Micha got to choose what he wanted for New Year's Eve dinner and he chose Bistecca Fiorentina. I hope he's hungry....
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
I would like to share with you who are interested the process of ceramics. I am going to start today with the end of the process -- that would be glazing. I have a lot of once-fired pieces which need to be glazed, and I need to get that done before I allow myself to fill up the studio again with freshly thrown ware. I also have several tiles which need to be glazed. One is for a gift from one of our guests to another of our guests, and others are for my Ovarian Cancer Art Project.
So today I started by mixing two different glazes. One glaze is for plates and dishes. It is a very specific glaze in that it allows for bright blues when mixed with cobalt and soft celedon when mixed with copper. This is one of my standard glazes, anyone who has seen my pieces knows that these are two colors I work with a lot. The second is the running glassy glaze for my art tiles, which is colored with copper to a bright turquoise or with iron for a transparent amber color. This time I am going to do an experiment also by mixing chrome with this glaze to see what kind of green I get.
Before I go any further, let me explain something. I work almost exclusively with high fire, stoneware glazes when creating my work. The only time I work with low fire glazes is when I am making ceramic tiles for mosaics. The difference between high fire and low fire is very clear. Low fire pieces can be more colorful, but the glaze stays on the surface of the clay. Low fire pieces chip easily. Low fire pieces sweat when water is placed in them. In contrast, high fire pieces are not as bright in terms of color, but the glaze surface molts with the clay body, forming one structure. In other words, the clay vitrifies -- becomes glass like-- and many, many times more durable than low fire pieces. They are freezer, microwave, and oven safe. For me, they are "real" ceramics because they are completely functional. That's why they are known as stone ware.
So I am going to take you through the glazing process. It's very unromantic.
Every ceramic glaze contains three basic components - something to make it flow when it heats up, something to make glass, and something to brake the flow process. If these three things are not in balance, the result is disaster. These three components need to be chemically calculated, and then translated into exactly how much of each raw material needs to be mixed to get the desired results. A million things can go wrong. Some raw materials hate cobalt, some hate iron, you have to know what works with what, and then do the calculations to make as sure as possible that the glaze will work.
Then, you must measure, with an accuracy of a within a tenth of a gram, the raw materials and mix them together.
Sometimes the raw materials clump up and have to be ground up with a glass grinder. If the clumps are too big, I have an electric mill which I can use to ground up the raw materials.
Today I mixed two 1-kilo batches of glazes and tomorrow I will mix up two more.
The next step will be to add water to the glazes - the will need to go through a double-fine glaze strainer. The process of mixing up large quantities of glazes with water takes time, because of the straining. Then, I will glaze the pieces. That will be another blog post.
Together, you and I will fill the oven, and open it up to see how the piece have come out. Here are some of the pieces which will go into the oven for the next glaze firing:
And lastly, the view from my studio when I closed up this evening.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
On a business trip to Vienna right before Christmas, my husband stopped by the world famous cafe at the Hotel Sacher to pick up an original, THE original Sacher Torte. A confection which was invented in 1832 by Franz Sacher for the House of Metternich, it is often copied but never equalled. It consists of three principle parts -- a low-flour, relatively dry chocolate cake which is raised with beaten egg whites, a middle layer of apricot preserves, and a chocolate glaze. Simple, actually. But not really. Because this Sacher Torte, the real thing, is sublime. I love the box!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
After having moved here and started the process of making this property what it would become, I fell back often on the article, wondering how the beautiful property, called Trevaccoon, was doing, and interested to know a little more about the potter herself.
I found the website for the B&B and I wrote Caro an email. She graciously wrote me back, and, with pauses in between, we have stayed in touch. I think of her often. Her husband, very sadly, passed away. She kept the B&B going but now has moved to another property, where she is also operating a B&B as well as a pottery studio.
Caro describes the new property in the following way:
"Bryn-y-mor" is a 1930's semi-detached cottage, surrounded by green fields, within the Pembrokeshire National Park. The "ensuite" rooms are light and airy with beautiful views over the sea to Ireland and across the peninsula to St Brides bay. The house is a short walk away from the coast path and 3 and a half miles from the small delightful cathedral city of St David's. It's within reach of all that Pembrokeshire has to offer, including, and not least, the magnificent sunsets!
