Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Had I been blogging....

I would have written something really funny about my cousins Bump and Dong's visit.

And how Lina and Augusto threw them a 2nd wedding anniversary lunch....

With some peppers and prosecco...

And some homemade pasta....

And then I'd tell you about how things got a little weird....

Yeah, I'd have told you all about that if I had been blogging.

I'd also have told you about the art show that friend Christine and I have going at the art gallery in Badalucco....

And the fun we had setting it up....

And the gallery picnic David gave me on my birthday...

And had I been blogging I would have written something lovely about my sister-in-law Rosanne who we are luck enough to have visiting....

Yep.  Had I been blogging I would have told you all about that stuff.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sogni nel Cassetto

Dreams in the drawer is what the italians call them.

You know when you ask a child, say 5 years old, what they want to do with their life?  5 year olds tell you their dreams, and usually they are big dreams.  Big, fun, passionate, and usually next to impossible dreams.  5 year olds want to be ballerinas or baseball players, and they want to have 100 dogs and 10 ponies and magic powers and a swimming pool filled with frosting.  As the years pass children...people's dreams get smaller, more serious, more realistic.  People come up with dreams that fit into their own and other's perceptions of what they can and should do. That happens to the dreams we choose to tell people. The other dreams, the 5 year old's dreams, they get put in a drawer, hidden the under the old photos, some lingerie, that hideous pair of bell bottoms that you still love, and other private things that you don't want the world to see.  These are the sogni nel cassetto.

About 15 years ago I was given the opportunity to rethink how I was living and what I was doing with my life so I got my dream out of the drawer and dusted it off.  Two dreams actually: 1. be an artist, 2. live in italy.

Last Monday morning I had to run some errands:
1. go to the printers to order promotion postcards and posters for the upcoming show my friend Christine and I are having in the art gallery in Badalucco.

2. Pick up my Permesso di Soggiorno Illimitato (indefinite permit of stay)

That was a good day.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


It's been a hot summer.  A really hot, record breaking, sweat inducing, no sleep making hot summer.  Hot.  It's being compared to the summer of 2003... the summer when hundreds of people died from the heat.

In August of 2003 my parents were visiting with my then young nephew and David and I were living in Piedmont but showing off our newest adventure....we'd just bought a little stone house in Liguria by the Sea.  We'd taken them to see our new villa in Maberga that, as we knew it, was a diamond in the rough.  Then we took them to lunch at a local iconic restaurant up the valley that specializes in mushroom cuisine, as advertised by the giant mushroom statue in their parking lot.  When we came out of lunch, feeling slightly hallucinogenic from the fungus rich food, we noticed it was snowing....in August?

It wasn't snowing, it was ashing.  there were wild fires blazing....blazing on the very mountains that lead to our new house.  We dropped my parents at their hotel and headed up to Maberga where we spent an afternoon in anticipation of catastrophe.  We stood in our new car park next to our new house with our neighbor, waiting.  Watching.  Silent.  Feeling the wind.  Will it change?  If it changed direction the fire was on its way to us.  There was nothing to do.  It was a bad feeling.

Three days ago we came home from a morning swim in the sea, parked the car in our car park and saw smoke up the valley.

David called the fire department....and was put on hold.  We saw a helicopter fly over us with basket of sea water.

And then another.

And another.

David hung up.

And then a canadair came.

Ok. Stop.  I'm getting a little dramatic now. David and I went on with our normal life.  the fire was up the valley, we just saw the smoke (and, yeah, ok, a few flames).  David made some sugo.  I made a ristra from these crazy, homicidally hot peppers from our orto.

And with an interest in the fire up the valley we watched the smoke and the flames.  We took photos of the helicopters.  We made plans with our friends to go into the mountains after dark to watch the Perseids.

Then night fell.  It was dark. The fires were still blazing up the valley.

 But the planes and helicopters had gone home.  We watched the fire make small leaps over the ridge that had been keeping it away from us.  Again we thought about the winds.  If they go up the valley, we're ok.  It they change, and come down the valley they bring the fire with them.  Day winds go up the valley.  Night winds come from the mountains and go down the valley.  We are down the valley.  We fielded calls from neighbors asking for news.  And from friends offering a bed to sleep in.  We cancelled our plans to go into the mountains star gazing. We fell asleep on the front patio watching the fire and feeling the winds.  At about midnight we went to bed.  By then it was snowing ash and the smoke we had been watching we were now breathing.  The winds had changed.

