30 March 2010

less typing

My wrist is not behaving again... fewer blogs means faster recovery!

I'll be back.

Today I am grateful for massage oil.

28 March 2010


Today was a busy but good day.

Sore wrist so no blog.

Today I am grateful for a new friend.

26 March 2010

friday already!

How did that happen? I seem to have a habit of losing Thursdays.

Photos later. Maybe.

Today I am grateful for voluntary kindnesses.

Photos... much later!

While I was working in this corner

an artist was working quietly at home in my computer corner...
I am also grateful for the beauty of the spider's web.

24 March 2010

the gift

Last night I cooked schnitzel. The dogs knew. They waited on their best behaviour for the tidbits that come when I have finished eating. (Bad behaviour = no treats! They are not allowed to beg). They also knew that the left-over pieces were in the fridge.

I got a bit hungry and it's too early for dinner, so I went to get something from the fridge. Two little dogs promptly sat in "look at me being perfect" poses. They weren't even in the room!

Reluctantly I walked over to share the last of the cold meat with them.

In the few minutes it took to break up and share the treat I saw the most glorious sunset. If I had eaten all of the schnitzel myself I wouldn't have even known that the sky was a rich pink and the sun a glowing plate sliding down behind the hills.

I'll bet that the sunset at the beach was wonderful tonight!

Today I am grateful for the gifts from nature.

23 March 2010


Somehow I missed Monday! A day with no blog! And that is after taking a short-cut and doubling up my posts a couple of times. (The Legato blog has had over 1000 hits in a short time, which makes it worth all the effort!)

At Work:
I am doing the walls of the sala where I first began in the palazzo.
I have begun the commission that I promised to have finished last October.
I have images in my head for the Cassino exhibition works I hope to make.
I am designing in my mind Parker's birthday painting.

But now, the heater on, a cup of Orzo (a bit like coffee but made from barley and has no caffein), probably a couple of pieces of chocolate cake...

and... (big grin here)

I am going to indulge in reading the first book that arrived from Amazon today! "Art Lover, a biography of Peggy Guggenheim" by Anton Gill.

I haven't studied Italian for days, but it's time to treat myself to some real relaxation! (Perhaps I had better cook dinner first, I may not come out of the book for a while).

Today I am grateful for books.

fire on Monte Cassino

On Sunday evening there was a spectacular fireworks display atop Monte Cassino (to celebrate the saint's day, which is held on the anniversary of his death). Monday (yesterday) saw a large part of Monte Cassino and neighbouring hills burning again.

The last big fire there was in August 2004, although there have been smaller ones since then in our hot dry summers. These fires explode mortars left lying there after the war, and clear the undergrowth so in the next few days military collectors will be out in force again looking for relics.

Artists travelling to Cassino for the May exhibition will see a more "war-time landscape" than they would have seen had the exhibition been last week.

It was a similar fire in 2004 that gave me the photographs that I later turned into works for my exhibition in 2005.

That was the first (and only) time I used photographs in my artwork, taking them into the computer, layering, altering, and finally drawing into them to form some of the layers of memories in the small pieces.

21 March 2010

peace and love

Today is the festa of St Benedict. San Benedetto, an interesting man.

This from the Saints and Angels page of Catholic Online.

In the fifth century, the young Benedict was sent to Rome to finish his education with a nurse/housekeeper. The subject that dominated a young man's study then was rhetoric -- the art of persuasive speaking. A successful speaker was not one who had the best argument or conveyed the truth, but one who used rhythm, eloquence and technique to convince. The power of the voice without foundation in the heart was the goal of the student's education. And that philosophy was reflected in the lives of the students as well. They had everything -- education, wealth, youth -- and they spent all of it in the pursuit of pleasure not truth. Benedict watched in horror as vice unraveled the lives and ethics of his companions.

Afraid for his soul, Benedict fled Rome, gave up his inheritance, and lived in a small village with his nurse. When God called him beyond this quiet life to even deeper solitude, he went to the mountains of Subiaco. There he lived as a hermit under the direction of another hermit, Romanus. After years of prayer, word of his holiness brought nearby monks to ask for his leadership. He warned them he would be too strict for them, but they insisted -- then tried to poison him when his warning proved true.