I hope to get there. I would love to meet her and just hang out in her studio with her. Or have her come here, to do the same in my studio.
This past November, when Sally Watkins, Italy Agent Extraordinaire and her friend Kay came to visit me, we shared a dinner in my kitchen on Election night. It was a stormy evening and we warmed ourselves with copious amounts of Dolcetto and wild boar stew. We talked about so many things that evening, and eventually the conversation got around, of course to the election.
Kay mentioned that eight years prior, she and Sally had been at a B&B, on a very stormy Presidential Election night, talking with the owners, but that time, it was on the coast of Wales. The owner, the next morning, had informed them that the election had not been decided, that Florida would have to be recounted.
I just asked casually (I have no idea why), there wasn't a pottery studio at that B&B, was there?
Why, yes, said Kay, indeed there was.
It wasn't an actor and a potter who owned it, and it was on the coastline?
Sally and Kay looked at me and at eachother. Well, yes, what was her name? Caro! Yes, and her lovely husband, Eric!
I was pretty much speechless. I went into my studio and got my article from the 2002 Country Living Magazine which my friend Laurie had cut out for me. Yes, indeed, we were all talking about the same place, the same people.
After dinner was cleaned up, I came inside and emailed Caro. She was as astounded as we were. A lovely co-incidence, if in fact one believes in coincidences. I personally do not. I think that there was a lovely, soft thread which started with my friend Laurie and flowed through to that dinner with Sally and Kay, with Caro being the connective energy.
By the way, you can contact Caro at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, December 26, 2008
The wood burning stove is on in the big kitchen, the space is being heated up nicely. I am going to get my hands dirty in clay, and Micha will be doing some work, and after that, we'll cook together over there. Max and Gioia had their daily run today, she's gone now to here "other" home and he's ready to nap.
I am feeling so much creative energy that I just need to put it into something.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Top: Small kitchen in the main house, before and after
Middle: Living room in the main house, before and after (I am getting ready to remodel this again)
Bottom: Guest suite living room before and after
It's always important to see how far you have come... we can get blinded to our own successes if we don't consciously look back and take stock of all of the things we have accomplished.
I love before and after photos, so here are just a couple of mine. I have a lot more where these came from!
Celebrate yourself and your own creativity -- and remember to take pictures!!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
(clockwise from upper left)Acqui Terme puts out live trees on the street for the local merchants to decorate. The windows at Balalah, one of our local home furnishings shops. A street decoration on Via Garabaldi. Some Christmas ornaments I picked up in town.
It's quiet, and small. It's understated, especially by North American terms. It's about a few gifts, lots of Nativity scenes, and stopping by to say hi to neighbors. It's about a nice dinner with family. The decorations are subtle, tasteful. In short, it's Christmas as it should be everywhere, in my book.
Friday, December 19, 2008
The sun came out with full force yesterday, melting the snow, drying the streets, spreading good cheer in general. I did some Christmas shopping, for little things, nice things, for the neighbors and such. A panettone, some pretty tree ornaments. Mostly I wanted to stretch my legs, remind myself of life beyond the downed trees, see the pretty lights which Acqui puts up every year throughout the historic city center.
I went into one little shop with sells all the lovely specialties of the region -- things like porcini mushroom pureé with white truffles, balsamic cream, chocolates filled with hazelnut cream and rum. They are so nice in this little shop, and were making gift baskets up as I went inside.
I could tell something was not quite right.
I looked around and put a few articles on the table. The young daughter added up for me what each gift would cost. I turned around and asked the mother, "so how is everything going this season?"
Stupid question. World wide recession, massive snow storms? How could things be going well for a little shop on a little street in a little Italian city.
"Ahh," she said wistfully. "Well, things were ok until yesterday. Yesterday we went to bring my parents back to their house in the mountains. They had been staying with us until the snow storms subsided. So almost three weeks. Well, yesterday, we managed to get back up to the house.
"The roof had caved in. The water was streaming into the house, and had flooded both the first and second floor. Most of the furnture is ruined. The walls are completely soaked, the plaster is coming off. The electricity got cut off, so that the freezers, both of them, are full of rotting food. My mother always buys enough meat at the beginning of the winter and then freezes it so that in case there is a storm they will have enough to eat. They are in their late eighties.
"They have insurance, so we can get thing paid for for the most part. It is just...."
