Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year Everyone!

It's that time of year again. Usually New Year's Day comes without my seeing it "in" but this year we have been invited to some friends for dinner and I know from past experience that this means that I will be out past midnight. The Italians love to sit and eat and talk and drink and eat and talk and talk ... well I am sure that you can see where this is headed. So tonight for the first time since the year 2000 rolled in I will be up to see it. Then, in a week or so, the village where I live will burn a witch to determine how the weather will play out over the next few months. Yep ... that's right ... they burn a witch. Not a weatherman which I could almost see because they are as bad here as anywhere else that I have ever lived. Nope, they burn a witch.
Christmas here was dismal and rainy. The Son came home for a week and that was the bright spot for me. He made a host of friends downtown and we are already planning his next trip back this summer. He was a huge hit with our friends here and they cannot wait for him to come back.
Prior to Christmas we had snow which is a fairly rare occurrence here:
Not much as you can see but as they do not plow and there is not much sanding either so it was a risky thing to go out driving. This was followed by fog and then a few days of sun melted it off. Pretty while it lasted and JennietheDog had a great time sliding down the drive on the ice ... her favorite part of winter.
An interesting, and tasty, thing about living here is that I can go to a local farm and by raw milk (latte crudo) from a vending machine. It is the best milk I have ever had and it is all we drink now. I wish we had this kind of freedom in our food choices in the US. I just take my own bottles and fill them up:

This year I am going to ramp up the cooking that goes on here and really explore Italian food. Any and all success will be posted here so everyone else can try them too. Sort of a Julie/Julia type thing only with a variety of food styles. I figure cooking and knitting should keep me busy and off the streets and out of jail.
And speaking of knitting, I have several patterns coming out in the new book being released by CraftLit called "What Would Madame Defarge Knit?" It comes out in the first week in February and has some wonderful patterns and essay along with brilliant illustrations. I am having to phase out of my yarn business as I am not allowed to run a business from here and so am hoping to do more pattern design to keep my morale up and my mind busy. Here's hoping ... LOL
This year JennietheDog turned 2 years old and so I will leave you with pictures of her ... mostly 'cause she is just so darned cute! Have a great New Year!
See ... isn't she a beauty?

Hailstones on the roof
The sound of horses running
In far away fields.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It Always Seems Like A Good Idea

Stay in bed and rest. Two weeks for sure.
I always think that this will work out ok. I will get some books read, some DVD's watched and a lot of knitting done. And about 24 hours later housework is sounding like it might be fun.
As mentioned, I finished my Faroe Shawl that I started with Myrna Stahman at a workshop she gave here in Italy at the end of August. I love it and it is perfect for the weather here.
Not the best picture but it looked even worse on JennietheDog. And besides, there was sun!
There is a shortage of Christmas knitting this year as I have been working on patterns for the new book from CraftLit "What Would Madame Defarge Knit?" that will be released on 7 February 2011. Yep, just a few short months to go. It has been an amazing amount of fun to be involved in this project for the last year and I hope that everyone enjoys the patterns as Heather has assembled a varied and wonderful bunch of designers. I am hoping this will help me to move into doing more design work. And so along those lines:

I did spend a day on the couch. And I have been working at my kitchen table ever since with yarn and books and graph paper piled up all around me scribbling away. At least it keeps me off the streets...
Tonight's light rainfall
Wraps me in soft silence
On my short walk home

Sunday, November 28, 2010

On a Clear Day ...

Which the day after Thanksgiving was not. How is it that there always seems to be such foul weather at the Holidays? But some friends and I headed east towards Slovenia to tour two wineries that were in the Udine/Trieste region. Braving the snow and rain we stopped first at the Bressan winery. Owned by the Bressan Family for 10 generations and currently overseen by Fulvio Bressan it has been in active production since 1726 and creates some of the finest wines in Europe. He is leaving Tuesday for Vienna to recieve an award from the European Union that says this ... so it is not just me. Although I would drink his wine for the rest of my life quite willingly.
The majority of the grapes that he grows are specific to the Friuli region: Tocai Friulano, Malvasia, Ribolla Gialla,Schiopettino and the legendary Pignol which is on it's way to extinction. He uses no chemicals and no synthetic fertilisers and no industrial yeasts. There is much more information at:

