Archive for July, 2007


July 24, 2007


We spent the weekend at Zambla Alta, and it was great- I woke up earlier than everyone else and sat out on the tiny balcony, watching the town wake up. That’s a fruit and veg truck parked in the photo. It was about 15 degress Celsius cooler up there and I miss it as we bake in the heat here again. We hiked along the Sentiero dei Fiori, which is a path that follows the high edge of a valley, and as the cows and sheep don’t graze there, its filled with wild flowers this time of year.


Not that you can see any in this photo, but really there were a lot, and they say there are even more earlier in the month.

Monday was my thirtieth birthday, and despite a fair amount of angst leading up to it, it passed well and cheerfully. I spent most of the day working on a physics project for the class of 9-12 year olds I will have next year in Sweden, and talking on the phone to my sister and dad. If anyone knows of music somehow related to physics, astronomy and chemistry, please let me know…



July 20, 2007


I read somewhere that the first two years of a marriage are when couples establish their routines together, what life will be like… We definitely have established quite a rhythm, but of course it remains to be seen what, if any of it, remains past our two year mark in September.

The weekends have developed their own rhythm: Saturdays I make something “American” for breakfast, we clean the house, eat with Ilario’s parents two or three times a month, run errands, lie around until dinner or going out. Sunday is reserved for hiking, biking, or otherwise doing something cool, and then Ilario makes pizza for dinner and we watch a movie.

Saturdays can end up being kind of exhausting. The list of things to do in the house is long, and the possibility of doing errands any other day impossible: almost every business is closed Sunday. So it all ends up crammed together on Saturday.

Cleaning is serious business here. I mean, I grew up helping to clean the house on Saturdays before I could go out, but I never really took that to heart as an adult. Cleaning was something I dreaded, was even kind of opposed to on principles of time and energy, maybe even morals. But one can’t just sit back and watch while one’s husband sweeps, mops and dusts the whole house, methodically putting away all of one’s loose things about, etc etc, so I have adapted myself, and embraced this part of my week. I try to think of cleaning as a kind of layman’s yoga- all that bending and stretching. And I do feel peaceful afterwards.

Generally the work of the house is divided evenly between us, kind of a complementary arrangement, ie I cook and he cleans the kitchen. Except: I do all of the laundry. And laundry is a big process here because we don’t have a dryer (like most folks here, we use various modern versions of the clothesline). If its hot like it is now, I can get it all done in one full day. Right now the last load is roasting out on the balcony.

I absolutely refuse to iron, the national past time of Italian women. Those of you who have dryers and permanant press may think little of this decision, but let me tell, clothes that come off the line are big time stiff and wrinkly. I shake them a bit, smooth them some, fold them carefully and put them away. I HATE ironing.

Since I am on vacation I have have moved cleaning day to Friday, and do it all myself. Well, not completely by myself; I am accompanied first by All Things Considered, then the Democracy Report, and if I haven’t finished yet then I can move on to Fresh Air (I like to save Morning Edition for while I cook dinner.).

Today was hard, though, because what I really wanted to do was work on this:


Yep, I have moved on from the quilt to a granny square blanket. Granny squares are so good because you get the sense of satisfaction of having finished something very frequently.

We are off to stay with Ilario’s parents in the mountains for two days- it should be a lot cooler there.

Parking lot picnics, and other things

July 16, 2007

Friday evening we had our monthly meeting with our buying collective, or gruppo acquisto solidale. Last month was kind of rough-lots of tension and frustration in the group and some folks refused to come, so I was anxious about this one. I have made a resolution to make sweets to take to every meeting I go to, with the idea that all bureaucracy is better with food, and had made brownies. Wine was added to the mix, in a very moderate amount, and I honestly think we had the most productive meeting ever, emotionally charged as it was. The Italians I know are all so reluctant to try and also to appreciate foreign food that I have developed a fear of cooking for folks here, but the brownies were consumed with gusto.

After such an activist evening, we decided to embrace a bit of consumerism on Saturday to balance things, and headed to Ikea. Of course, I couldn’t go all the way and so packed a lunch for us to eat in the parking lot.


My mother ALWAYS packed a picnic lunch for us to eat when we traveled by car. I have memories of lunches in all kinds of rest stations (are they still called that?), cemtaries and parks. While we don’t travel much by car, maybe a maximum of 45 minutes, ever, we do go by train and by bike, and we usually carry food with us. So we ate tabouli and melon and had a grand old time.


Saturday night we went to see (listen to?) this: Pontiac, story of a revolt. It was maybe the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen in my life, in that it appealed to me in every possible way. Wu Ming is some kind of writer’s collective here in Italy, and I know very little about them. One of the authors is giving readings to promote the new book Manituana, but boy, is it a different kind of reading! He explained at the beginning that in the past he has been frustrated with his readings. He said he is fundamentally a storyteller, and found it terrible to have to read only a part of a story, and then on top of that to have to choose either to ruin the book for someone who has not read it, or have an even further diminished selection of what to read. And he said he is not an actor, just a storyteller. So he decided to write a story that is contained within the book being published, but not fully developed, and in this way hopefully inspire people to read the published book while at the same time enriching their future experience and the past experience of those who have already read it. And he did it with music! A group with a variety of instruments supported his telling. He started with a creation myth, as he explained, to give some insight into the culture, and then moved into the story of Detroit, and then Pontiac. Fabulous.

Especially because I have been reading a book about Ancient Greece (thank you Evi!) and learned that it is believed that poetry like Homer, and really what came before him, was all recited or sung with music. And of course, I realized, this is probably true of all traditional performances, in all different kinds of cultures. And forget traditional- in our movies we have music to guide us emotionally. So to hear that creation myth with music just about knocked me flat out, I was so overwhelmed. I have read that particular one (with the flooding of the Earth, and the turtle) so many times in books, but never interpreted in such a way that made it so powerful. It was beautiful. The whole thing.