So Benedict was on his own again -- but not for long. The next set of followers were more sincere and he set up twelve monasteries in Subiaco where monks lived in separate communities of twelve.

He left these monasteries abruptly when the envious attacks of another hermit made it impossible to continue the spiritual leadership he had taken.

But it was in Monte Cassino he founded the monastery that became the roots of the Church's monastic system. Instead of founding small separate communities he gathered his disciples into one whole community. His own sister, Saint Scholastica , settled nearby to live a religious life.

After almost 1500 years of monastic tradition his direction seems obvious to us. But Benedict was an innovator. No one had ever set up communities like his before or directed them with a rule. What is part of history to us now was a bold risky step into the future.

Benedict had the holiness and the ability to take this step. His beliefs and instructions on religious life were collected in what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict -- still directing religious life after 15 centuries.

In this tiny but powerful Rule, Benedict put what he had learned about the power of speaking and oratorical rhythms at the service of the Gospel. He did not drop out of school because he didn't understand the subject! Scholars have told us that his Rule reflects an understanding of and skill with the rhetorical rules of the time. Despite his experience at school, he understood rhetoric was as much a tool as a hammer was. A hammer could be used to build a house or hit someone over the head. Rhetoric could be used to promote vice ... or promote God. Benedict did not shun rhetoric because it had been used to seduce people to vice; he reformed it.

Here is Wikipedia's entry, lengthy, interesting, but not so lyrical! Another interesting link is this one, from the Benedictine Sisters in Indiana, where the writer links the teachings of St Benedict to society today.

For information about the Abbey on Monte Cassino click here (wikipedia) or here (Official website for Abbey).

Today I am grateful for my friends named Ben.

19 March 2010

testing times

The final big push to finish (all bar a few touch-ups as things get knocked about by other workers), yes to finish over at the palazzo. Can I do it before Easter? Or will I be calling for a helping hand?

Here are my trials to try to get the materials right for the twelve panels. Remember that this has to be "500-year-old stone building-proof!"

Today I am grateful for creative options.

more about water

This time a serious blog post about water. Today's newsletter from the International Medical Corps has some sobering figures:

This Monday, March 22, is World Water Day, a day to call attention to the scarcity of clean water and sanitation in the developing world.

Currently, 20% of people around the world lack access to safe water and an additional 5 million die each year from waterborne illnesses, such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea. That adds up to more than 6,000 people, mostly children, dying every day from preventable diseases.

We believe that clean, safe water, access to sanitation and knowledge of good hygiene practices are necessary components to public health and we’ve worked to include water and sanitation into our community development programs around the world. To learn more about these types of programs, as well as World Water Day, click below to watch our video:

World Water day 2010

In the wake of January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are displaced from their homes and living in makeshift camps outside Port-au-Prince. The sanitary conditions in these encampments are abysmal, and the lack of access to clean water creates the potential for a second humanitarian crisis in Haiti. In order to prevent this type of tragedy, we deployed our water and sanitation expert to Haiti immediately after the earthquake.

Recently, International Medical Corps partnered with UNICEF to build latrines in camps in Petit-Goave, Carrefour and Boloisse, preventing harmful waste contamination. We are working with the Haitian government to promote good hygiene through public education efforts. We’ve also been educating local health workers on the importance of sanitation and teaching them how to recognize and treat symptoms of waterborne illnesses.

We believe that access to clean water is a right, not a luxury. We hope you recognize World Water Day this year and join us in the fight to prevent a global water crisis.

All the best,
International Medical Corps UK

Today I am grateful for organisations such as the IMC.

up and up

Today I feel as though I really am back in the studio. I have clear spaces to work, a shiny new tap and running water (OK, so only cold water so far, but it's running!) Half the storage units are in... some have still to arrive, and I have decided not to use some of the kitchen utility ones.

