30 October 2010

yummy recipe

When you live alone and like to be frugal occasionally the shopping gets a bit out of kilter. There's always plenty in the cupboard and the freezer, but the fridge...well, it's looking more like a science fair project than a health food store (I really was going to freeze those veges...). When I came in from the olives to cook tea things didn't look very promising. There were a few sad looking vegetables given to me at a time I was eating out with a Kiwi visitor, and some less than attractive hardening cheeses left over from when I shopped for same visitor, but not really anything that looked appetising.

However, every flatter would be delighted with this:
Take the cauliflower from the back of the fridge, cut off all the black bits, dig out the brown bits, and throw into the pot with the last onion cut roughly in big pieces to avoid tears.
Resurrect the sagging pumpkin, give it a shave, then chop into small pieces.
Add the last three tomatoes, and leave all boiling a while.
Decide not to add anything out of the freezer, but throw in some vege stock cubes.
Mash a bit while boiling.
Serve in large soup mug and add generous amounts of crumbled gorgonzola that had seen better days.

YUMMMMMMMMM! This with some wonderful local bread (wood fired oven, bread freshly made today) and I didn't even need a glass of vino to wash it down. Two helpings later I have just remembered the wine, still with the cap on the bottle.

Today I am also grateful for the various very generous friends, who (about a week ago) gave me the cauliflower, the pumpkin and the as yet unopened bottle of wine.

picking olives

After two seasons of the olive pickers not returning to do the pruning that was part of the deal, I decided that this year as I have to do most of the work then I would also have all the oil. I still wanted some pickers though, as the work has to happen over just a few days. The Kiwi pickers let me down, the Italian pickers let me down. Back to being independent again.

This morning, with my Venezuelan friend to advise me, I went shopping... and am now the proud owner of a large amount of net and the rakes to pick olives, should anyone arrive to help. (I prefer to use my bare hands, not the rakes, and the first year I picked into buckets over old sheets). Now to decide where to cut the net - I have two 8 x 6 metre nets, and am putting them one either side of three trees. It is usual to put one net around one tree, and have a split for the trunk. Maybe I should have gone for 3 nets at 6 metres, although I enjoy hauling the nets in and watching the catch run along the folds and gather; I think a fisherman probably enjoys that sensation even more.

I aimed to pick one tree this afternoon just to convince myself that I could still be independent, then have a bigger day tomorrow. But... out in the sun, up the trees, listening to the sound of chatter all along the hillside as others were picking their olives, it was a lovely space to be in. I convinced myself that with a bit of effort I could pick the whole crop myself. I am not pruning as I go though, that can wait for a serious prune in April (when any unsuspecting guests might be roped in to help).

Luckily for my hands and back though, my usual labourer arrived to help. He came just when I was thinking that I had had enough for the day, so I kept on picking. Progress was much faster with two of us. I learnt today that his nickname since he was about 14 is "Number One" (yes, in English with an Italian accent). I am not surprised.

Three trees done, and being the ones that get the most water they were probably the three with the most on. Only 27 to go...

Daylight saving ends tonight, putting us back to 12 hours apart from NZ again (I think...)

Today I am grateful for people who don't mind working hard.

28 October 2010

on butterflies and things

Tonight I am happily singing and (shhhhh) dancing about the place, listening to music and generally reflecting on the good things of life. Why? I am really, really enjoying my Italian classes, I have reduced the number of days I teach English, and I have been wondering what my next motif will be. The first one was the bumblebee... aerodynamically, apparently, a bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly. Shhh, don't tell the bumblebee. What a wonderful inspiration that tiny creature is.

Then came the butterfly. I felt like a caterpillar, and finally I found my wings and was able to fly, to spread a little colour, to feel light and free. Here I am often accompanied by butterflies as I walk along the road, enjoying the wonderful panorama of the Liri Valley.

I sense another change: new focus, new direction, new haircut... is it time to find a new motif?

When I was a cub leader my name was Nushka, meaning Friendly Bear. I rather liked that. Often I am Katie here, and I loved the Katie books when I was younger. One title strikes a chord: "What Katie Did Next".

Watch this space!

