Here it comes…

Today is my last day of free time (it’s not quite free, we pay 184 euro a month for the nursery school w/ lunches). Robin Kay’s school vacation starts tomorrow and lasts until the 9th of January. I can’t wait until her uncle gets here on the 24th so that I won’t be the only amusement source in the house. I’ve gotten used to the quiet and am amazed at how her energy level seems to grow with her. My big job today, aside from the never-ending task of being a house maintenance crew, is going to be tarting up the race cars that go with her Christmas present to look (enough) like the Mach 5 and Racer-X’s car #9….

Tree time in Gemonio, and who is Babbo Natale?

Yesterday morning my sweetheart went downstairs to work on (the last) stone curlicue. He was looking forward to finishing and I was anxious that he do so before the nursery school had the big Holiday program in the piazza so that we could relax and do the family on Sunday thing. Robin and I were busy getting our hair shiny for the event when he came back in the door and peeked into the bathroom and told me, “The stone broke. I’m going to have to wait for the epoxy to set.” He smiled at Robin, “Do you want a surprise?” She’s three and a half… there’s only one possible answer. She struggled to keep her eyes closed as her father dragged this 6′ christmas tree into the bathroom and stood it up. She squealed. I think that the tree is her favorite thing about Christmas. They have one at school and she hugs it good-bye everyday as we head home. Now we have our very own, captive in the livingroom.
So, we put it up, got the lights on, were covered in pine needles, and decided (despite the scowling protest of our girl) to put the decorations on over the course of the next few days leading up to Christmas eve so that we save the star for Uncle Frankie’s arrival.

After lunch it was time for the ‘festa’. Robin was doubtful about the idea of going to school on a ‘stay-at-home’ day and all of the promises music by the town band, the distribution of presents, and the fun of being in a parade with the other kids were greeted with the skepticism of a 3 year old who’s favorite pastime is playing games that involve bouncing on top of, over, or in circles around her father. She was, at last, persuaded to be sociable.
In the end she had fun, and so did we. It was sweet to stand in the bustle of other parents and watch her come down the street in a sea of small children behind a tractor that was pulling a 4 piece band (trumpet, sax, bass, and drums). She was wearing her little Santa hat and waving a pom-pom made of red and white crepe paper. They all stood on the steps of the church and sang a religious song (the text of which and my feelings about are a whole ‘nother blog entry!) Then they walked around to the big tree set up in the part of the piazza where there are benches and sang a song about Santa’s House followed by Jingle Bells; and then HE came.
Babbo Natale in person, red suit and a basket on his back filled with packages; red velvet hood slipping over his eyes and white beard and mustache slipping away from his nose, the cuffs of his quilted hunting coat peeking out as he reached with a kind and very grandfatherly, wrinkled hand to pat the cheeks of the smallest and ask their names. A boy of about seven hollered out the name of the kindly local fellow who was playing the part but the little ones weren’t phased in the least. Robin was transfixed, a delighted smile bloomed on her lips, she looked even more beautiful than she usually does. First: red is her VERY favorite colour (though fuscia is beginning to gain ground); Second: I’d been telling her for weeks that Father Christmas (aka Santa Claus aka Babbo Natale) was an imaginary person, like a cartoon character; a figure that people had invented to embody the idea of how nice it feels to give presents. But here he was as perfect as the picture on the holiday sale sheets that arrive in the mail.
As soon as the show was over and the distribution of gifts was to begin we plucked her up out of the throng and she looked at me and said, “But look Mamma, Santa is NOT imaginary, he’s a real live person, he CAME!” What could I say to that, to that glowing certainty? The only thing I could think of was to stick to the part that was true, so I said, “You’re right, it was a real person.” Later she wanted to know just where that Babbo Natale had come from. I answered her again, as honestly as I dared: “Honey, I was so busy watching your face that I didn’t notice anything else.”

Caffetieria, American Coffee and the consolation of Artichokes.

I’m thinking about coffee; I’m making coffee. I love Italian coffee made in my caffetiera (a la moka). It’s fast and easy and doesn’t require filters. It tastes like something. The only down side is that I can’t just keep drinking it all day long…
As much as I love Italian coffee, every once and a while I find myself longing for a big mug of watery American coffee, a box of Krispy Kremes, and a thick newspaper printed in English.
Then I console myself with red wine and plentiful Artichokes….