I had a couple of stand-offs (friendly but determined ones) with my workers, who are now completely sure that I am mad and will refer to my fridge for ever more. They insisted on moving my fridge to put the benchtop in. I said that the fridge was in the right place, and it was non-negotiable. It was to stay in THIS corner! There was no way a fridge was going to block my wonderful view and reduce the light just to make a kitchen. It was not going in THIS corner! I went back to the computer. After a while I thought "Mmm... better just check..." and sure enough my fridge was back where they wanted it. To cut a long story short, I threw out the stove to put the fridge where I wanted it, and will buy a tiny electric bench-top oven for my guests. At the end of the day they agreed that they could see my point, but I imagine the tale of the crazy artist who bought a second hand kitchen then had it chopped up and didn't install either the dishwasher or the oven will spread like wild-fire. It's all a matter of priorities :-)

I went to put a few things in order tonight, and returned "home" two hours later with a painting well underway! Felt great... Ella Fitzgerald singing, me singing, Pickle singing... poor neighbours!

Today I am grateful for hot water in the bathroom.

17 March 2010

strange mix

I have been looking at my facebook page. It's a strange mix, from family and old friends to a whole new lot of additions, artists and war historians being the "new friends" in the picture, so to speak. Now, thanks to both of them, I have met more people and have added more local people. Finding appropriate accommodation for a dozen or so Kiwi artists who are currently creating work for the Legato exhibition for peace and remembrance has put me in contact with more people here.

I remain ambivalent about facebook, but I have to admit that it is an amazing networking tool. The world shrinks daily.

Today I invited the local priest to come and bless my house and studio. He "does the rounds" before Easter each year. I understood about three quarters of the prayers I guess. I doubt that I'll ever be Catholic, but I don't think God actually minds.

This building was home to German soldiers in the war, part of it was used by a lady of "the oldest profession" not so many years ago, and all of it at some time housed monks. Now a slightly crazy New Zealand artist is added to the mix, painting and teaching in the same rooms. I am sure that the house has been blessed many many times, and that might be why it feels so good to be in it.

Today I am grateful for adequate accommodation for visitors.

16 March 2010

it's nearly spring...

Sun is great but it's still cold underfoot!I'll just enjoy from here, thanks.Aaah... that's more like it. A little heat in the sun...
And the blossom across the road is glorious, I think it even had a slight buzz in it too!

Today I am grateful for bi-lingual friends.

15 March 2010


So close to finishing work across the road, apart from the panels in one apartment. Happiness is...

Last night I gave in to the cold (it was even down to 4 degrees in Naples overnight) and moved my bed upstairs. Beautiful old stone houses are wonderful in the summer, but in a winter like this (with heating systems not yet in place, and the computer not near the fire) the floors and walls are sooooo cold!

The dogs were not so impressed, they stayed downstairs, but I slept well without them!

It will be spring, officially, next week. Occasionally we are getting wonderful days, but they serve only to punctuate what has been a cold and wet winter. Winters call for something special... full milk Milo! Recently my daughter in America wrote a blog about the memories and sensations a smell brought back to her. Making chocolate truffles was her trigger. This morning as I stirred my treat of full milk Milo I was instantly transported to the kitchen in Marumaru, nearly 50 years ago, to be standing beside my mother in the kitchen, stirring the chocolately Milo into the steaming milk. Senses. The human body is a wonderful thing.

Today I am grateful for full milk milo.

PS: Back to art...check out this link, I like what he says about the role of the artist.

14 March 2010


Quite some time ago I accepted an offer to review a book. I enjoy reading, writing, and the subject was one close to my heart. How hard could this be?

It duly arrived by post, in perfect condition. In a spare moment I opened it, enjoyed the beauty of the pages, read a few of the quotations, and put it aside to give it my full attention one evening. At 112 pages it's not such a large book, and the many beautiful illustrations give plenty of reflective time to complement the reading time.

The first evening I read the preface and introduction thoroughly. Full of well supported and useful advice, I was already giving this book a high rating. In the introduction was a very nice summary of many of the theories we see expanded in other writing, and a general guide for applying these on a daily basis to our lives. For this alone I was happy to have the book. Then, as I read further, I completely forgot my critical purpose. I worked my way into the alphatudes, and fell asleep contentedly. This happened on another two occasions.

