror image which is what the portrait is about. Getting the relative positions of mother and daughter, along with the hairdresser standing behind the bride (he will be in the picture but out of the mirror), almost did my head in. If they are looking in at this angle, they should be looking out at ? angle... and on it went. By comparison the relatively complicated background should seem simple!
I am not sketching too much background or foreground in yet; should I happen to lose a likeness I don't want to waste hours of measuring and drawing.

Today I am grateful for this wonderfully mild October weather.

4 October 2009

don't they know?

You would think that by October the mosquitoes would have had enough and gone away. But no... our long and pleasant summer has kept the beastly little blighters happily stalking my sweet and juicy flesh. Aaargh...........!

This afternoon has been "wonder-woman clean-up day" as the Saturday morning clean-up gave way to a fun-filled and very social visit to where some Kiwi soldiers rested for two months in the January and February of 1944.

I am beginning to explore Italy a little, pian piano...

The leaves on the large plane trees in the main piazza are just beginning to turn. It takes me back to 2007 when I painted them so hastily for an exhibition before I returned to NZ for a few months. It all seems so long ago!

Today I am grateful for people who "follow through" and keep their promises.

3 October 2009

testing colours

Yesterday: testing colours and simplifying the original designs.

Today: it has been a long, tiring but happy day; driving, translating, meeting new people, and a lot of laughter.

Today I am grateful for a warm welcome in another province.

2 October 2009


The weather has been cooler and a bit damp today. My tape isn't sticking to the stone and stucco, so I came home after an hour and got back to the double portrait that I talked about... how long ago? It is still at the drawing stage, but as the recipient will leave the USA for Italy this coming week the pressure is on!

It is "loose ends" time again!

Today I am grateful for sharp scissors.

1 October 2009

changing faces

It is much quieter at the workplace these days. There are only five of us there most days, unless there is a delivery or a new development in another part of the building. I miss my southern friends, their concern for my safety and comfort on the scaffolding, the endless cups of coffee, the excuses to come and visit the only woman on the site. I even miss the delightful young hopeful who wanted his portrait painted, but as he had no money offered me the use of his body as payment... and when I said that my portraits were expensive he assured me that I could keep him for the WHOLE of the night! He seemed to think he would be worth the fee...

The new workers are doing more specialised tasks, seem to be better educated, and are far more respectful. It's nice, a lovely work environment, but not quite as entertaining!

Work is progressing faster now that we have agreed on the colours and form. The next few days should make quite a difference, but then it is back up the scaffolding and more straight lines. I can't say that I am looking forward to it, terra firma and freehand suits me for now.

The landscape that is the next task is beginning to eat away at me.

Today I am grateful for laughter and frank discussion.