31 December 2011

deadline met, let the new year roll in...

This morning (Alabama time) I emailed to Berlin an article I had been asked to write for a peace publication. The editor had asked for it "by the end of the year". I made it on time, but not without difficulty. I wasn't happy with what I had written, but then I am my own biggest critic.

Now, several hours later, I read it again. I like what I wrote. It's amazing what a little space can do to one's perception. No, I am not bragging, I am just breathing out a great big "Whew!"

A blog I follow, originally NZ based but now coming out of Melbourne, indicates that the new year has well and truly begun. At my house in Italy capodanno is still nearly three hours away. But here I must wait a little longer. In just under ten hours it will be time to celebrate to welcome in the new year.

I will be glad to say goodbye to 2011. It didn't turn out to be the year I had imagined it might be. I look forward to an exciting and rather different 2012. The things already on my calendar are exciting, things I haven't done before.

2012, you are already started or about to start in my two homes. Here in Alabama we await you patiently.

Today I am grateful for learning.

new year's eve

It's mid afternoon in New Zealand, new year's eve. Should I be making resolutions? Can I even remember the ones I made last year? Or am I right in thinking that I didn't make any last year?

mmmm... looks back to check... 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

Is it just another day, as birthdays are, or is it really a new start? I suspect that the new start is every day, and big events like a new year or a birthday are simply an excuse to put off doing what we know needs to be done.

But, for fun, let's pretend that we are going to keep our new year's resolutions. What might they be?

Lose weight?
Exercise more?
Keep up to date with paperwork?


My New Year's resolutions could well be:

To live every day as though there may not be another one.
To enjoy friends and family, above all else.

To not hurry.
To not stress.

To enjoy the freedom that I have.
To spend more time outdoors.

To work less and play more.
To buy myself a windsong, in minor key.

To continue to forge this path I am on.
To be me.

Today I am grateful for neighbours.

28 December 2011


This little fellow (or was he a she?) was determined to get through the window to play this morning.

Defeated, he left his calling card smeared widely by flapping wings just in case we wanted to get in touch with him later.
Was it a crested finch or a female red cardinal? On Christmas Eve the most impressive male red cardinal called, prompting many wishes, and (of course) the female is far less impressive in plume.

I am also enjoying the grey squirrels which scamper across the lawn and scramble nimbly up the trees. The large pecan tree guarantees plenty of mishcievous company these clear but chilly mornings.

Today I am grateful for the big outdoors.

my favourite photo

One of the more interesting photographs from the drive-through; click to enlarge, and let your imagination dance away...

something for everyone

if you are into Christmas lights, that is.

The photos above give a hint of what one family had put together for Christmas lights. The display covered three or four houses, and had a road running through it and along one side so there was good access without getting too cold.

Apparently this is an annual contribution to the spirit of Christmas, with messages to santa from the children of the family propped up alongside various displays.

Today I am grateful for crisp clear air.

27 December 2011

looking back




Today I am grateful for photographs.

24 December 2011

so santa was green?

This interesting history of Christmas tells it "Like it was".

Now to remember the nativity... buried somewhere under the cash registers of the modern world.

The Little Drummer Boy and Snoopy's Christmas have to be long time favourites!

The original Silent Night was written in German. Here it is sung by Nana Mouskouri.

Wishing you a blessed family time, Buon Natale, and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Today I am grateful for baby Jesus.

'twas the night before

I avoid the shops at Christmas time. I don't enjoy stress or crowds. I am anti-consumerism and hate to see people over-spending to purchase things they don't need and ultimately wont want.

Give me some gentle Christmas music, the smell of home cooking, and peace on earth.

Yesterday a neighbour called, bringing a gift for our little man. He remembered me, chatted a while, then walked across the lawn to his home. There is no fence between us. I like that.

I have, once again, woken far too early. It gives me wonderful meditation time. This is what I have been contemplating just now. Tali, once more, provides clear thinking in her blog. Agree or disagree, it is your choice. In fact, to read it or not is also your choice. Perhaps, because it is Christmas Eve, you are too busy.

It will soon be Christmas morning in the land where I was born. just this one last sleep to go. Three and a half hours to wrap the last presents, go to church, sing some carols, check that the fridge door is still safely closed. To my friends and family on the other side of the world, may your days be merry and bright, and may you stay sun-safe from morn till night.

Today I am grateful for learning.

22 December 2011

and the rain came down

It seems more like Noah's Arc weather than Christmas!