This afternoon I decided that this was a daytime task, and one I would cross off my list today. What happened? By the end of my cup of tea I was fully immersed again, relating this to my life, not critically evaluating at all. Pencil and paper lay untouched beside me.


the alphabet of gratitude
Author: Michele Wahlder
Publisher: Life Possibilities Publishing, Dallas, 2010.
Author and life coach Michele Wahlder takes us through the alphabet, giving a quality or concept, quotation, beautiful double-spread full colour image, a prayer and a page of thought-provoking text for each letter. By promoting an attitude of gratitude and making counting one's blessings a habit, the reader is encouraged to celebrate joy, identify emotions, and make positive choices.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the term "alphatude" is a little prosaic, but that is merely my opinion and certainly not a problem with the content of the book. It is, in fact, a useful reminder; can't sleep? Then you probably haven't done your "alphatude"! It is impossible to progress though the alphabet with an attitude of gratitude without feeling spirits rise and having a feeling of pleasure and peace replace the stresses of a busy day.

The sub-text on the cover reads "26 Solutions for Life's Little Challenges". It is certainly a delightful way to approach these, particularly as you reflect on them at the end of the day.

I would love to pass my copy of this lovely book along, to share with family and friends, but for now it is going back right where it is needed most, on my bedside table.


Today I am also grateful for this lovely book currently on my computer desk. (There, I did manage to stay on task!)

sunday, and sunshine

What better thing to do on a lovely (nearly) spring day than a little spring cleaning?

Today I am grateful for neighbours who enjoy laughter.

13 March 2010

twice today

Twice today discussions with different friends were about love. What is love? Does it exist? And so on... I wonder, is it just around the corner? Or is it just that they are feeling sorry for me in my solitude? The solitude was self-imposed, and I'm quite OK.

I did like the definition from one though, if I can translate it well enough. "Love is the embers that remain after the flames of passion die down". That's a pretty good description... and embers can be fanned to life again too!

Today I am grateful for a lesson in Italian.

12 March 2010

some days

Some days start off well and go downhill. And, luckily, some go the other way. This morning started off with some sorting of my anxieties, and then just got better and better.

I bumped into people I wanted to see, without planning ahead. I achieved a few more things on the seriously urgent list.

I squeezed in some shopping (new brooms, mops, am I nesting?) and bought fruit and vegetables.

It's cold, but today was a bright cold. There was snow on the hills behind again last night, and today I could pick out smaller snow clouds in the distance across the valley. Bright, crisp cold is OK.

And then, to cap it all off, as I was driving home the sun going down in our strange spring weather cast the most magical pink light over absolutely everything. It wasn't a fleeting thing, it lasted quite some time. No photos, though, I was too busy enjoying it, drinking it in, identifying the rose madder washes it would require...

Today I am grateful for the beauty of the place where I live.


Yesterday was one of those days when I worried myself silly about something that was completely outside my control, and as a result spent a miserable day. This morning I gave myself a good talking to, set a self-care plan in action, and hey presto, a visitor arrived in good health and spirits and confirmed that all my worrying was a complete waste of energy and time.

I write this because I preach "no worrying" to friends who worry, but this time fell into the trap myself. There is no point in wasting energy on things you cannot influence.

Always look up. It is your choice, what your "up" is, but whether literally or metaphorically, it is a good thing to do.


My website is being redesigned. It is excitingly different from my old one, but you'll have to wait a little longer to see it. I have pangs about it, I was very fond of my old one. Change isn't always easy. (That probably sounds odd, coming from one who changed her life completely only a few years ago). The new website is much more alive and energetic, and that's a good thing. Maybe there is a metaphor in there for me too!

Yesterday I was grateful for the watchful, sympathetic eyes of two little dogs.

Today I am grateful for a friend returned.

10 March 2010

hot soup

It's cold again. Spring was flirting with us.

The cantina flooring is looking great, but taking twice as long as expected (why did I expect it to be completed in the predicted time?)