Today I am grateful for wonderful teachers and friends.

27 October 2010

things are falling in to place

The mountain of things to attend to doesn't decrease, but there is a natural sorting of order and things are falling in to place. So much so that I let the dogs walk me again, rather than lose this glorious autumn afternoon. Temperatures have dropped to about 18 degrees, sometimes a little lower, so walking is very pleasant. Easier without the dogs, I will admit, but pleasant with them all the same.

Last night in a family home I was served the most enormous piece of succulent salmon that I have even eaten. Then, after the salad, came chestnuts roasted on the fire and home made vino rosso. The son of the house reminded the host that I was driving... so cool that children are aware of such things at an early age.

We then watched the film Benvenuti al Sud, which would have been hilarious if I understood both Milanese and Neopolitan dialect. The little bit of Italian I understood quite well, but the punchlines... not a chance! It was funny despite this, and I guess for the children it was funny that their English teacher couldn't understand the film dialogue and only laughed at the more obvious humour.

Today I am grateful for kind and caring people.

24 October 2010

generation gap?

I phoned my 90 year old dad this morning (my night), carefully waiting until it was about 8.30am his time in case he was having a sleep in. What was I thinking? He said, bright as can be, that I was lucky to catch him as he was just in the door from an hour long walk-run.

An hour later I phoned another number, and nephew who shall remain nameless answered the phone, equally cheerfully, but I had woken him. Ooops. So, of course I told him what his grandfather had already achieved in the earlier part of the day... (grin).

On the home front though, I can't really be smug. After a full day of emailing artists one little Zacchi took matters into his own paws. He politely asked to be taken walking. He grovelled. He begged. (He knew better than to bark). Finally, going up on his back legs, he took my arm between his front paws and pulled. I gave in. Such devotion must be rewarded. I let him walk me.

Today I am grateful for the health my family enjoys.

23 October 2010

chugging along

... but hopefully I am about to have a burst of energy. Roll on the completion of a few of these tasks!

Where did the week go? I could get used to a slower pace of life.

Almost as bad as losing internet connection (this morning) is losing cell phones (this evening). Thank goodness I could skype myself to find them... they were under the study papers I was sure I had checked and double-checked! Moral of story, don't study? I think I have "ci" sorted now.

Today I am grateful for pizza with friends.

17 October 2010


This weekend I had a trip to Rome (talking about exhibiting up there, among other things) and then an art exhibition opening in Sora... and another invitation to exhibit. If only I had time to paint...

I took a wrong turn coming out of Sora and got horribly lost just on dark. Suddenly one of those navigation thingies looks like a good idea.


On Saturday night I met some really interesting people, some of whom work for FAO and were in Rome representing their various countries. Sunday morning saw a big Run for Food in Rome. I didn't run it, but it set me to thinking how little we (I?) know about what goes on in the world. The main FAO website is here (click). There is a lot of interesting reading on the website and its links.


The Wallace Gallery opening was a huge success, and I have had an email from a visitor saying how wonderful the exhibition space is. Well done Wallace Gallery supporters. You have done us proud!

Today I am grateful for people with vision.

14 October 2010

been a bit busy

...out and about with Canadians, photos to follow.

Then came a few other things that needed attending to, some teaching, some learning, some being a local, and today I have given myself the afternoon off! Siesta time...

Today I am grateful for comfortable silence.

9 October 2010

brighter and brighter

In New Zealand it is Sunday. Happy birthday Jude! I know you don't read my blog, but heck, the big 50 has to be recorded somewhere :-) Welcome to the top of the hill... the view is great and the slopes are gentle!

Anna, you don't even know I have a blog, but happy birthday to you as well.

And the day after... have a great day, mate.

This evening I am grateful for things to celebrate!

sometime soon

I'll get around to loading a few photographs. Maybe.

In the meantime it is enough to say that autumn is beautiful, work is coming in although some has been cancelled as a direct result of the poorer economy, and I seem to be spending every cent I earn which is not really a good thing!

But... there is work, there are good and loyal clients and happy students, and the sun shines somewhere every day (lately it has been here...)