Why is it that when there is so much to be done it is easier to do nothing? Resting is important, I say!

My great discovery of the day is that the "far too sweet" chocolate fudge is the perfect foil for too many pieces of ginger (interspersed with cashew nuts).

Take one cube of crystallised ginger and half a slice of soft fudge. Wrap the fudge around the ginger. Enjoy with a cup of wildberry tea.


Perhaps it is nearly Christmas after all!

Today I am grateful for a warm, dry house.

21 December 2011

and on the other side of the ocean...

Christmas has a very different feel outdoors in the USA.

And in one particular shop, if you were of a mind to go a huntin' or a fishin', this would be shopping paradise!

(Welcome fishermen, hunters, and other liars)

(And yes, I bought two Christmas decorations in there somewhere!)click to enlarge

Today I am grateful for diversity.

20 December 2011

six (or is it five?) sleeps till Christmas...

This blue star is outside my house, a beautiful and simple reminder of the meaning of Christmas.

In the lead up to Christmas there is plenty of excitement. On the other side of the Atlantic Santa has just delivered an "Elf on the Shelf" so we are going to be extra good until Santa arrives... although as far as I can see we are very good anyway!

In my in-box was the Christmas greeting from the International Medical Corps, and this link will take you to their website . Christmas donations to them go to a very humanitarian cause.

Today I am grateful for
good food.

14 December 2011


Life in Italy is a constant contradiction, and I suspect that this paradox is part of the magic of Italy for me. For every potential frustration (see the renovation programmes) there is a positive delight!

This year was supposed to be census year in New Zealand, but because of the Christchurch earthquake it was cancelled, despite the huge amount of money already thrown at it. That was only the second cancellation ever, the other being during the war years. Here in Italy it is also census year.

The date of the Italian census was 9 October. I was here that day, with my papers - all in Italian of course - anxious to do the right thing. Every time I mentioned filling them in my neighbours warned me how much information it asked for, how long it would take me to fill them in, how I would need to do one for my house as well, how much help I would need... and so I delayed, and delayed. I had the occasional peek inside the thick envelope, and seemed to understand most of it, but the fear had been established, I would need help.

Well, time, as it does, marched on. The final date (as far as I remember) for filling in and submitting the forms is 23 December. If they were not submitted by a certain date then the local comune (council) would send someone house to house to assist. I didn't like the sound of that, so yesterday I set myself down at a friend's table and began the task while she did her housework around me. In the end there were only two points I needed to clarify, and all (there really wasn't so much) was done.

But that's not all...

Here you may also submit online. This has to be Italy's very elegant joke against itself... the queues at the post offices are legendary. There were stories of people standing in the long queues to post their forms only to be sent away to re-package because the envelope provided hadn't been used correctly. I opted for the internet. Last night, sitting in bed with my glasses perched on the end of my Efudix nose, I tried to to submit my census paper.

It pays to read the instructions first.

After trying all three numbers at the top of my paper, having located the password at the bottom, no result. Mildly panicking at the thought that after three attempts it might be "Go straight to Jail and do not pass Go" I read the instructions. Oooops! I needed my codice fiscale to complete this. Whew! No problem, or so I thought.

By now it was late and I was a little tired. I tried unsuccessfully yet again (more than three times, this round). Was this just a cruel joke? Time to sleep, not fret or stress.

Finally, in the light of morning, all was revealed. My codice fiscale has a letter at the end of it. My particular letter looks like a number. The password I was given had F4N in it, and in the night light I was reading that as FAN. For every attempt I had got a letter or a number wrong. When I did put in the correct combination (first attempt in the morning I might add) all was well. (Ironically, one of the answers I submitted was that I had no trouble seeing with my glasses on...)

Answering the questions on line was a breeze. If the answer I gave ruled out other sections, they simply faded and I moved quickly through the pages, saving and clicking "avanti" every page. It was much faster than my paper version I had completed yesterday.

When finally saved, downloaded onto my computer and submitted electronically I clicked for the receipt and it arrived instantly, ready to print.

Now why couldn't New Zealand do that, and simply add a section (and extension of time) for folks affected by the earthquake, to be answered whereever in the country they ended up? This has to be a far more cost effective way of assessing the needs of the country.

Today I am grateful for the vagaries of my adopted country.

13 December 2011

sharing wise words...