I found some second hand kitchen cupboards for my studio (Woohooo!!)

The Legato blog has had over 700 hits in 7 days.

When it's been a cold old day you can't beat a large serving of home made vegetable soup to make you feel brighter.

The most urgent job on the list has been completed, and must be posted tomorrow.

Today I am grateful for reflective, deep thinkers.

pleased to report

I am happy to be crossing a few more things off the urgent list. Along the way a few of the important but not so urgent things were attended to as well.

A press release for Legato went out today, and I have already had emails from Honolulu, Japan and New Zealand about it. For a control freak like me it's an anxious time, wondering what will be published. I would love to write the articles and releases myself. Perhaps that's why I blog. The publicity has been great though; Word of Mouth Media NZ is doing a great job for the exhibition.

I bought a desk for the studio today; it's not quite what I wanted but it will do.

It has just gone past midnight, and the heater is obligingly beeping to tell me it is almost out of fuel. The message is loud and clear...

Today I am grateful for charity shops supporting good causes.

8 March 2010

procrastinating again?

I have reviewed my list of urgent things to do. It has lots of satisfying red lines on it now, but I seem to add more than I cross off. It currently has 18 items on it, but buying gas heaters and similar articles might drop off the list as the weather warms. A warm blanket and big woollen jackets will have to do in the evenings.

Today buying food (not on list) became a priority.

But the grocer had THE MOST GORGEOUS pears for sale. How could I even think about it? Not on any list, pears to paint. I bought a bag full, each carefully selected for shape and colour...

They will make a wonderful exercise to get my watercolour hand back in again after painting on concrete and stucco with all sorts of combined media.

Today I am grateful for
the daffodils heralding spring.

7 March 2010

a story of music... or not?

Today I am sharing the same post on two blogs. This is from the blog for Legato, the exhibition for peace and remembrance in Cassino in May.

Working towards this exhibition has been a very moving experience. The stories that the artists are sharing, and that the veterans are sharing with the artists, are very personal and special.

But this story is a little different. Make of it what you will, but I write only what really happened!

Artists have sent to me their biographies and a little information about their links to the Battle of Cassino, or the war in Italy and in general. Occasionally these arrive in a form that I can't open on my computer, so I request a cut and paste into an email.

One of the more recent biographies arrived, and I opened it to find a photo of the artist and a page of music notes. Puzzled, I emailed the artist.

Hi Pam... it's a very beautiful page of bio... all music? Do you have some words too? I opened the doc but there was only the one (very attractive) page...

Best wishes

She replied: Hi Kay

Sorry I am a little confused. I haven't sent any music. The page I sent was my personal bio as an artist and in the body of the email I wrote about my father in law Henry Tapp and what my work will represent. I am doing a painting, a mixed media piece and an installation piece. I havent yet finished them so have not included images of them.

Kay to Pam: How strange is this! Your bio arrived with colour, a photo, and a page of music (without the staves). When I copied it to send back to you in this email it turned into words. Somehow it had become encrypted! So I will paste it into an email to myself and all will be well.

How odd! But it really is a very pretty page!

Thanks for your speedy reply,

But that wasn't the end of the story! I then tried this:

Just for fun... let's see if you get what I got... I have saved it onto my computer and re-attached...

and Pam replied: omg no music on that page just my original bio i sent you LOL

To cut a many-emails story short, I photographed my computer screen to convince Pam that I was really seeing music in her emails. She then tried sending the attachment from three different email addresses, and two computers. Each time she sent words, I received music. I sent her music, and she received instead her own words back. Finally I printed what I had saved on my computer, scanned the print, and got the page of music to Pam.

The music has no staves, and seems to be short value notes. Is it a code?

I emailed a musician friend, asking only: What do you make of this? It's a long and interesting story... very keen to know if this means anything to a musician.

She replied: can't make sense of the attachment...perhaps it's some sort of code with different durations representing a syllable or a thought or simply the alphabet...?

The mystery remains.