Stop two was to Castelvecchio (the "Old Castle") in Gorizia on the Slovinean border. There we toured the cellars. Entering though here:
A bit tough for the claustrophobic. And so down this shaft for a bit and then you come upon:
Lovely isn't it? When these cellars were dug out there was quite a cache of old Roman coins discovered. The wines here were also quite tasty although I am afraid that we should have come here first as the Bressan wines are impossible to follow. The homemade prosciutto crudo was wonderful as was the Sagrado Rosso, a wine they are quite well known for. The Viila has is being renovated and is beautiful ... and careful attention has been paid to the mosaics on the floors.
In other news. I have finished my designs for the "What Would Madame DeFarge Knit?" book that is coming from CraftLit in February. I am trying to finish the test knit on one last item and then it will be time to start on some new designs that have been floating round in my head and on bits of paper in my office for the last month or so. While I was knitting I was listening to a new audio book:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I listened to the one but am going to order the book to have. It was wonderful and I was very sorry to see it end. I think it should be a movie.

A foggy landscape
Fond memories of my home
Hanging on the wall.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gainful Employment

I am a bit jealous. It's a hard thing to admit ... but I am jealous of JennietheDog. You see, while I am not allowed to seek gainful employment here, she has already found a job and settled right in. She is in training to be a Therapy Dog and so she is working at the local library helping the kids who come in to improve their reading skills.

Here she is on a Saturday being read to by a young girl. Today she goes to help the preschoolers. She loves her job since it means that sometimes she gets to be petted and sometimes they read her to sleep. It's a hard job ... but some puppy has to do it. Here she is hanging with her new friends just before she heads in to work.
We are off to work ... she still can't drive ... it's that "no opposable thumbs" thing. But if I get some good pictures I will update this when I get home.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Road Trip

Back at last from a longish break but with pictures and some news. We went to Florence(Firenza as it is called here) and had a splendid time. We rode the EuroStar train there as driving in the old city is right up there with having a tooth pulled without the benefits of anesthesia ... just plain no fun! But after an initial bit of rain the weather turned out glorious!

We saw "David" and spent a morning at the Uffizzi zmuseum and ate wonderful food and drank even better wines. We saw the old castle:
And we saw the Duomo and clocktower which are made from an amazing number of coloured maarbles.

On the knitting front I was able to finish my patterns for the new book from CraftLit that is coming out this Spring and I am still knitting away on my Faroe shawl. The shawl should be finished within the next week or so and I have a great idea for a shawl design that I will start on then. I am updating the Etsy shop this week and I have tried my hand at dying with walnut husks. This is what I got:
It is hanging to dry now and I am anxious to see how it ends up.
And we are at the end of the gardening season here. I still have spinach in the garden as it likes the cold but even the kiwi have been picked and brought in. Late October brings the roasted chestnuts to the forfront (castagna) and of course those must be eaten hot and only, ever, with a glass of red wine, never water, or they will give you a bad stomach.
And of course we have the cider we pressed in September ... tasty stuff that. LOL

The whisper of leaves
And me ... I keep listening for more.
But the wind moves on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Summer Camp: the Remix

I am sure that most of us have suffered through Summer Camp. I went to several ... finally managing (I think) to be sent home from one in disgrace. And so a few weeks ago it was with some trepidation that I headed off to Camp again. And this camp was both different in some ways and in others the same.
I had signed up for a knitting camp with The Alpine Adventure Agency. I headed up into the Dolomites to a small "camp"called San Martino di Castrozza and a wonderful "tent" called The Grande Hotel des Alpes. It was tough there. The chefs were skilled and the sommeliers were amazing. We had the usual "camp fare" of venison soaked in wine with wild mushrooms, struedel with creme Anglais, lots of things with wild woodland berries ... I think I may have gained weight. And the wines there were to die for.
Then we were forced to hike through the usual campish scenery (if you were an extra in The Sound of Music that is):
We learned the science of cheese making at a local latteria where they have just a bit of cheese on the shelves being wiped down and aged:
We prowled the forests looking for various types of edible mushroom. We ate the good ones but these were the bad ones:
And for our "Crafttime" we had knitting since it was actually a knitting camp. Myrna Stahman (who will be sainted later this year for her unending patience) taught us how to knit Faroese Shawls and Seaman's Scaves. She was amazing ... even when she ripped back 10 rows on the middle stitches of my shawl and then knit them back up correctly while carrying on a lively conversation with the class. It was the best class I have ever taken. And we were able to take our knitting everywhere we went and that was fun too.
That is Myrna ... carrying on a conversation with me and knitting at the same time. I can only dream of being that coordinated someday. So, this time Camp was fun. And maybe next year I can go again ... if I can finish my shawl.
Only the wind sneaks
Into my room on this night
Guttering the flame