She didn't have to say it. I knew. The store is suffering this year not only because of the recession, but also because they had to close so many days because of the snow. She is worried about the emotional state of her parents, whom will be living with her now until the house can be emptied and repaired. She's hoping that they will stay healthy through this trauma. She's worried about paying the bills.
"Ma, in somma. " Oh, well, in any case.
This woman was tired, but still smiling, somehow. The daughter and mother hugged me and we all laughed a bit and ate some really wonderful chocolates.
Yes, my downed trees and non functioning gate got relegated to their proper position at that moment. I am able to sit comfortably here, before my computer, in a warm house, and write and eat and relax and dream. The trees will get cut, and the gate will get repaired. Time to move forward.
I left the shop with my purchases and went to my favorite pasta fresca shop and bought a small, freshly made, one-person lasagna to put in the oven (I love Italian fast food). I came home,put the lasagna in the oven, lit the wood burning stove, tossed a salad, poured a glass of wine, and felt very content with what I have.
Micha comes home tonight for two weeks of holiday vacation. The "survival crisis" on a hill in Italy has passed, and things will get easier now.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
There is no precipitation out there for the first time in weeks. The snow has been largely melted by the massive downpours of the last 5 days. Streams of water still enter the streets, tumbling from the hills, but it is starting to do so in moderation instead of in anxiety-producing rage.
I looked around this morning and took stock of the damage.
Over 30 trees down, 3 threatening to come down because the roots have been destabilized. Hundreds and hundreds of broken branches and partially destroyed trees.
No electricity at the gate or going down the hill -- one of the connection boxes got destroyed by Franco's plowhead and there is water pouring into it from the hill. We will have to wait for it to dry out to get the box repaired. Until then, no lights and no gate.
Mudslide at the upper curve. Mud did not leave the boundaries of our property. That is a good thing, but the hill has to be regraded and somehow stabilized.
Water in two storage facilities.
So. It's time for some denial.
Here are some nice pictures from my garden this summer.
It is my blogging equivalent to putting my hands over my ears, shutting my eyes and singing loudly la-la-la-la-LA!!! I don't want to deal with all this distruction. Not today, not right now. Let's just look at the pretty pictures!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Maybe it's because she appeals to my sense of what design should be - an outer expression of the inner self. Maybe it's because she injects fun and a sense of creativity in her blog, with some new discovery presented on a very regular basis.
Maybe it's because of the shared experience I have with her -- she is an American who lives a good part of the year in Northern Germany.
Holly Becker makes it all seem so easy. She has a fabulous interior design blog -- Decor8, where she injects all kinds of very cool ideas and presents all kinds of creative people, magazines, websites and ideas. I love this blog for so many reasons and in so many ways. First of all, take one of yesterday's posts, Hopeful Things. Some great design ideas and creative links, coupled up with the theme of hope. She puts hope on the design surface and then she takes the idea of hope to a deeper level, bringing out interesting comments from lots of very creative people. This kind of thing is food for me. FOOD.
She loves Northern Germany. I grew fond of Northern Germany over the nine years I lived there. I know from personal experience, the northern part of the country is not the easiest place in which to integrate. She has found voice through her blog, making me wish that I had lived there during the Age of Blogging. Maybe I would not have felt so isolated in the greyness and chill of the North. She gives us all inspiration, and maybe the payback is that she receives warmth back. I hope so, anyway.
Holly, here is to you and your lovely, creative blog!
Monday, December 15, 2008
Ok, I am over a cold. I am finished with over 60 inches of snow which came and the four days of teaming rain and ice which is still going on. I need to get my groove back before the walls start to close in on me. I am making tiles -- some for my art donation for Ovarian Cancer and two for orders which need to go out shortly. I am eternally grateful for the GORGEOUS wood burning stove in our new kitchen, since the Caldia (heater) has not yet been installed -- the floor heating pipes are in but they need a heater to heat the water. That won't get installed until the spring, so the wood burning stove is the source of heat for now. A couple of hours of preheating and the entire space feels toasty. Just look at that stove, ain't she purty?
ta ta-ta DA!!!
My threatening letters to file a law suit worked. The ex-criminal geologist has brought me his five-year-overdue-septic-tank report and my architect is running it over to the Commune tomorrow morning (it can only be filed on Tuesday mornings, or she would be doing it right now). This means:
1. there is a chance we don't have to pay the fine of 2500 euros for not officially having a septic tank.
