25 January 2012

compulsory viewing?

I watched the film "Dolphin Tale". Not important enough an event for a blog post perhaps, but for me it was important.

You see, every time I see something like that I respond... like a teacher! I want to take that wonderful "feel good" family film and share it with classes of young people. I want to pull from it the issues, to look at it from the points of view of the English and Media Studies teacher I once was.

Have I ruined my own enjoyment of films by seeing them through these eyes, or am I getting much more from them as I draw from them on so many different levels?

Or is it just that once a teacher always a teacher applies?

You see, even in Italian it (Dolphin Tale) works for me, so imagine what I could do with it in English!

I am not going to tell more about the film. You choose - follow these links or go to the movies/video hire and watch it first. Click here to read Wikipedia (about the film and the real event it was based on). Click here for the official trailer of the movie on Youtube.

Today I am grateful for
socially responsible film makers.

24 January 2012

on fads and food

Lately I have been eating differently. I have been trying to eat only what might be called healthy foods and to avoid sugar, flour and preservatives. It's great what wonderful food I can put in its place!

This morning I had smoked salmon with melon and berry fruits for breakfast. Yummmmm...

It might be a passing fad, but it's not a bad hobby to have when you live in a country that makes a feast out of every meal.

Today I am grateful for fresh food.

22 January 2012

aaaaah, bliss...

Morning tea with a friend, coffee with an interesting worker, a lesson for a new student, lunch with an adopted "sister", wise council from a wonderful woman, chat with a lovely neighbour, dinner with friends, good wine, good amaro, good conversation in three languages and then home to some interesting emails and a cuppa with another friend staying for a few days.

Who needs Facebook?

(OK, so I understood only two languages...)

Today I am grateful for loyalty.

21 January 2012

mad dogs, italian men and pea soup

Forget about mad dogs, Englishmen and the mid-day sun. Yesterday and today have been what my mother would have called "pea-soupers". The fog rolled in, and out, up, and down... and then came to stay for a bit.

Yesterday I watched the fronds of fog licking their way up the village like whisps of smoke from a fire, and then they disappeared, returning in soft blankets from time to time. Mostly I am above the fog, and can see the cloak of dampness that hides the valley below.

I drove to Ceprano in the fog last night, 30 to 40 kilometres per hour all the way there and all the way back. There was no need to pull over to let locals fly past, the few locals out and about were also creeping along wondering where the edge of the road might be.

I usually enjoy the fact that there are no road markings here, but tonight as I came home from the town below I thought about driving in the fog on the Kaimais and remembered how useful centre markings are when you can't see more than a few feet in front of you.

There were a few mad dogs out there, but not many. Mine have opted for their houses, and now at 9.30pm I have remembered that I wanted to put the thicker mats in for them.

But Italian men and cold foggy days? It doesn't matter how cold, how wet, how little visibility there is, there will always be Italian men taking a "passaggiata", an evening walk. Two nights ago I recognised a friend dressed all in black as he exercised. I stopped and "told him off" for being invisible. I don't think he realised that motorists can't see him until they are almost upon him. I only walk where there are lights, he said. But you are all in black, I pointed out. Only your face is visible. I have a yellow jacket, he replied, but I don't like wearing it.

He thought it most odd that I had stopped just to mention it, surprised at my concern, although we enjoyed our chat through the car window. I told him that I wear my safety vest if I walk in the dark, and he agreed it was a good idea but I am sure he wont follow my example. Carry a torch, perhaps? I suggested. His face lit up. Yes, maybe he could do that.

Tonight it was particularly bad, cold, damp, and at a time when all good men should be at home demanding their dinner one was walking along in the dark. I stopped to offer him a lift. Thanks, but I'm just taking a walk, he said. A slow amble in the dark on a dangerous road on a miserable, damp foggy night? No thanks!

...mad dogs and Italian men go out in the damp night air.

Today I am grateful for safe journeys.

20 January 2012

the little things that count

A warm fire

A comfortable chair

A cup of tea

A smile from a friend

A wish for a happy future

A book to enjoy

A project to work on

A nourishing meal

A welcome home from a pet

A memory to treasure

A dream for mankind.

When you enjoy the little things of life you are free to dream of the big ones. Unfettered by the need for always more, and the perils of consumerism, this is true freedom.