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Change is in the Air

Sitting here this afternoon I suddenly felt a shift in the wind and it seemed that Autumn might just be lurking around the corner. It is one of the things about living overseas in climates and areas that you are completely unfamiliar with. When do the seasons change and what exactly are they bringing? Still, it is August here after all and my flowers are blooming like mad. These are the Moon Flowers which my friend Eiko says that she knows as Dutchman's Pipe:

Bloomed! They smell a bit like the plumeria in Hawaii. I am hoping to have one whole side of the house covered in them next summer.
While my neice was here, one of the places we traveled to was Aquileia to see the mosaics and some of the Roman ruins. They were amazing and the details were incredible. So much so that we were unable to get down to the old Roman docks as we spent so much time in the Basilica. The entire floor of the church is covered in mosaics.
They are still in the process of restoring some of them.

Hmmm ... that's awkward ... it's up-side down.

There are scary fishes (check out the teeth on the guy at the top), the Tale of Jonah (complete with regurgitating whale), Biblical stories and portaits of various citizens mixed in with a variety of seasonal scenes. The city is in the process of excavating the Market:
It is definetely something that I will go back and see again. There is a museum which we did not make it to and several other sets of ruins including the old Roman cemetary. All in all a fabulous day!
On the knitting front I am working on a Secret Project ... but on the not so secret side of my office I am working on what to take with me when I head up for 10 days in the Alps at a knitting workshop courtesy of The Alpine Adventure Agency ... check them out ... they are very cool! So I am going to learn to knit a Faroe Shawl ... here in Italy ... from a woman I apparently lived about 45 minutes from in Idaho ... go figure. LOL! I have decided to take a cone of my beige yarn from the last of my sheep. I sent out a pile of fleeces to Stonehedge Mill to have it spun into yarn. They did a beautiful job!
I am going to use the lightest one for the shawl. And later, I think I will use the darkest one to knit the new pattern from Schoolhouse Press that is EZ's Green Sweater ... and I may even try to overdye the dark yarn to give it a greenish sheen.
Well the mosquitos are eating me alive as I sit here ... I am like a buffet to them here in Italy ... after all those years in Asia where they would have nothing to do with me I have apparently built up quite the karmic debt.

How heavy both seem
The heat over the fields and
The cicada's song

Monday, August 2, 2010

In the Summer Sun

Last month I was lucky enough to have my neice come to visit. It was huge fun and I had the pleasure of dragging her out and about in the hottest weeks that anyone can remember here abouts. Yea, that is just how my luck rolls. It was actually so bad that for 2 or 3 days we lay about in the house watching DVD's while I coached her at knitting. However, before the heat was too bad we did head up into the Alps thinking, mistakenly as it turned out, that it would be cooler there.
Lake Bargis
We headed up to Chemolais. Past Lake Bargis (pr. barjiss) and on up further to a lovely, albeit hot, little valley in the mountains.

W had a great time and the scenery was stunning! We took JennietheDog and she had the best time running wildly with her buddies. We went to Venice several times and to Aquileia to see the mosaics. I think she had fun and I am hoping to lure her back to visit. After all ... there is still a gondola ride in her future.
And the JennietheDog says ... come and visit anytime!!!
In the mud puddle
I stir up my reflection
With my walking stick.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Good Life

I woke up to the sounds of an accordian being played this morning by my quite elderly (late 80's) neighbor who was also singing along. A French love song he told me ... it had been his wife's favorite and now he sings it to his great-grand daughter. A large portion of the family lives in the 4 story house across the canal from me. He lives downstairs with his daughter, the daughter's daughters live on the next two floors with their husbands and one of their daughters and husband and children live on the top floor.
Family is everything here. And every morning they are all out, as soon as the sun comes up, raking leaves and working in the garden. There are no better gardeners than Italian men ...  although I suspect the women are, actually, just as good but in a really stealthy way. There is never a leaf out of place ... a weed left un-plucked ... or a blade of grass that is just a tad too long. And the flowers are amazing. The scent of jasmine wars with the fragrance of the magnolias and the roses. It is heaven.
And they laugh ... all day. It is hot here in a way that I had forgotten summer could be. With humidity you could cut with a knife. So, the Italians live outside all day in the summer in the shade. They laugh and the children play and then they squabble and the adults help them figure it out and life goes on ... loudly and publicly in a way that most of the world has forgotton.
At lunch time it was too hot to cook so I went to the restaurant across the street from our house where I was, by far, the youngest person there. The owner, our friend Stefano, came over to talk and asked how I was enjoying the weather. I said it was just too hot for me ... that at night it was too sweaty and sticky to sleep. His solution, which he yelled across the room to me and which had all of the other patrons nodding and laughing was " You must remember then to make love under the shower and not in the bed!"
Yep, life lived fully and without reservation ... that is the beauty of living here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Digging Out