As I typed this blog post the heater cord across my desk was bothering me. I unplugged the heater, and the computer, which is on a completely separate power point, turned itself off. When I turned it back on again the homepage, BBC news, had updates of more bloody clashes and deaths of young people in today's war zones.

Yes, we are looking back to the Battle of Cassino. But war continues all around us. Let's not be blind to it.

I choose to believe that the strange message in the music is a call to work harder, to unite in our efforts for peace. Artists can be seen and heard.

Footnote: Just to add to the mystery, in our rapid exchange of 80 quick emails over two days, Pam and I discovered that our own histories are linked. Our fathers-in-law were in the tanks together at Cassino, and were friends. Equally surprisingly, for a short time before I moved to Italy, we lived in the same country road, attended the same meetings for a new gallery in the town, and didn't connect until linked by a cryptic piece of music.

6 March 2010

happiness is

Today is one of those days I feel so lucky to be alive, to be living where I am, to be content within.

At New Year a friend sent me a text wishing me, above all, "serenità", which apparently doesn't quite translate into English. It is serenity, peace within, but includes an abundance of happiness that also comes from within.

That's where happiness is found, within. When you feel that contentedness you find happiness in every tiny thing. Today, for me, happiness is a blue sky, a walk with the dogs, fungi growing on a tree trunk, a rockface of chatting climbers, a song in my heart and laughter in the voice of a friend.

Today I am grateful for
my new life in Italy.

5 March 2010

bit busy

Vittorio Sgarbi came to town.

It's been a busy, long, and finally rather surreal day!

Today I am grateful for generous and friendly people.

4 March 2010


This link is to the 2010 New Zealand-Cassino exhibition blog: Legato"Hold on to Peace" acrylic on canvas, painting by Ira Mitchell-Kirk.

Today I am grateful for international communication.

3 March 2010

it's in the air...

Strange things are happening. The dogs are unsettled. I have had a series of absolutely amazing things happen, with no (earthly) explanation for them.

Things are coming together for the exhibition, with more artists coming over than I would have dreamed possible.

Life is amazing, truly it is!

Today I am grateful for strange music.

2 March 2010

oh dear...

Today I ordered three books from Amazon. It was far too easy to do. I will try not to make it a habit.

I think I am missing my books a little. Study, Kay, study! Thou shalt not read in English until thou hast learned another verb tense (Tui's advert here...)

Oops, on re-reading this I realise that I ordered those books because I am procrastinating. I have a painting to do that I am not anxious to start. Tomorrow, 9am, I will begin! The books can be a reward for good effort...

Yesterday I had a little battle with a shop about a dog lead that snapped after very few "wears". They didn't think it was their problem, even when I showed them as comparison the previous lead that wore out after three years, not three weeks. It's not the first time they've annoyed me. They eventually gave me a new lead, but so reluctantly that they have lost a customer. I have spent several hundreds of euros with them on building supplies, and would have spent many more, but they lost my custom over 7 euros.

This morning instead of going there I phoned another shop for the glue for the tiles in the cantina, and it was delivered (from a neighbouring town) within half an hour! Work has begun. Flooring in the cantina; it's only been three years in coming, but I wanted to get everything sussed first.

Today I am grateful for prompt and courteous service.

1 March 2010

a poignant mix

In my "gmail in-box" today:

From Rich German's quotes for daily meditation for world peace :
War would end if the dead could return. —Stanley Baldwin
and next to arrive after is it the newsletter from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I use their website regularly to help locate the burial sites of the men who did not come home.

In the happy_artist email address:
Many touching stories of war losses from New Zealand as artists research their family history in preparation for making art for peace and commemoration.

But enough sorrow! Getting me inspired on on a different front is the wonderful initiative Braveheart Youth Trust.

Looking back and remembering battles is a starting place for moving forward, for talking about peace. But let's deal with the "battles" our young people are facing closer to home too.

My favourite organisation in NZ is probably the New Zealand Childrens Art House Foundation Trust. So much amazing work goes on behind the scenes, where people really do make a difference.

I sincerely believe that organisations such as these are every bit as important as international peace efforts.

Today I am grateful for people with vision.