Ok, so at 4.44am on a Tuesday morning I should be asleep, but I woke at 3am with things I wanted to do. One of my life changes is to go with sleeping when I feel the need, and meditating/writing/reading when that feels right too, no matter what the hour.

This morning, just as the cooler air was beginning to register on my skin, I turned the electric blanket on, thinking of a few more hours rest... and in came a blog post to read. It was such a wise posting that I want to share it with you, and for a few minutes completely forgot that I was on my way back to bed.

Reflection time is one of the real advantages of living alone, or if you don't live alone is something to timetable into your day. You read of people making time for good deeds, for projects, for family. But it is also important to make time to reflect, and from that reflection, if the moment is approached with empathy and care alongside objectivity, positive change will come.

Thanks to Tali Landsman who once again shares words of wisdom with an honesty to be admired and emulated. Tali's post is called "Exploring Your Regrets". Enjoy her wisdom and frankness.

I choose to look at events that I "regret" as learning curves. When things upset me or go "wrong" in my life I ask myself "What did I learn from this?" or "Where is the lesson in this for me?" Often the lessons are hard, but when properly considered become launching pads for positive change. Remember that the only thing you can really change in life is your attitude, how you choose to react to things, but if you can do that in times that are not so good then other things will change for the better all around you.

Being honest with yourself is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. It is well worth the effort and the pain to come out the other side a stronger and more developed person.

Today I am grateful for thoughtful writers.

12 December 2011

and i'm back...

I have tried not to blog or use the computer much for a month. It was hard. My notebooks took on new meaning, and are full of ... notes!

I locked my computer away and had very little email for a while. It was frustrating, then a kind of liberation. Then it was frustrating again.

The best part was finding that my wrist problem is not related to the computer. Today I retrieved the key from the friend who was holding it to protect me from myself, unlocked the cupboard and took out the computer...

YAY! I can blog again!

Today I am grateful for
my heater.

5 December 2011

a little bit excited

Ideas are filling my notebook. I am more than a little excited, although I am not sure that excited is the right word.

I am sorting in my head what I intend doing, and how I want to go about doing it.

Today I have had long conversations with someone who shares my values and understands my passion for making a difference. Life is exciting!

Today I am grateful for clear thinking.

4 December 2011

yes i am here

I was trying to go without internet for three to four weeks. I guess you could say it has been a bit of a revelation for me.

Things that I thought were important in my daily life are not, really. I will be cancelling some online subscriptions.

After about three days of withdrawal I (almost) didn't even want to check my emails or know about the rest of the world. I now understand some of my non-communicative friends a lot better.

I missed blogging a lot, and had to train my mind to meditate rather than "write in my head".

When I needed to use the internet and couldn't it was not only frustrating but quite stressful until I talked myself through it.

I would love to write something deep and meaningful here, but I am limiting myself to simply let you know that I am still alive and well and simply being antisocial (web-wise) for a month.

Today I am grateful for
good health.

27 November 2011

elections here and there

It has been interesting watching elections, or non elections, in my two countries.

In Italy there is not a single elected politician in the actual governing body. Will there be any obvious changes in my daily life? Somehow I doubt it, but time alone will tell.

In New Zealand the well established democracy provided some interesting scenarios. New Zealand First staged the "impossible" comeback, and will be adding some sparkle to the daily grind of politics. The Green Party set a world first, by being the first Green party in the world to obtain over 10% of the vote. A former pupil came close to taking the Auckland Central seat and will be in parliament as a list member.


It has been windy, but today is glorious. I am electing what to do, today, tomorrow, and ever onwards. I am enjoying family, and once again contemplating my life. Will I become more nomadic? Should I have a base in New Zealand as well as in Italy? Or should I simply accept that my time in NZ is over, and plan as though I am an Italy-based nomad?

I value my freedom, my independence, and my quiet times. When I go to the city I am so glad to get out again. Am I a hermit, after all?

Today I am grateful for family and choices.

22 November 2011

savouring the spoils

Imagine this: liquid green-gold pooling on a white plate, fresh, slightly peppery, rich and full in flavour, beautiful in colour, tantalising to the taste buds.

Add a crusty slice of local bread, cooked in the wood-fired oven, and dipped into the new pressing of oil.

Simple perfection!

Optional extras? A slice of cheese, a glass of fine red from the enoteca, and some company.

Life is good :-)

Today I am grateful for
well educated tastebuds.

21 November 2011

absolutely amazing...

I have just read this post, The magic of the Yartsa Gumba, and a bit about Tibetan Tummo, by Tali, and had to share it!