In the news today four Italian soldiers have been killed and one badly wounded in Afghanistan. An old man who lived alone in a very expensive hilltop town outside Rome was found dead... seven years after the event. His once immaculate grounds were overgrown and jungle-like and the place was deteriorating... and nobody noticed until leaking water became a problem. How high was his security wall, I wonder? How can it be that noone even asked about him? No man is an island...

In New Zealand the headlines are just as sad or bad... local elections are a highlight, at least they are relatively healthy! Here's hoping that all the newly elected councils are wise, community minded, and there for the common good and not for personal aggrandizement.

What a depressing blog post! A much brighter and more interesting thing is how one person can make a difference. Next week sees the canonisation of the Australian teaching nun, Mary MacKillop. Her story is worth reading, courage and perserverence in difficult times. It seems that in the world of education one person really can bring about change. Her efforts in those times were probably as great as Greg Mortenson's efforts today.

Today I am grateful for altruistic people.

8 October 2010

officially finished...

at the palazzo over the road. It's been a long road, frustrating, demanding, satisfying, all of those things. I will miss it. I am no longer daunted by frescoes dated 1511, scaffolding 4 metres high, or workers from Naples. I am very sure I don't want to do a similar project again... but... give me a week off and I think I'll remember only the highlights, and be tempted again!

The ups: the challenge, being trusted with the work, using many different skills and techniques, seeing the end product and feeling an affinity with the building.
The downs: sore knees, difficult working conditions, language barriers.
The surprises: how long it took (over a year) and climbing up to the fresco and finding that the artist who had repaired it once before did so with a hand identical to mine.

I'll miss it all.

Today I am grateful for kind co-workers.

6 October 2010

facebook, friend or foe?

This post is simply blather, talking to myself I suspect. I had so many deep and meaningful things to write, but the sun is too cheerful, the day too balmy, the sky too blue...

The building where I work is locked up today, so that lets me off the hook but delays completion time. I am not supposed to go out into the sun, and the plumber has yet to arrive to hook up the heating bits and pieces upstairs.

Today I accepted odd friend requests from people I don't know. Once FB was a way of staying in touch with family, but now it is a time-consuming, greedy and unwelcome distraction. Do I stay or do I go?

The reality is that in today's world FB is a marketing tool, so for Legato I will stay. Life got much happier though, when I started "hiding" feeds and blocking other people's games. I was reading and discarding far too many words in a day.

Now to train myself not to open FB until evening... maybe I will get through a few more important emails if I am not reading posts that really are not so necessary in my life.

Autumn is glorious, there is no better word for it this year. The forecast was for rain, but after the rain we have clear vistas and the most wonderful sky. I could almost pretend that I was back in Hawkes Bay, the sky is so blue! The leaves are only now starting to turn, and the little bit of rain we have had gives depth to the colours in the rocks and the stone walls.

Today I am also grateful for beautiful weather.

it's normal, isn't it?

To spend time looking at photos of distant grandchildren instead of getting on with the pile of work ahead of me? That's not procrastinating, it's called "being in the moment"!

Today I am grateful for photographs, videos and word pictures.

5 October 2010

Burning Mountain - the next children's classic?

Occasionally I change hats, and write rather than paint. Below is a recent review written for Hodder Children's Books, the publisher of Burning Mountain. Click on this website to read the York Press review as well, and to meet the author, Lucy Adlington.

Burning Mountain by L J Adlington.

It is not often that a novel written for young readers grips and holds the adult reader from start to finish. L J Adlington’s Burning Mountain is one that does. Spanning countries, generations and wars past and present, this deceptively simple story is destined to become a classic novel for teenagers.

Moving between modern England and wartime Italy, the unfolding wartime drama and modern mystery can be read on many levels. The seamless intertwining of past and present, the subtle mix of fact and fantasy and the complexity of the levels of message within the story make this novel not only an ideal text for classroom study, but also a powerful and contemporary contribution towards international understanding and peace.

Accidentally locked out in the rain, Denise and Craig seek refuge next door. An uneasy friendship is formed with their elderly neighbours who share an intriguing story with them. The repeated request is not clear. What did the crazy old lady next door want Denise to do?