2. we can CONTINUE RENOVATING!! The hold will be taken off of our project!!
Small victories up here on the hill But they have had a very positive effect on my cold and on my mood!
I am happy today, and ready to get out there and CREATE!!!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Here's a quote from Alex to let you know what his blog is all about -- After reading it, go on and visit Alex to take a look! I think you will like what you find....
What is Blog from Italy?
I suppose, in many ways, you could say that Blog from Italy is about my coming to terms, or not, with life here in Italy. Although the name of this blog refers to Italy as a whole, I write this from Milan in northern Italy, where I live and work, and have done so for some time.
If you have ever wondered what it’s really like to live in a place in which modern and monumental collide, then I hope this blog may enlighten you. Could even give you some holiday ideas too!
Or, perhaps you are likely to be coming to Italy on business regularly in the near future, or maybe you are about to be re-located to Italy for a few years by your employer. In either case, Blog from Italy will give you some insight into how Italy functions. And I know that many overseas companies have bases in Milan, so if you are about to be transferred to Italy, then you may well find yourself here.
Blog from Italy, it has to be said, is a somewhat eclectic mix of observations and anecdotes, sometimes positive and other times, negative, on the trials and tribulations of life in one of the world’s only living museums, better known as Italy. Sometimes, though, I can’t resist commenting on non-Italian things.
And, because I love living in this complex, but wonderful country, I am using this site to provide a sort of world-wide shop window for anything Italian that catches my little eye. Another aim is to promote interesting, and not too well known, Italian businesses, and services.
I also promote Italian contemporary artists and their art via my Italy is in site.
In addition to helping people understand how Italy works, I also hope that Blog From Italy can become a window to the world for all that is worthwhile in this country.
Italy has given me a lot, so now, I want, in my own small way, to give something back.
I am really having a German moment here. First of all, yesterday, I was completely snowed in, again. This time, however, I was prepared. And one of the things which I did was buy some good bread making ingredients.
And I might have just made one of the best breads -- ever.
But before getting into the actual bread, let me say there are a couple of things which can make me homesick -- for Germany. The number one thing I miss from Germany is the bread. While Italian cuisine is perhaps my favorite, Italian bread products are very low on my list of things which I like about this country.
The main problem is that Italian bread products are almost exclusively made out of either white flour or hard wheat flour, both processed and stripped of the germ. Even if a bread product claims to be whole grain, or "integrale", it really contains over 70% white flour, which ruins it as a whole grain product. Bread products are made more delicious by adding olive oil, which also adds calories. Many Italian breads contain no salt, which to me robs the bread of all flavor.
In Germany, things are a little different. A piece of bread is a meal. Normal bread, just the every day stuff, is 60% rye flour and 40% wheat. If you spend a little more, you can reduce the wheat content to zero -- and in the process gain sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, linseed as well as spelt and oat flour. There are few things in the world more gastronomically satisfying to me than German bread. The very best in all of Germany, in my opinion is the Effenberger group of organic bakeries in Hamburg. All of their breads are made with no white flour. Almost all of them are made without yeast, using instead sour dough as the raising method. I can't even describe how good these breads are.
So anyway, yesterday I set about making some bread. I used one cup of whole wheat flour and three cups of rye. To this I added a handful of pistachio nuts, a handful of sesame seeds, a spoonful of coriander seeds, a spoonful of flaxseed and two shredded carots. I mixed a packet of yeast with warm water, a teaspoon of honey and a half - cup of natural yogurt. I kneaded it well, and let it rise twice next to the wood stove. The result was fantastic. It is moist from the carrots, and the kick of the coriander seeds is just perfect. It is even great as it is, with no butter or jam. This morning I spread a little tahini on it. Just perfect.
I am going to set about reducing the wheat content and adding spelt flour. Spelt tends to dry out quickly, so I might adjust and use more carrot next time.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Yesterday, I was at the post office, trying to get my business done before the next huge blizzard which was to start yesterday evening. As you can imagine, the place was pretty much packed with a lot of people doing the same thing.
Now, the Italian Post Office is the place where you do a lot of things. You pay your telephone, electric, and water bills there. You might have a bank account there. You can actually mail things there as well, although they do not always have stamps. In fact, requesting stamps can send them into a treasure-hunting frenzy. Normally you buy stamps at the tobacco store. Makes sense, doesn't it?