For those of you scared off by the more spiritual and reflective writing maybe you would prefer to scroll down to her description of the amazing caterpillar plant. But I think the writing about self and journeys is also well worth reading. Perhaps it reflects where I am myself, although I am not at the exploring the world with curiosity stage.

Home is best for me, with family as close as is possible in this shrinking world. And home is my mountainside village. I just have to figure out how to pull the family closer...

Yesterday I was completely bowled over by amazing cloud formations. Photos coming when I have time to upload them.

Today I am grateful for my true friends.

olives picked

...and the grand total is 192 kilograms. Now to see how much oil that produces.

The weather for picking was amazing! Unseasonal, glorious autumn days. The hillsides were alive with happy pickers, all at the same time. The true magic and romance of picking olives in Italy; as the truth is often very far from the romantic notion it was an absolute delight this year to hear such happy busy-ness all along the valley.

One friend, in his late 70s or early 80s, told me from the top of his ladder that he is only going to do five more seasons because the job is a bit much for him on his own, his 120 trees. I have thirty, and after the first season of doing them alone I have called on helpers every year since. Food for thought in there...

Today I am grateful for a successful harvest.

15 November 2011

book review

When Cancer Hits by Britta Aragon

How does one begin a review of a book with a title that pulls no punches, the peaceful blue of the cover disrupted by the words in bold red print "WHEN CANCER HITS"? I was a little reluctant to open the book. The subtitle is kinder, "your complete guide to taking care of YOU through treatment". In smaller print I was pleased to read "Alleviate side effects* protect from common carcinogens * manage stress & worry * prioritize self-care * prevent recurrence".

When I finally dipped into the book, handling the quality paper and admiring the layout. I liked the feel of it. Almost reluctantly, as though the subject was too risky to handle, I began to read. Britta Aragon writes with a disarming honesty and charm, and I was pulled immediately in to her story. A cancer survivor, and then a carer for a family member with a different cancer story, Britta is well placed to observe and to advise.

The contents of the book don't disappoint. It is a warmly written, practical guide to coping with cancer. There are valuable snippets of advice on everything from lip balms to coping with chemotherapy changes. The writer's personality comes through, supporting the patient sympathetically with her well researched and good humoured advice. it is clear that she is speaking both from experience and from the heart.

Alongside tips for patient comfort are many words of caution about the products we use today. The author supports her claims with research which is in itself interesting for the cancer-free reader who is seeking to make life-style changes.

I have read the book right through, but still like to dip into it. There is so much information there than I can't remember it all. It is a book I will refer to again and again, simply to choose healthier options for myself. It is most certainly a book I would gift to anyone who had cancer.

But the title? For me, it is too hard-hitting. But then, I guess, so is cancer.

another blog for you to read

Tonight instead of writing much I read another blog I like to follow.

Artist Tali Landsman is also a traveller who makes wonderful comments about life as she observes it. In her "About me" on her website she writes:

I live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and part time in Kohukohu - a small beach town on the North Island of New Zealand.

I am addicted to traveling, and I use my travels to expand my horizons and to teach me about myself and about the world we live in.
I often translate my impressions and travel experience into art.

In today's post she is in awe of the splendours of New York's Central Park in it's autumn clothes. The photographs are stunning.


Me? Well, today I managed to visit a friend in a huge hospital near Rome. I am very glad that I did. He is looking much better than I expected, and hopes to be home in a couple of weeks. I have promised to be at the celebratory festa. He has always been a kind and gentle support person in the background of my Italian life, and his illness reminds me how we should express our feelings more often and let the people we care about know that they are special in our lives.

Today I am grateful for skilful surgeons and good hospitals.

11 November 2011


A pomegranate for breakfast today.
They are a bit dry this year, but still beautiful. Pomegranates have lovely stories attached to them. Did Eve really eat a pomegranate? Quite likely, I would say! Here in Italy (and other countries) it is believed to have powers for fertility.

My favourite story is that of Persephone and the seasons. there are much nicer versions than this one but for now I can't look for them, Wikipedia will have to do.

OK, it's back to the picking, there are more trees to do. It is a light crop this year, some trees wonderfully laden and others bare.

Today I am grateful for the magic of Greek legends.

10 November 2011

excuse me if there are fewer posts

But it's olive picking time!

Today I am grateful for warm temperatures and clear skies.