Each hour throughout the night we woke to check the ridge line.

"If the fire gets to THAT ridge, that one closer, we go." we decided.  I had the dogs' leashes and a change of undies packed.

At 7am the next morning there were 3 canadairs and 2 helicopters dropping sea water on the fires.  They continued for 14 hours straight.  This is hard to understand if you aren't directly under this sort of activity. We are 10 minutes from the sea... as the car drives, so as the bird or the canadair flies.....you do the math.

Today is Friday.  And today there was 1 canadair and 2 helicopters flying and dropping water for most of the day.

Word on the street is that the fire was started by vandals.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Residents, Not Natives, and a Special Guest

So, in September we will have been living in Maberga for 11 years.  As of June this year we have been living in Italy for 13 years.  We've earned the status "resident".  And still, we are not from here.

This "non-native" status is becoming less and less obvious every year.  We notice it, and others notice  it in us, in more and more subtle ways and behaviors. For example, I can now say at least 3 whole sentences to a stranger in Italian before he/she hears my Wisconsin accent and asks me where I'm from.   Shit, at that rate I should be able to have a complete supermarket checkout transaction without the checker asking where I'm from by the time I'm 70.

And I still won't be "from here".  Let me give you some more examples.

Last week was the annual Maberga Water War.  It's an annual event held here in Maberga where neighbors get panicked about the lack of water in the springs that we all use to water our ortos and then start acting Medieval.  They start cutting off each other's water supply in one way or another.  Sometimes the battles of this war entail people higher on the water chain (aka: farther up the mountain) simply taking more than their share, leaving the folks lower on the chain with minimal or none.  Sometime people just disconnect neighbors' tubes if they think they are taking more than their share. And sometimes the tubes actually get cut...chopped up....made into many pieces thus rendering them incapable of carrying water.  Oh what fun are the drought days of summer in Maberga.

David and I won the war this year but due to no (or very little) skill, knowledge, or actual fighting on our own behalf.  Think of us as France. Our tubes were disconnected.  We made an ally in another  neighbor also affected by our lack of water (think England), who then brought in another ally (think USA) who fought the battle.  War over.  David and I gave out chocolate bars.

Yes. After 10 consecutive Maberga Water Wars we still don't know what we're supposed to do.  And our neighbors KNOW that we still don't know what to do.

Another non-native behavior that we continue to do showed up just this week in the form of this...

This week at the discount market is "Mexican week" (it's a German market chain).  We have an embarrassingly large amount of that cheese right now in our fridge.  I don't know too many natives who would be as darn happy about that cheese stash as we are.

In other random Maberga catch up news, look who's here!

That's Mila - the famous Mila from Creature and Creations,  the well-known German author,  and of course OliveKnitting commenter.  I was lucky enough to get to see her twice!  Here she is in Maberga

Check out her shawl!  Yeah, she made that.  And yeah,  I'm going to make the twin since she kindly brought me this thoughtful gift

Instructions and enough yarn to make two of those nice shawls - one just like hers and another in lovely shades of my favorite green. PLUS, a nice fan to keep me cool in the heat wave whilst I'm knitting.  Mila's daughter gave me this

Having that hanging on the outside of my fridge might make me even happier than that stash of nacho cheese inside of it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

through time and space

So I got an email from my Uncle Mike yesterday.  Uncle Mike has shown up here on Oliveknitting before.  You might remember he's the one who has a nose that resembles my dog, Q.  Mike and I don't always see eye to eye on everything (maybe because I compare his facial features to that of my dog?) but that's ok because as of the past few years, we've found our common ground.  Quite literally.  We've bonded over our vegetable gardens.

Uncle Mike is the only one of my grandma's 4 children who seems to have inherited her love of growing food.*  Actually, I don't know if my grandma really loved gardening.  She did it because that's what one does - one has land, one uses it to grow food.  Particularly when one is newly married, in the 1930's and one's husband has been laid off.  It's just what one does.