There is a "take a ticket" system at the Italian post office. It functions in a very interesting way. If you have to mail a letter or a package, you get one number. It begins with the letter P. If you have to pay a bill, you get another number and it begins with the letter A. Then at our post office, there are also H numbers and F numbers but I don't know what they are for because I never had H or F business to do at the post office.
The problems start when you have both P business and A business -- if you have to both pay a bill and then mail a package, for example. The P service desks are equipped for you to pay bills, but they won't do it if they are busy. The A bill paying service desks will NOT send a package or give you stamps.
So you can see. If you pull a number to stand in line for P services and for A services, you are setting yourself up to get screwed. Because just when you go to pay your bill, your letter mailing number is bound to get called. Then they will skip you because you did not come running fast enough because you are paying your bill and then you have to pull another P number and wait your turn, again. It's a big crap shoot, the Italian Post office.
But that is the scenario on a good day, a normal day. When a snow storm is coming, and people are edgy, it can get worse. A lot worse.
First of all, I made the mistake of going yesterday at about 11.45. What does this mean? It means 45 minutes away from eating Mama's pasta. There is nothing more overwhelming than a pack of hungry Italians, all trying to get something done at the post office. The air was humid in there yesterday from the crowd. The board with the numbers was blinking like Las Vegas. People were starting to yell. One Post Office person was circling the crowd, yelling back at them. When I got in I pulled the number P132. I looked up at the board. They were only up to P94. I knew it was going to be a while. I sat down.
After me came a petite elderly woman, well dressed. She pulled a P number, looked up at the board, and sighed. Then she started to maneuver and work the crowd. She made her way over to me, looking over my shoulder as I sat waiting. She started talking to me. I never register what people are saying to me right off the bat if they are strangers -- since I had not opened my mouth yet, she had no idea that I was not Italian. But she was speed-talking. Speed-talking. I focused on her lips, my brows furled. I suspected something foul was going on. Just as I had that thought, she grabbed my number P132 from my hand and gave me her number P136 and kept moving -- looking to better her P132 position.
This has happened to me before. Little old ladies in Italy look nice, but don't mess with them, they have been through the war and they know how to not have to wait in line.
But I tracked her down. Started talking to her -- in English. She looked at me in horror, as if to say, who is this nut case. I told her, in Italian, to give me back my number. I kept looking at her in the eye. Finally she rolled her eyes to heaven and pressed my number back into my palm, with a curse! A Curse! I felt a little idiotic, but for heaven's sake. She had tried to swindle me out of my number P132. And in the world of the crowded Italian small town post office, that's a high crime.
I finally made it to the service desk, where my favorite postal employee looked like he was ready to drop from the stress. The people were still flooding in. I had to send a second registered letter to the criminal geologist from the story two posts ago. He gave me the paper work, and asked me to step to the side while filling it out so that he could help the next person.
Next person happened to be P136 little old lady from hell. Who started in on me again. But my favorite postal worker had seen the incident out of the side of his eye and chastised the woman in a very nice way for trying to swindle me, a helpless foreigner, out of my rightful position. Not a very nice reflection on Italy, he told her, winking to me at the same time.
She looked at the paperwork I was filling out and told me that if I did not put my return address on the form, that I would not get notice of the registered letter having been delivered. She smiled at me sweetly, with daggers coming out of her eyes. I seriously think she wanted to kill me.
I need to bring my favorite postal worker a bottle of wine for Christmas this year.
When I left, at 12.30, the lit-up board had completely stopped functioning and all the As and the Ps and the Fs and the Hs were up in arms. I escaped with my life, only to have to confront the next battle ground, the Italian Grocery Store Before a Snowstorm. But that's a story for another day.
By the way. Two and a half feet of fresh stuff and it's still falling.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
For any of you who have had the pleasure of meeting Sally Watkins personally, you know what great news this is. For those of you who have not, let me just say that Sally is the consummate Italian expert and travel agent. She knows Italy. Well. She has been voted year after year one of Travel and Leisure Magazine's Top 125 Super Agents.
And well, she's just a heck of a nice lady.