9 November 2011

food for thought

Today's lesson was about what and when to eat; in particular, which foods should/should not be eaten together. I'm absolutely fine with the five meals a day thing, that is normal for me. I suspect that my portion sizes are a little generous though. However, key points were on what should and shouldn't be eaten together, and that GMO products should be avoided at all cost. That rules out anything with corn in it here in Europe.

Tuna, a ground eater, is also risky it would seem. Certainly that wont be hard to give up as lately the quality of canned tuna available here has gone to mush, as has the tuna in the cans.

Bananas, part of my staple diet, are also suspect and apparently don't suit all people. I have run out of them so will consider not eating them for a week and see what the difference is.

I have already reduced the amount of dairy food I eat, as I feel better without it.

Listening to my body tonight included lots of gurgling as I enjoyed a wonderful couscous turkey and vegetable dish. I am not sure it is that kind of listening I am supposed to be doing!

Today I am grateful for good quality food.

8 November 2011

on breathing

Often we forget to breathe well. I am as guilty as any one of you might be. But breathing is an essential exercise, not merely the thing that keeps us ticking along. I am learning about how much we can do to improve our wellbeing.

This is the (umpteenth) start of a new, healthy me!

I do a daily challenge which is proving quite useful, for example it might be as simple as "roll your shoulders backwards and forwards five times" or "put away three things".

I am getting back into action (ie, walking better and further) after foot and knee injuries.

I am learning about breathing and nutrition.

I pulled out a photo of my Dad taken in January 2007 when he had just won 6 gold medals and set a heap of records in the Oceania Games. I remembered how my mother got fitter as she got older, not slower. I see a milestone birthday on the horizon.

Time to get moving, I think!

Today I am grateful for fascinating comversation with kindred spirits.

7 November 2011

a colour on a map

Tonight my evening meal was cooked by my young Polish guests. It was an Hungarian dish using eggs, peppers, onion and I'm not quite sure what else. It was both flavoursome and delicate, wholesome and light. But when it comes to flavour... the Polish ham that they shared with me at lunch time was a real delicacy! What a treat! (Apologies to the vegetarians out there, but... YUM!)

I am enjoying learning a lot about Poland; it is a country I know very little about other than how much it was devastated and then divided by WWII. Many, many Polish visitors come to Cassino, and one thousand of them lie forever on the slopes of Monte Cassino. But a love of peace, sharing and learning is what is motivating the two who arrived here this morning.

No painting today, but lots of talking, planning and thinking. Often the most telling words slip out almost unnoticed. When we were talking about the post-war changes to the Polish borders (when families were divided by a line that didn't exist before the war) the young man, pointing out former boundaries, said "a 'country' is just a colour on a map". I guess, if you live with family split by an artificial divide, that is so true.

Today I am grateful for gentle visitors.

6 November 2011

outdoor painting again

Today, contrary to expectations, it was fine, warm, and eventually sunny. The photo shows folks in jackets down in the shade, but up in our sunny heights we were soon peeling off layers of clothing.

I didn't paint as well as I would have liked, but it was quite a social time which was nice. I am really lucky to be included in this group. I am the grandma of them all I think, there must be a good 10 - 15 or more years down to the next in age. We are an interesting mix of nationalities, although most are Italian graduates from the art academy in Frosinone.
(This photo by Carla, posted on FB).
Some bright and bubbly characters make it a cheerful group. The conversations do test my Italian, but today the two "single by choice" managed to communicate with lots of laughter and discussion about the relative virtues of men and chocolate before the painting began :-) The project we are involved in is aimed at taking live art into the smaller towns in the region.

The effect this frequent outdoor painting is having on my style is that I am becoming much looser with my brushstrokes and quite strongly impressionist. I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I will certainly leave things at a point that is less perfect than I used to prefer, but my main critic, my picture framer, sends me home to correct them! As I value his eye I do as I am told, but then not every painting makes it as far as his eye...

Above is today's beginning. I think I will enjoy finishing it.

Today I am grateful for my camera safely returned to absent-minded me.

5 November 2011

not finished yet

It's not finished yet, but at least I can see some progress - and anyone who doesn't think there should be a butterfly there doesn't know the subject of the painting :-) I'll probably add two more.

It's a quarter past midnight and the wind has come up. I think that the bad weather "they" promised us "è in arrivo" - I hope that the extra plastic verandah over the dog kennels stays in place, I didn't attach it terribly well.

Today I am grateful for an obliging picture framer.