I have finally cleared enough of the boxes out of the house to be able to get some things done. One of those things was dyeing yarn and so there are yarns slowly trickling into the shop. I also took some time out to go and visit a winery and to buy some wines. I traveled down to the Moletto winery which sits in both the Friuli region (where I live) and the Veneto region. The wines were wonderful and I came home with several cases half of which we have already drunk. Next on the list of things to do is to take the umpteen litre size demijohns to the local winery to fill up so we can bottle our own.
The buildings where the winery is housed were built is the 1500's and are little changed. The room above is where the field workers wives spun wool and wove when they were not working in the fields at the harvest.         
We then headed into the nearby town for lunch where we met up with some officers in the local Cabbinieri who were happy to show us around their building.
Then the following week we headed over to Vittorio Veneto to tour the old city (Serravalle) and to have lunch. The cathedral in this city has a beautiful alterpiece by Titian and has made me consider doing another blog on Italian country churches. What passes for a poor country church here frequently contains 15th and 16th century frescoes and/or paintings by artists that we all know and love. I cannot imagine growing up and thinking that the old church where your family has attended forever is actually a splendid repository for some of the most unappreciated art in Italy. We shall see what I come up with.
We went to lunch where the antipasti for 2 looked like this:

And the lunch was a mixed grill of meats with grilled vegetables and lots of prosecco and red wine. I forgot to take any other pictures of the food because my hands were messy from eating such a great meal. The cooking in this region is amazing. A great book about it is called : Venezia: Food and Dreams. I love this cookbook.
Not too much else going on really. I did finish the Driftwood socks and I love them. Now I am on to a pair for someone else. I wish I could knit for me ... but I have a hard time rationalizing it. So today it is a movie and knitting. And I am off.

Rain puddles at night
Full of broken yellow moons
And the sound of frogs.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Camping Out

I am still waiting for my household goods to arrive. Rumor has it they have been in Venice for about a week and are tied up in Customs. In the meantime we are still in the camping out phase. Last night I cooked and this is what the table looked like:

Baking sheet with ribs, saucepan with Baked Beans, and Folgers container with Broccolli salad. Plates borrowed from the restaurant across the street. Yep, we live like kings ... what can I say. LOL.
All of this was prepared in or on my new 1,000 euro range. That would be the one in the basement summer kitchen because that was the only place it would fit.

I am going to have to find a way to take this stove back with me ... I love it!
Still no way to dye yarn ... but there is no shortage of yarn for me to knit so I am plugging away on several pairs of socks. I decided that I should start knitting up some of the colourways that I dye that I haven't taken the time to knit with and so far I am really pleased with the results. These are knit in the "Driftwood" colourway:

I have started reading books about life in Italy and found a really good one that is actually set in the Veneto region where I live. It is about an American couple who buy a Palladian villa and what they discovered on moving here.  
Two of my favorite parts relate to driving here. One of them is where they come to the realization that just because there is a sign that says your destination is off to the right doesn't actually mean that the next road is the one you want. It just means that somewhere in the next 5 kl. or so will be a road that will take you roughly in the direction that you want in the general area of the town that you are looking for. The other compares the driving here to an Olympic sport where style points can make or break your score. Very funny ... and also very true. An interesting rule of the road here is that if someone is passing and there is oncoming traffic that he runs the risk of hitting head-on ... the passing driver has the right of way ... yep that's right. The dumbest driver wins.
Above the nests edge
Tiny yellow trumpets
open wide, crying.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Night Visitor

We have finally decided to move into the new house and "camp out" till our household goods arrive. Yes, those would be the ones that were due here a month ago and still have not shown up. In the mean time, we have had fun wandering our new neighborhood and being stared at by our new neighbors. The other night, however, JennietheDog went out and stopped suddenly at the bottom of the stairs and began stalking the garden wall. Finally curiosity got the best of me and I went down to see what had occasioned all of the stalking and jumping back and here is what I found:
A Euopean Hedgehog (riccio in Italian). He was much bigger than I had thought they would be and very very cute. My landlord says he is very old and they seemed happy that I had seen him. They rely on them for bug and snake control in their gardens.
We have had an amazing amount of torrential rain in the last month but yesterday and today started out sunny so I took some pictures of the new house. The locals say that the last time the volcano erupted they went without a summer and instead had a long rainy cold Spring followed by a cold rainy early Autumn. Imagine my joy.This is the front of the house (as seen from the back).