Enough is enough, in every way.

Today I am grateful for "my daily bread".

19 January 2012

book review

When Cancer Hits by Britta Aragon

Published by Cinco Vidas Press, New York 2011
ISBN 978-0-9829175-0-3

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 "WHEN CANCER HITS" in bold red print? I was a little reluctant to open the large paperback volume.

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 were 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 that I can't remember it all. It is a book I will refer to again and again, simply to choose healthier options for myself. Prevention, after all, is easier than cure. It is most certainly a book I would gift to anyone who has cancer, but would recommend for general reference as well.

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

this morning

(or "When water is thicker than blood")

Once again I have evidence of why I love Italy so much.

Recently I met two elderly Americans who had wished to live here, but did not have the required documentation or accommodation. I was called (informally) to help sort out their problems and explain the intricacies of their unfortunate position to them.

They didn't have a phone, nor did I give them my number.

It transpired that unless they found appropriate accommodation and care (which they were refusing to do), and applied to be legal immigrants with appropriate documentation, they needed to leave. Yesterday they were taken to Rome by taxi.

This morning, most unexpectedly, I received a phone call from Natalia at the Hilton Hotel near Fiumicino airport. They had in their care two 86 year old Americans who had arrived the night before, en route to the airport, and didn't know where they were supposed to be going, or when. Was I the artist from Roccasecca who had called a lawyer on their behalf, and did I know what was happening as the hotel would not leave these two confused people on their own at the airport. (The Americans would not have had my name).

How efficient and caring is that? Somehow, and I suspect very quickly, they had located me. When Italy does things well, it REALLY does them well. It is a country where family and heart are more important to people than la bella figura that they often hide behind.

In times of bad publicity over the terrible tragedy off the Tuscan coast little acts of mercy towards complete strangers are taking place unsung.

Today I am grateful for the carabinieri.

18 January 2012

why oh why?

Why is it human nature to always think the worst?

Today my internet provider called, wanting to pop in and "discuss something". With my erratic residence here occasionally my bills are paid late, or paid via paypal by a friend if I am away for a longer time. I am not convinced that the records at the admin end are always accurate even when all is paid so occasionally pay what I think is an extra month, because of my own haphazard book keeping. I have also put in a splitter and have internet in the studio, and hadn't confessed that to them. Or, in these difficult and competitive times, was this small company closing down and was I about to lose my link to the outside world?

I feared the worst.

I opened the door to find not one but two men standing there. The one I hadn't met looked very business like, smartly dressed and carrying a briefcase.

The problem? None at all.

The company I was with has been taken over by one from Frosinone (provincial capital for Lazio). I have a new contract, faster internet, and will pay a euro a month less for the service!

Another bonus is that bills will come every two months, so that is one less queue at the post office.

And best of all? I still have the same obliging young man as technician, so if there is a problem I will see no change at all.

The day is looking bright indeed!

Today I am grateful for good news.

17 January 2012

new student today

I am teaching painting again. It's been a while, and I loved it as we explored colours and brushes in both languages. There is so much I want to pass on to my student.

I thought that I was well and truly over teaching anything to do with art. But to help someone achieve their dreams is a whole different thing.

Roll on the next lesson!

Today I am grateful for learning and language.

16 January 2012

happiness personified

That's how I feel. I love where I live, and I love my life.

Today, driving towards the sunset, the hills glowed. A peachy pink touched everything.

Snug in my jacket and scarf I could appreciate the winter with its glorious days.

The sky this morning was a wonderful cobalt, not a touch of cerulean anywhere, and not a cloud to be seen. But this evening, as though they knew they were needed, the clouds appeared to reflect the glowing sun and whisper the end of the day.

The simple life; good food, but not too much of it, good friends, warm clothing, a safe house. Two little dogs chewing on their treats; a brisk walk to keep us moving.

Today a friend was asked to clean for a wealthy couple in a nearby town. She returned quite shaken. "How could I work in that house, it was like the palace at Caserta" she said. "There are people who have nothing; how can I be in those surroundings without feeling so bad for the poor people?"

There is affluence and there is excess. Where does one draw the line? I like beautiful things, and I very much enjoy comfort. I hope I can always recognise the difference between need and greed.