Resolved to get fit a few days ago, so I set out walking today and managed a good walk before the rain came.

Bonus? Put my hand in my famous (infamous) rain jacket pocket and pulled out two paint brushes I had forgotten were there. I'd worn the jacket at an unexpectedly cold outdoor painting event. Almost as good as buying new brushes... score!

Best part of that? Not everybody has paint brushes in their rain jackets, and I like that fact!

The jacket has become my symbol of independence. I bought it in a Kathmandu sale shortly before I left NZ, specifically for over a winter jersey when riding my bicycle here in Italy. It's loose, comfortable, and rolls into a small space when travelling. It's Gore-Tex, Paclite, and it's RED!

A tactless suitor (no, not an Italian) told me to "lose the jacket" because he didn't like it. I kept the jacket, not the suitor :-) Apparently it is the type of jacket that middle aged English women wear when they go walking. All power to the sensible ladies, I say!

Spot the Kiwi... the day the paint brushes went into the pocket :-)

Today I am grateful for energy.

4 November 2011

from way back...

It's time I finished this one. I no longer have the photographs of the flowers that I was working from, and I can't remember what some of my lines were for. It will be interesting for me, if not for you, trying to figure out exactly what I am painting in the tangle of flowers and stalks. The figure, at least, is finished. I'll work a little on this between other serious painting efforts. It certainly brightens up my stairwell, and now is bringing spring into my autumn studio. (Mmmmm... I should really be painting autumn I guess!)

Today I am grateful for my big tubs of paint.

no real post today

Sorry, no real post today. I have some deadlines to meet. It's been a bit of a domestic day.

Washed the dishes.
Did some washing.
Touched up a painting.
Walked the dogs.
Paid some bills.

And now I have to do some work.

That's life!

Today I am grateful for exercise in beautiful temperatures.

3 November 2011

woohoo I was dancing :-)

(and better still, so was the 80 year old who can barely walk unaided while she decides about an operation).

Today was the 80th birthday of a good friend's mother. I wasn't sure I would make it to the festa, but in the end I decided that people are more important than other things, so abandoned all thought of work and set out for Cassino and beyond. I arrived in time to eat some great food at the long table under the loquat tree, and of course the cake! It's huge, I said to my friend. It was only 12 eggs, she replied. That reminded me that the Christmas cake another family makes has 40 eggs in it. It's a different world, it really is.

The music was playing, the aunts and uncles were all there... and I danced a very fast waltz on the cobblestones with one of the uncles.

The sun was shining, all that was missing was another generation running about underfoot.

It's nice to know that some traditions are still very much alive.

But this post is supposed to be about butter. You see, there are things that Italy does absolutely brilliantly, and then there are... well, life must have balance, mustn't it?

And so recently my wonderful travelling friends bought me some butter in Holland. Vegemite and olive all are a bit tricky together, and Italian butter... least said, soonest mended. Suddenly I had three butters to choose from. But which one is best of the three? I have promised to report in.

The three are (if I am reading the packets correctly) Botergoud, Gezouten and Lurpak.
(Later: I wasn'treading them correctly. The second one is Albert Heijn, and all are gezouten, salted).
The first one I tried was Botergoud. The taste sensation was wonderful. Then I tried the others. I didn't quite get the same effect from either of them. But, remembering Proust, I decided that I needed to be a little more scientific than this. It was surely just that this was the first butter that tasted like NZ butter that I had savoured in eight months.

The next day I tried another one first, Albert Heijn. It was good, almost as good as the first one, but maybe lacked that wonderful creamy after-taste that the first one surprised me with.

In between my taste testing I found myself reaching for the incredibly easy-to-spread Botergoud. That was purely a convenience thing when the bread was soft and squishy.

Now, several testing days later, I think that it is almost a tie. If I had to rank them it I would have to eat more, to be sure, and at the moment I am trying to limit the amount that I savour each day. Tiny little testing cubes of toast or bread. Butter. And now some Vegemite.


Today I am grateful for Marcel Proust's writings, and butter.

you know you live in italy when...

You know you live in italy when you go to visit a friend in hospital and the only park you can find is near some roman ruins. This is the town side view of the amphitheatre at the foot of Monte Cassino.
This one has a protective fence around it, but only because you have to pay to go in and see it properly!

How old the culture of this country is, even if politically it is about the same age as New Zealand.

Today I am grateful for the patient's happy smile.