1530s, from articiocco Northern Italian variant of It. arcicioffo ,from O.Sp. alcarchofa from Arabic alhursufa  “artichoke.” TheNorthern Italian variation probably is from influence of ciocco “stump.” Folk-etymology has twisted the word in Eng.; the endingis probably influenced by choke and early forms of the word inEnglish include archecokk, hortichock, artychough, hartichoake .The plant was known in Italy by 1450s, brought to Florence fromNaples in 1466, and introduced in England in the reign of HenryVIII. Fr. artichaut  (16c.), Ger. Artischocke  (16c.) both are alsofrom Italian.

Sunday Morning Schubert

It’s a relaxed morning listening to Franz Schubert (String Quintet in C major D. 956)…the movement I’m listening to now is about as I am: Allegro ma non troppo. Robin is happily taking a bath. Yesterday was a big day for her; she took her first turns around the rink on ice skates. She started to get the hang of it (which is to say, able to stay up over her skates about 60 percent of the time) at about the same moment that she was to tired to keep going. Matthew went up to Sacro Monte for an appointment and Robin and I along with our friend Fabio (no our Fabio is not the Fabio) wandered through downtown Varese and she had 7 go-rounds on the carousel followed by the purchase of a helium balloon of Clifford the Big Red Dog (which continues to make a languid tour of all the ceilings of our house), a bag of roasted chestnuts (the remainder of which I’m munching on as a post-breakfast-of-fresh-bread snack) and a sit down in the bar to have hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Today is a day full of sun and blue sky, Matthew has finished the really fancy cabinetry he has spent the last month working on, Fabio is the kind of dream house guest who cleans the kitchen after every meal and leaves the moka ready to make coffee the next morning, the work that awaits me tomorrow is the review of next half of the english translation of Cesare Bedegonè’s novel “Blaw, Blaw, Blaw” which is like getting paid to read a book that I’d enjoy anyway. Life is good.

Sunset on Sacro Monte in Varese

Every cloud has a golden lining – Light in December

I’m not particularly fond of the cold but I love the way it makes the landscape look. I woke up yesterday thinking about light. I was writing an essay in my head that I’m still writing about passion, poetry, and

the pleasure of talking about all of the whys and wherefores of art / writing. To me there is a certain tone of light that I connect with different writing or even with individual poems: The dry desert light of Montale’s Syria, and the thick fog-laden light of Shakespeare’s Richard III (which I did start reading last night). I was thinking about how round the images in those poems are, even if I don’t remember all of the words exactly and thinking about how pleasurable it is to wake up in the morning and have that to roll around in my mind.
The unfortunate thing is that in the evening when I have time, I’m too tired to string my thoughts together coherently and all those connecting threads that were so clear first thing in the morning are broken or muddled by the time it’s 11 p.m. One day I’ll learn to get out of bed in the morning and write it down but that’s hard to do in pre-alpine December…though the view is beautiful and sometimes even I get it right.

Snow day in Castello Cabiglio

So here we are having a fun day in the snow. Robin and Matthew do most of the playing and I do the filming. Later in the day things turned into a splatter fest. First it was the hot cocoa that I was whipping up with one of those battery operated milk frothers…hot chocolate making spin-art across the table, everything on it, two chairs and the far wall. Later it was grapefruit marmalade which is almost always delicious but splapy in the later stages and somehow seemed extra so today. Lastly was the can of tomatoes with the pull ring that broke…I was  prying it open with a parmesan cheese knife; when I actually succeeded (all too well) there was tomato on the wall, the telephone, the counter, the stove, and the sleeves of a hand-me-down wool cardigan. The center of the tomato eruption landed (of course) on the brand-new-this-winter cream coloured cotton turtle neck that I special ordered from L.L. Bean and had my mother ship to Italy. I’m hoping that the combination of cold water and sapone di Marsiglia followed by Napisan (Italian oxy-clean) will restore it to its original creamy newness. Mostly I’m feeling thankful that I wasn’t using power tools today.