And this is part of the back of the property to incude my outdoor pizza oven. I cannot wait to try it out. We did set up a summer kitchen in the downstairs for when it gets hot (here's hoping ... LOL) and now all we need is furniture, and dishes, and stuff. If it stays nice today I will take more pictures and try to get them up tonight or tomrrow.
On the knitting front I have not gotten past the 9th repeat of the shawl I was working on but that is because I have been desperately trying to finish one of the three sets of socks that I have on the needles. Knitting is still slow work and my shoulder will only tolerate so much of it but I am getting more comfortable with Continental style knitting although my old way is still the fastest for me. The dates are out for the next Sock Summit and I am trying to figure out if I will be able to go or not. It was a ton of fun last year.
A south wind carries
Rain and the song of the wren
Down the arrows path.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dust ... Yes It Is Everywhere

No new volcano news today ... thank goodness, but tons of stranded travellers are here waiting to get out. Marco Polo Airport is supposed to re-open today but the haze here is terrible. We shall see. I thought of going down to Venice today for lunch but stayed home as I expect the crowds are pretty thick ... and unhappy.
We went to Venice a week or so ago and it was amazing. I was in the middle of reading a book called "The City of Falling Angels" by John Berendt (of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame) which is about the burning of the famous opera house in Venice called "The Fenice". So, as we were wandering around Venice looking at things like:
while trying to decide if we should ride in the orange crushed velvet with pompoms and fringe pimped out gondola
or the more taditional but also more subdued type:
My husband, who never thinks of these things, says "Hey! Let's go look at that building you are reading about." And so we did. I wish now that I had finished the book first and so I will have to go back because they have rebuilt it and when you stand in the street, 6 feet from the building next to it, you see why, at the beginning of the book, the fear was that all of Venice would burn. It was incredible there!
In other news, I recieved a shipment of wool yarn from Stone Hedge Mills. It is gorgeous and I will try to take pictures and get them up. They did a fabulous job and I have already started a shawl in the black/silver. What will I do now that I have no fleeces of my own to send them ... yikes!
I can see the trees
Through the window ... blossoms fly
Following the wind.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Geek Needed ...

I know I have an Italian IP address now ... and that I live here and all ... but I really need to find a way to make Google and Yahoo  and every other thing on my computer stay in English. Really. My Italian is bad at best and while I am trying to improve it this is not helping ... it's like that version of Word that used to guess what you wanted to write while you were typing and then didn't want to admit it was wrong. I need less help that way.
But Italy is every bit as amazing as I thought it would be. A few weeks ago I toured the castle town of Valvasone. They have been renovating the castle for twelve years and today they were able to allow people in to see the "Gaming Room".  Here is what it looked like in the town while I was there:
And then we toured the two Churches there which are famous for their frescos:

And then we had an amazing lunch ... for about 2 1/2 hours. LOL

The internet here is hellish ... but if I can, I will write again tomorrow about my trip to Venice. I will say that I am finding some amazing inspiration for new yarn colours and can hardly wait for my things to get here. In about 2 weeks I should be able to get back up and running ... I'll keep you posted.

I hear the door lock ...
Then the rattling of paper
The scratching of lead.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Life is Like …

a bad Country and Western song of late. My dog was  bit on the foot, I have a cold, the dog was left in Amsterdam for 4 days, and until the day before yesterday our house hunting was going no where. But, we now have a house to rent and JennietheDog’s foot is getting better (thanks to some high powered antibiotics and two drainage holes), my cold is in it’s final stages and I had a decent nights sleep at last.
Enough whining. Italy is beautiful and the people here are amazingly welcoming. They love dog’s so JennietheDog is spoiled rotten by the maids here and we even found some sheep for her to stare longingly at the other day. It has rained/fog/misted everyday but one since we arrived. The other day however was beautiful and I was able to get a picture of the mountains at last.

Our house in the middle of the village of Aviano so I will be able to walk to the open market, the pastry shop, the library(for Italian lessons), the butcher, the poulterer, and the cheese and milk shop.  It should make my life very easy I think.
I will try to take more pictures when the weather improves.
Resting on the clouds
This morning’s moon slips away
I head off to work.