2 November 2011

150cm wide, 50cm high and a comment

I posted this painting on Facebook last night. I value comments from artists and people who know this place, and also people who might just happen to like the painting although with a subject this particular I think it possibly has little relevance to many people. Occasionally I seek specific critiques from artists whose opinions I respect in case I have a blind spot in my own vision, or when I am stuck with something and don't want to face that I have to re paint a part, so I seek that external push.

This comment on FB, from someone who used to live here but now lives in Rome, makes all the angst and attention to detail worth while :-)
Bello bellissimo, come vorrei che tutti vedessero questi luoghi con gli occhi pieni della magia con cui tu li dipingi! Grazie Kay

Now for a few days sorting domestic things, (like picking olives and eating pizza) then it's back to the easel again!

Have a happy day, I am going to! (PS, I did a ten minute watercolour sketch this morning, a quick birthday card for an 80 year old ... oooooh how I love watercolours! Can't wait to be back in that peaceful zone again!)

Today I am grateful for positive comments.

harsh treatment

Gone are most of my stylised trees. I'll be back later, hoping to finish it completely tonight. Not easy, being this drastic, and I liked the playful version with the trees about to roll off the canvas. But this is a serious work... and I need to make the rest of the trees realistic too!

Big big sigh...


I am excited about where natural instinct is taking my painting when I let it! I can feel some fun works coming :-)

Today I am grateful for resolve.

1 November 2011


I've been a bit slack with exercise lately. I'm not too bad at running up and down the stairs, but along the road? The dogs would tell you that I am slipping up badly.

I phoned my dad tonight. No reply. No worries, I thought, he'll be out running. I tried later. Yes, the chirpy 91 year old replied, I've been run-walking for two hours and ten minutes. You see, he has got some records to set. Some young things have been coming up the ranks and breaking some of his earlier ones.

We talked about his progress. No, he's not running nearly as well as he would like to. He has slowed down. His physio gave him some advice, but not trusting it entirely he tested it out. He has good reason. At 50 he was told to give up running, it was not good for him. At 63 he ran his first marathon, and at 71 his first track event. His medal haul is a heavy stash. It includes world event golds and silvers. But in this instance the physiotherapist was right. He needs longer breaks between his training runs. So he runs longer distances, but only every second day.

The doctor (when he was 50) was wrong, he chuckles, reflecting on his disobedience. You've got to take a chance or two sometimes... nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Be careful, I'll quote you on that, I reply. He chuckles again. Life is good. Then he says, perhaps after he sets those new records he'll retire. Neither of us believe him. And a few sentences later he admits that he has no intention of stopping. He will just keep on running.

But for now, his eyes are on records. Good ones. Ones that will stay in the record books for a while.

He is listed in World Famous Athletes. I'd say it's well deserved. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?

I hope you've bought yourself new shoes, I say, making a resolve to at least put mine on again tomorrow. I remember saying (often) that I still have plenty of time. I don't need to run my first marathon until I am 63.

I guess I'll have to at least run as far as the first lamp post tomorrow. Those years are flying by far too fast.

Today I am grateful for my inspirational father.

saints, souls, and sinners

Today is All Saints Day, and tomorrow All Souls Day. I'm not too sure what I think about All Souls Day, it is outside my own education. But this morning I read about Steve Job's last words as he moved through into another world, saying "Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow" which gives food for thought even for sceptics. Then later in the day I was reluctant to leave the station at Cassino after saying goodbye to young friends. Something made me linger. Was it a roaming soul, seeing two Kiwis racing to their train with a minute to spare, that had suggested I turn back to the station?

I asked if they wanted the train to Rome, then ran on ahead to ask the guard to wait while they got their bags down the underpass and up the other side. They'd possibly have coped without me, but I think that by the time they had worked out which was their platform they would have made it up the steps just in time to see the train disappearing into the distance. (I didn't notice that one was wearing a Crusaders shirt until they were safely on the train, and we then managed a short conversation and got their tickets stamped before they were on their way).

One of the young couple I farewelled is, as far as I am concerned, my niece. But in Italy, technically, and probably also in NZ, as my Italian friends pointed out, she is nothing to do with me, there is no blood connection. If she is "nothing to do with me" as was so bluntly suggested, why did I have tears of excited anticipation as her train arrived, why was the hug between us so warm and why was I so sad to say good-bye, blinking back the tears again? Kith and kin, kin and kith. I don't think it is important to know the difference, because yesterday and today there was none.