I have really fond memories of helping grandma pick beans and then sitting on her porch for hours snapping the ends off of them (ok, it probably wasn't hours, but when you're 8 it feels that way).  And I don't know what grandma did to her swiss chard but that shit was GOOD!  It was probably the oregano.  That also came from her garden.  I don't remember the oregano but according to Uncle Mike she had a particular variety (that can't be found any more...at least not by Uncle Mike) that she had planted who-knows-when-ago and that just kept coming back every year.  Mike harvested the seeds for his own garden.  This is his harvest this year drying in his garage.

In his email, Mike asked me if I'd like some of seeds from this oregano next year for my orto.  Are you kidding?!  F*#& YEAH!  Grandma and Grandpa are sadly gone.  The little house they shared for like 80 years has been sold.  But through time and space the oregano lives on.  

I'd like to suggest to all my Serpe relatives that we get some seeds from Mike so we can expand grandma and grandpa's garden to Elkhorn, Lake Geneva, Hampshire, Atlanta, D.C, Seattle, Maberga.  That's a nice thought, no?

*No disrespect to your garden, Dad.  I'm sure both those tomato plants you have are looking beautiful.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Italian Boy Toy

Yeah, ok.  That title is only a teaser.  I just wanted to see if I could increase traffic on the blog.   I suppose I could also do that by writing on the blog more, but I digress.

Getting back to the title of this post... David has purchased a new toy.

Yeah yeah yeah, David, I hear you.  "It's not a toy, it's a tool" like the weed whacker and the chain saw...yes yes yes, I get it.

Maybe guys are different from women.  It's possible.  I just know that when all my girl friends get really excited about something I'm talking about buying, and they then goad me on by saying "you HAVE TO have that!" or "at THAT price it's a steal!", that shit is a toy.  I'm not saying it's not a useful toy, like 20 skeins of pink yarn, for example.  Or a nice pair of stilettos.  It's just probably something you can do without in your life.  Or, it's just for fun, like a toy.

SOoooo, thank you Augusto, Franco and Gino for the goading sage advice.  You guys were definitely right.  We HAD to have this and it was a STEAL.

Excuse me now, I'm going to buy some pink yarn.

PS.  David and all you men reading this, who totally understand why we NEED a roto tiller in our lives when I thought our lives were moving along swimmingly without one can remind me of this blog post next year when I'm bragging about our onion harvest which will be coming from here

right after that land has been tilled.

PSS.  Don't worry Bump and Dong, the Lane/Averkamp olive trees you see there are staying.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

On account of the gout....

So my nephew came to visit and he got the gout.  Let me back up a bit.

This is Max.

This is the gout...

noun;  an acute, recurrent disease characterized by painful inflammation of the joints, chiefly those in the feet and hands, and especially in the great toe, and by an excess of uric acid in the blood.  For centuries, gout has been known as a "rich man's disease" or a disease caused by overindulgence in food and drink. 

Yep, young, Max you have to pay the price for living the good life in Maberga.  

It's true, we did overindulge in food and drink for about 72 hours straight.  After only 30 hours Max developed acute and inexplicable pain in his knees.  Well, he couldn't explain it.  I knew for sure that it was from pedaling his friend Jencie and I along the sea in a bicycle with 4 wheels.  I did have a nice photo of Max and Jencie in the bike by the sea but due to an unfortunate incident involving my computer and some red wine during a time of heavy overindulgence (is that redundant?), I've lost those photos.  But here's a nice photo of the group in a local restaurant overindulging eating.

Anyway,  Dr. David, upon hearing of the ailment named it immediately.  "Boy's got the gout."

So Max took some of the arthritis pills we have for our 10 year old, over-weight dog

And then set out to make a wild boar pizza....for breakfast.

Ok, this is really what Max-making-wild-boar-pizza looked like

He'd become a little wild-boar-pizza-making skittish after the first night when he slipped the just prepared raw pizza right off the peel into the ashes in the oven thus rendering it inedible (or not eatable, as I prefer saying).  So David had to help a bit on the second attempt.  Plus, Max was suffering pretty badly from the gout that last morning.  David, on the other hand seems to be gout immune.

There it is.  The very first ever in the history of pizzas --  Max's Amazing Cinghiale Breakfast Pizza

Thanks for visiting, Max and Jencie.  Please come back again some time soon.

PS.  In case anyone is worried, the gout is gone.