One can't judge by appearances. Who knows what good deeds the wealthy might do, unspoken, unseen? In fact, one shouldn't judge at all.

I hope that I keep things in proportion, at least most of the time. How does one know when enough is enough?

Today I am grateful that I have enough.


Sometimes I am simply not in the mood to blog!

The sun is shining, there are things to be done, and anything I want to write about requires far too much of my time and energy.


What have I been doing? Mostly, enjoying life!

An English mid-day dinner with friends yesterday was so tasty that I couldn't resist "seconds". Sometimes I do miss the flavours of my own culture.

But when I leave Italy I miss the bread and the tomatoes.


Now to head out the door, there are adventures to be had!

Today I am grateful for new challenges.

13 January 2012


While in the States I tried Larabars for the first time.

This link is here so I can find it quickly to make my own.

Yum! Home made larabars. (Apologies to the distributors, but you are rather expensive and not available everywhere).

Today I am grateful for energy and rest.

12 January 2012

time to sleep

I was about to write something deep and meaningful. It hasn't quite formed in my head, and is going to require a lot of thought. And then I looked at the time.

Sleep calls, I have an early start tomorrow.

Today I am grateful for family.

10 January 2012

will it snow will it snow will it snow?

I am so inspired by the sunset that I want to break into song. Yes, you can sing along too, you just wont know what words I am singing! I'm sitting by the heater... the warmth is quite delightful, there's lalalala la laaa, la la la, la la la,lalalaaaa.

It is FFFFFRRRRREEEEzing outside, so much so that I cooked a warm dinner for two little dogs. They have to learn to stay outside because the people coming to stay soon are bringing a cat with them... and Yes, I did warn them about Piccolina!

I think I have ticked another "once upon a time it seemed incredibly urgent" job off my list. Tomorrow I will line up another one.

I have a list, I'm checking it twice... where DO these Christmas tunes keep coming from? Perhaps I am in the mood to write rhyme... Mother Goose, it is all YOUR fault! But back to the list. It is diminishing wonderfully!

One step at a time, without any rush or panic, with plenty of stopping to marvel at the view, to ponder, with no real pressure, and the things that were in the "two hard basket" are ticking themselves off quite nicely.

Anyway, all I really wanted to do was share the beautiful sunset (which was much more intense than my photo suggests), spare a thought for the folks at Waihi Beach who wonder what other tragedies or perils each wave will bring in, and then maybe, MAYBE, even turn on the television for an hour of Italian!


and when

the internet comes and goes tantalisingly all morning...

Today I am grateful for lunch in a sunbeam.

9 January 2012

you know you are home when

You know you are really home when you have to go to the post office...






nothing has changed in my absence.

Gotta love it, I certainly do!

Today I am grateful for interesting news.

jiggety jog

It's only when you go to type a word that you haven't used or seen for many years that you realise that your memory is ummm... well, you get the picture.

Anyway, it's home again, home again, jiggety jog. (Have you ever wondered, who was that prolific writer of rhyme and rhythm, Mother Goose?)

It's great to come back to find your home has been well cared for, drastically needed maintenance has been done, and the dogs are happy and haven't even missed you! Today, after a few hours of sleep, driving to the station to put the house sitters on the train for the next stage of their adventure feels almost normal.

I miss my family, more than words can say if I let my mind wander in their direction, but it's also good to be home again.

Today I am grateful for aeroplanes, trains, and the friend who meets me at the airport.

5 January 2012

next generation

A runner is born.It's a dedicated supporter who waits so patiently with Nonna on the sideline, knowing that the laps do come full circle. Soon he is running with mummy. This morning he was running around the kitchen.
Ok, so that's the running taken care of.

Oh Nonna, that's not right... Tomorrow I'll claim back my bike and think about triathlons, maybe.

Today I am grateful for sunshine.

3 January 2012

pamper plus

Today I treated myself to a massage. I was given a gift certificate for a massage as a Christmas present, the appointment being a couple of days after I arrived here. It was so wonderful that I went back again today, sheer pampering.

Yes, the sore spots needed some pressure, but the pain was well worth it. Oooh to find someone like this nearer to home!

Today I am grateful for healing touch.