Sunday we went with my bike group Aribi into the Seriana and Vertova Valleys- I was dead tired the whole time from staying up late and the heat, but the ride was beautiful. I had done it when I was here as a student, but the bike path along the river was almosy finished and the ride went smoother. They have built some small pedestrian/bike bridges, like the one in the picture. The best one is all wood, but I didn’t get a photo.

We stopped for three hours to eat lunch and hike around a bit in the mountains. There were Italians laid out like lizards on the rocks in the sun along the little river, and we decided to make like them, found a good spot and conked out. I was so tired I slept for awhile. Meantime the older folks (Generally we are the youngest by about 20+ years) kicked around, hiked the ridge nearby and otherwise kept busy. On the way back, Ilario and I had to plead exhaustion and split off to go home, as they wanted further adventures (mainly a search for watermelon stands that were common not so long ago in July and August, but are now rare because of Health Department raids.). I thought relative age differences were supposed to have proportional differences in energy, with the idea that the younger you are, the more energy you have. So often I find this not to be true at all; Ilario says it is because they are all retired and so don’t have to work the next day, but I am on holiday…

Anna and Francesco are back from the mountains for a couple of days, and brought us:


fresh eggs and


water from the natural spring near their place.

Aunt Eduina

July 13, 2007

Today Ilario’s aunt Eduina came by on her bike with green beans and tomatoes.


She is fabulous- an older, feminine version of my father-in-law, Francesco: always busy busy busy with one thing or another. While Francesco is pretty quiet, Eduina talks constantly and is a wonderful storyteller. For the last three years, we have all had Easter lunch together- she chooses us so that her daughters can’t fight over who gets to have her over. This year she told me stories about their life during World War II, and just after. She was about ten, and remembered a lot about the family osteria, and how their father was a card-carrying member of every political organization he could be, and this saved his life when just after the war the partigiani came to kill him (he had gotten the license for the restaurant at a time when no one could do anything that wasn’t a member of the Fascist party… reminds me of the Bathist party in Iraq). They came at night, and broke into the house, and went into the bedroom where all the children were, looking for him. When they found him in the other bedroom, he convinced them to let him get his wallet and show them his Communist party card. So they went and killed someone else instead…

Eduina lives a couple blocks away, so I run into her all the time. She rides her bike to the cemetary every day, and grows flowers in her garden especially for the graves of her husband and mother. She also takes the train every other week to visit one of her daughters who lives a couple stops away.

Yesterday I finished the quilt top.


A question: what is wrong with these corn plants?



They seem to have their male and female parts mixed up… there are a bunch like that in this one field and I find it sort of disturbing, ignorant as I am to the implications.

The first

July 12, 2007

I love lists, and this has been on my to-do list since Easter. I am now a week and a half into my summer break, and working my way through lots of projects and odds and ends that have hanging over my head for awhile, like doctor’s appointments. So I am experimenting, learning my way around this idea of blogging, and challenging myself to turn my journalling into something different.


This is the view from our kitchen/livingroom. The balcony is long and skinny, stretching the whole length of the apartment, and each of the three rooms opens onto it. The street below is NOISY, except at midday when most folks are eating, and after about 11 pm. The sun beats down all afternoon, and last year the apartment was more like an oven than a place you would want to come home to at the end of the day. With this in mind, we spent a bunch of money installing awnings this Spring, and they have made all the difference:


Behind my awsome, tall laundry-hanging thing, you can see the fig tree popping up- it made one fig this Spring, and is busy with a dozen more right now. The dark thing in the front is the peach tree, which is stubbornly holding on to several hard, green peaches for more than two months now. More successful have been the blueberries:


They just keep going and going… I would like to have even more of them next year, as well as strawberries, which I saw growing like crazy in pots at a friend’s house. She gave me one, which has already spread out to create two new ones. Speaking of fruit, my father-in-law brought me tons of sour plums the other day, and unknowingly set off a jam-making frenzy.


I made two batches of plum, and then went out and bought apricots after despairing of anymore freebies. I got recipes and guidance from <a href=””>the National Center for Home Food Preservation</a> and <a href=””>in_mamas_kitchen</a&gt;. I have loved making jams since I started when I was 19, at the farm in Wisconsin. I always think of my paternal grandmother, who made tons every year. This si the first time I have successfully made jam without added pectin- I followed the guidleines I found, talking to my sister on the phone while stirring the endlessly boiling jam, or reading a book, and all four batches came out perfectly! Despite Ilario’s anxiety about our rapidly diminishing storage space and ability to consume all, I have plans already for the ripening blackberries along the dirt road behind our building.

Also in the kitchen, I have been baking a lot: plum tart, blueberry tart, blueberry muffins, and this chocolate zuchini cake:


Recipe can be found here at <a href=””>this website</a>, and I found out about it <a href=””>on this blog</a>.

But my biggest project so far is this quilt, here spread out on the bed, waiting to be sewn together yesterday:


I have NEVER done anything quite like this before, and it is super cool. The pattern is real traditional- in the book I found at the library its called “Ohio Star.” The Italians think patchwork is totally American, and the book was filled with talk about the pioneers and their thrifty spirit and creative spirit… cheesy, but I dig that stuff when I am here and I lapped it up. Of course, there is not much thrifty about my quilt- I bought the fabrics from stores around here. The pickings are slim, slim, slim- barely any cotton and no cool prints at all. I can tell I am in the Italian boondocks when I go to the fabric store, let me tell you.

That’s all for now- I am pooped, with all this new technology and my slow learning curve. I have to go recouperate now…

P.S. I know my links aren’t working and I don’t know why.