But I digress. So, thinking again of saints and souls, I wondered why the word "sinners" fell out onto my keyboard and into the title of this post.

One of the first things my young Catholic husband taught me, forty years ago, was that Limbo was a place, and I could hope to go there but not to Heaven. Limbo, it seemed, was reserved for good Protestants and bad Catholics, those who could not reach Heaven. I dismissed the idea back then and haven't given it much thought since, until today. I still prefer to think of limbo as a dance, that incredible test of balance and flexibility, rather than a world of mis-placed souls. Even this, though, is related to death and the life cycle. Perhaps it is appropriate to research it today after all. And tomorrow, as I see on the bill-boards in town, even local government will be praying for the souls of the departed.

I think it's time the dogs walked me. One of us needs to get some exercise and fresh air.

Today I am grateful for good weather.

good morning world

It's a busy time. Soon my volunteers will be picking the olives, but there are a few things to do first. One of them is book in with a press somewhere. I think closest is best this time.

Last night was a very quiet night in Atina; I suspect that the festivities closer to home might have been more fun. Never mind, it's good to get out and about too. I was, of course, resplendent in witches hat, lace gloves, and black and red garb. I resisted the temptation to black out a tooth. And no, you DON'T need a photo.

Here is what Burnt by the Tuscan Sun has to say about Halloween (she's fast becoming a favourite blog in my cyber life).

It's 1 November, All Saints Day, a public holiday. The church bells have just been ringing out across the valley. It's time to head downstairs. Today it's off to Cassino with my visitors, and then back to the grindstone tomorrow.

Today I am grateful for young folk asleep downstairs.

30 October 2011

more from the white night

More photos from yesterday (and comments added to last night's post below)
or, more correctly, the flavours of autumn and endless day (white night, when it doesn't get dark).
This was a very large group, one of at least four providers of live music. A band was set up at either end of the street and itinerant groups and musicians wandered between them.
Most were dressed in traditional costume with the distinctive leather shoes of Ciociaria.
Later in the evening a huge crowd gathered around a part of this group as they seemed to engage in a theatre sports type of sing-off. Three of the singers tried to out-sing one another in a tit-for-tat song. Occasionally I heard murmers of "he's won" yet still the competition went on. The lyrics became more outrageous, but as they were in dialect I understood only a quarter of it. That might have been lucky, as the ladies in the crowd were covering their faces and looking shocked while trying to stifle their laughter. The local men occasionally looked across to see how this foreigner might be reacting, but I was able to look quite innocent as I truly hadn't heard this language before!

And below, the reward for beautiful dancing? The "light on his feet" musician quickly hopped back up onto the stage and the lovely dancer continued the next dance with her female companions.
Some musicians are simply too fast to photograph, but the I think that the effect is a work of art. (Note the white coffee pot on a stick in the background - apparently disjointed in this photo, but it wasn't - that is a percussion instrument).
And when is a carved pumpkin not a jack-o-lantern? When it too observes the "bella figura" that is Italy!

Today I am grateful for community.

white night

When is a railway station not a station? When it becomes party central, of course. Captions tomorrow, maybe. Buonanotte :-)
Apparently all the food was organically grown and prepared to traditional recipes, a real taste of the region (but I had eaten dinner before deciding to venture out).
Trains on one side of the station, a wood-fired oven on the other. Nothing unusual about that in this town!

Now that's what you call a good sized BBQ, and the fire behind was keeping up the supply of hot embers over the 8 or 9 hours of the festival.

The instruments were just gorgeous, each one an amazing creation. They hardly stayed still long enough to be photographed though.

And then there was dancing, with kids in the middle and a watching crowd about 6 people deep (luckily I am quite tall in this town!) This particular dance is a delightfully flirtatious one with a scarf - the ladies tease and run away, and the man circles around, coming close, pulling back, trying again (like peacocks really), not touching her until the last note is played, and they he is likely to earn a huge hug and a kiss for his efforts. One of the band players danced with the lady with the white scarf and it was such a beautiful display to watch. Light on their feet, both knowing the dance so well. Apologies for photo quality, I didn't want to use the flash and break the moment and I was watching from well back in the crowd.



The clown looked so sad, watching life going by...

and one of my favourite instruments, the pot and spray unit. The player was a tall man and the shiny pot could be seen well down the street, the lid popping up and down to the beat. Another, very hard to catch on camera, was a coffee perc...

Gotta love it!