The life and death issues that the children face as the tale unfolds provide ample opportunity for classroom discussion. The mystery from the past draws out lessons from WWII and ties them firmly to the present realities of the children’s life as they think of their brother fighting in Afghanistan.

Wartime social, ethical and political issues emerge as the young Vittoria and Erich face their challenges, differences, hopes and fears. When survival, rather than victory, becomes the aim, lines between friend and foe are blurred.

While the younger reader is given more obvious clues to follow and switches in time are marked by changing typefaces, the more sophisticated reader is given subtle hints and a sprinkling of Latin, German and Italian phrases to challenge without disrupting the story. A complex multi-levelled approach to solving the mystery can be found on every page, sometimes to be recognised only on a second look as the storyline pulls the reader in eager anticipation quickly through the pages.

Modern social problems don’t escape the attention of this talented writer as she exposes the realities of suburban life. Overriding all of this though is the message that war is not something that happens to other people in far away places. The reader is reminded that while the Battle of Cassino veterans who once were enemies meet in friendship, peace and reconciliation remains only a distant dream in many parts of the world today.

Proving that truth can be stranger than fiction, this well researched novel teaches as much as it enthrals. From an erupting volcano to a scruffy ragamuffin dog, each element has its place. Fast moving, colourful, with just enough hint of romance and empathy to soften the brutality of war, Burning Mountain leaves the reader challenged yet satisfied.

Reviewed by J K Scott MFA (Hons) P G Dip SNRT (Dist), BA, TTC.
Education Consultant, co-author of
Listening and Speaking, English in the New Zealand Curriculum and former teacher of English and Media Studies in New Zealand secondary schools.

and the finished product

The colours became quite rich when I added the varnish later.

Today I am grateful for time to finish a few jobs.

the small trial piece

4 October 2010

nearly there

I can see a few things that need adjusting, but I am happy that I will have it to the framers by the deadline. Whew!

Today I am also grateful for music while I work.

progress photos

Not sure how to crop these... I am missing my computer!!! Still, I have one to use so should be grateful, I am grateful, but I don't know how to install the programmes I need (not even in English, let alone Italian!)

My clients have opted for the bigger version, so I will finish it first.

So after this break it's back to work... am loving the weather and it is so easy to get distracted!

Today I am grateful for clear blues skies and a gentle breeze.

3 October 2010

works on the old nag

Bruises are starting to come out but they are not nearly as bad as I expected, thanks to some "horse medicine". I hobbled to put in my apology at a beer festa at a friend's home, (it is October, and the friend is German) to be despatched by an Italian friend, expressing great concern, to purchase a gel to apply to prevent the bruises developing. Here you can buy a huge range of powerful medicines without prescription.

The gel came with a warning to keep out of direct sunlight (and for two weeks after using it). I checked the active ingredient, ketoprofene, which sounded very familiar. Sure enough it is ketoprofen, used in horses. I applied with caution, but have to admit it worked a treat!

This morning when the dogs walked me I was able to go upstairs "normally", and Zacchi thought that I could walk further than I wanted to. He was right.

Today I am grateful for compassionate friends.

1 October 2010

i guess it had to happen...

Today the scaffolding was not particularly secure, safe but wobbly, with difficult access. I took extra care, and managed most of my work without incident although I did hurt the problem knee again. When I am up on wobbly scaffolding, or reaching out without something to hold on to, I marvel at how much we use toes to balance. I think I am pretty proud of myself and what I have achieved up on those planks, but...

I guess it had to happen. I have been working in the building for over a year, and today I had my first fall. I was working on a small ladder, got my shoe caught when coming down I think, and half fell, ladder and paint as well, onto the marble stairs. Luckily it was less than a metre and I am well enough padded to expect only a few bruises. There wasn't much paint, it was my palette not the paint pot, so that was lucky. So no harm done really, but for now I am feeling a little sorry for myself.

The good news is that the work is really really truly almost finished. Yes, of course, there is more that needs doing after other workers have done their bit, but the patch of daylight gets bigger and bigger.

Today I am grateful for my good wide feet and monkey toes.