I had the pleasure of hosting her as a guest this past fall (during the period when we were thinking of building an ark to get off the mountain). She and her friend Kate took the rain in their stride and still toured like troupers! We had dinner together by the wood burning stove and told stories over a couple of bottles of wine, pensively waiting for election day to pass so that we could wake up happy. Which we all did.
One thing of many I love about Sally -- she got her first passport when she was 43 years old. Shows you what an open mind and a desire to peek around life's corners will do.
In any event, time to start checking out her brand new blog, Sally Knows Italy and More!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Ok, I've had it. May I scream?
They have put our permission for the reconstruction project on hold at the commune again. We solved the problem of connecting the to-be-restructured area with the main house, thereby providing a totally useless way to get from the guest room to a kitchen they will not have access to anyway. Fine.
Now, they have come back and said, ok, but where is the septic tank for this project?
Well, it is the same monstrosity which we bought when we rebuilt the main house in 2003. A fosse biologica for 30 people, said our then-architect. A masterpiece in waste collection. Perfectly located downhill of our house. We paid the required geologist his required four hundred euro geologist fee. The thing went in. We have been filling it with great regularity (ok, and sometimes a bit of irregularity) ever since.
We will simply connect the new septic lines to the main line going down the hill and which empties into the Mercedes of all septic tanks, which cost 8000 euros five years ago and for which we have a regular emptying contract with our local honey dipper.
Probably more than you ever wanted to know about waste disposal at Baur B&B.
What septic tank? asked the Commune. We have no record of a septic tank going in when the main house was renovated.Your architect never filed the geologist report or the proper paper work for a septic tank. Which means, said the Commune, in our eyes, you don't have one.
Which means that officially, you have been relieving yourselves directly into the earth which is illegal and we are going to fine you. Heavily. Five hundred a year for five years.
And, we are not going to let you do your new renovation, either.
My now architect, alarmed as she normally is by anything having to do with prior work done on our projects, got on the horn with the old architect. He said, of course I filed the correct paperwork. She said, meet me at the commune and let's investigate together. He never showed, calling only to say, carefully, that he might not have done it and that he would have the geologist send a copy of the report to her.
The geologist has been unavailable for comment. He admits getting our four hundred and forgetting to do the report, but has had his cell phone turned off ever since. We have sent him a letter threatening legal action if we do not get the report by the end of the week. My now architect is trying to negotiate through this with the Commune to get them to drop the fine. If she can't, I am headed to my first lawsuit in Italy. We are going to take both the architect and the geologist to court.
In any regard, if I do not get the report by the end of the week, I am hiring a reputable geologist to do another one so we can move ahead.
Heaven help us.
Stay tuned for more fun with renovation projects in Italy. By the way, if you want to read First We Kill The Architects Part One, here it is.
One of the things which I need to do is make the characters more interesting-- developing their pasts more, understanding what it is that makes them who they are, trying to see their lives and experiences from their personal perspectives --- going into their realities. Because I can see now, from books I read which I don't like and from my own inexperienced writing, that if we don't understand what makes a person tick, we cannot sympathize with their actions.
My husband picked me up the latest David Baldacci novel, The Whole Truth, at the airport bookstore. He knew I wanted A Mercy by Tony Morrison but they did not have it and he did not want to come home empty handed. I have read the first forty pages. I keep having to go back and re read the last pages I read every time I put it down, which means I won't finish it. Baldacci is a fine writer, and I used to like the things he wrote. But I can't sympathize with his characters anymore. They are not interesting enough to hold my attention.
Last week I finished the novel The Jewel of Medina, by Sherry Jones. This is a historical novel based upon the life of the Prophet Mohamed's third wife, the child bride A'isha bint Abi Bakr. Wonderfully simple to read, it pulled me into the 7th century, and got me to understand how a woman could learn to accept being one of thirteen wives and concubines, all of whom were part of the Prophet Mohamed's life. The book left me wanting to know more about that historical point in time, one which flavors our current global perspective so piquantly.
In literature, as in life, characters are interesting because of their backgrounds and how they react to the events in their lives. The beauty of the human story is in its subjectivity, its vulnerability and in its muster being tested by circumstance.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Wonderful news, especially now.
This has been a really rough year in general for my family, with cancer striking both my mother and my brother in law. It also meant massive cancer surgeries and follow up treatments for two of my closest friends. Jessica's family dog, Harry, had to be put down this year -- also cancer. My brother in law, Jess' dad is headed for surgery on the 17th of December after which his life and that of my sister should begin to get easier. We have all been waiting for 2008 to be over. Finished.
But, in a coup to save the year, Rob asked Jess to marry him. By golly, has that brought a rush of joy into everyone's hearts! The promise of the future, the giddiness of a newly engaged girl, the wistful joy that only true love can bring.
Jess, who is in the last throes of graduate school at the University of Delaware, has been working more than over time to get through the pedagogy tests which are required for a Masters in teaching. She will be a German teacher when all is said and done in the spring - - with a far better grasp of German grammar than I can ever hope to have. Rob will be graduating from Drexel Law School at the same time. These are two over-achievers who have put their personal plans on hold for a long time to get their studies out of the way. And now they are close to being able to reap all of the benefits their hard work and sacrifice have sown.
So, in our little corner of the universe, 2008 can go out on a positive note! That's a very good thing.....
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Her name is Gioia (Joy), I guess her to be about six months old and she belongs, unfortunately, to people who don't take good care of her. She is the sweetest Terrier mix puppy you could imagine, all love and kissy face and smiles-- but is hungry all the time and never allowed inside -- and they yell at her. We can hear them yelling at her (can you imagine yelling at a puppy who just wants you to love her?). Which breaks my heart. One day I put her under my jacket and she proceeded to fall asleep - immediately. She hangs out up here with Max and me most days, where she gets all the loving and treats we can give her. I would take her in a heartbeat, but don't want "problemi" with these particular neighbors. Gioia is a little confused -- where is her real home? Their property joins ours on one side so she runs back and forth. I am a little bit confused myself as to what to do, so we just try to help her when we can.
But at least she has us to come to when the chips are down, right?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
First things first. Before I set out on an escapade of writing about people whom I find interesting, I need to set up a bit of structure for the discussion, and am asking for your help as well.
Let's start with the title question, because the question about uninteresting people will be answered as a result. What is it that interesting people have and do which makes them interesting? At this point, I am not talking about what they do in terms of profession or hobby, as I think an assembly line worker or store clerk or a rocket scientist can all be interesting.
What I mean is, what is it that makes us attracted to them?
I'll start the list.
1. Interesting people are good listeners.
2. Interesting people never think they know everything. There is nothing more boring than a know-it-all, after all.
3. An interesting person shares his or her knowledge with you in a way that does not make you feel stupid or lectured to.
4. Interesting people don't spend time talking about the details of their lives in extreme minutiae (unless asked) or bragging about their accomplishments. Interesting people don't have to say how great they are, even in an underhanded way. They can tell you what they have done in a way which will hold your attention -- for hours!
5. Interesting people understand very often the value of leisure and of taking time for themselves and others (which is one of the reasons, quite possibly, why so many Italians seem interesting).
6. Interesting people are interested in others.
7. Interesting people are intellectually curious.
8. Interesting people are rarely jealous, at least not in a way which consumes them.
9. Interesting people are not butt-kissers, and do not change their colors to fit the needs of their audience.
10. Interesting people often make the most of the opportunities given to them.
Ok, now it's your turn. What, in your estimation, makes a person interesting?
Finally the Great Escape. Franco plowed for the third time and leveled the road back out. It's now passible with the car. That meant going to the grocery store yesterday which was quite a feeling.
It also means the propane truck should be able to make it up the driveway so I am going to get on the horn with them now before the next storm hits.
Micha heads back to Switzerland today after being sick the last four days. It never developed into the flu or bronchitis -- I guess the flu shot worked.
I felt very thrown back the last few days -- physically and mentally. I have a pulled muscles from shoveling heavy snow and collecting firewood, and from trying to walk Max while he pulls me into the drifts. Chores became a real hardship. But now that I can get off the property, thanks to Franco, things are going to get easier, and I won't feel as desperate. That is a good thing.
With this kind of property, extreme weather -- such as major snowfall, torrential rain -- means going into survival mode. This is clearly the downside to country living. We do not yet have all the equipment which would help us survive this kind of storm comfortably. What we really need is a pick up truck with a plow or a big 4 wheel drive. An external generator. Those kinds of things. But what happens is that when the emergency is over, we put it behind us and keep renovating, until it happens again. But we need to rethink the vehicle issue.
I am going to try to get back into the studio today and get some positive energy flowing again.