Thursday, October 27, 2005


We continue to meet new friends, and last week we added Jack and Suzy to our list. They’ve just moved to Umbria and are still settling in. They’ve been going through the usual stresses of moving….trying to find the grocery store, the hardware store, trying to figure out the telephone and internet situation, waiting for their “stuff” to arrive from the states, figuring out the best (and most economical) way to keep warm this winter, and on top of all that, they had to go into Perugia to complete the paperwork so they’ll be legal. So far, so good, and slowly but surely they seem to be doing okay.

We met for lunch at a new restaurant about halfway between our homes….they’re up near Lake Trasimeno. Although we all enjoyed our lunch very much I think the high point of the day for Jack and Suzy was when we took them to Gran Casa, the closest thing to Target we have around here! They were like kids in a candy store and found quite a few household goods they had been searching for. One of the added benefits of taking them to GranCasa was that we were able to tell them about all the wonderful shopping opportunities located on the same street!

Jack and Suzy are no strangers to Italy, having lived in Naples for several years working for the government. I think the chill of Umbria might be a bit more than they expected, but since one of the items they bought at GranCasa was a heated mattress pad, I’m sure they’ll be fine.


Work on the park continues…as we’re reminded bright and early every morning. Just as we used to wake to the sound of jackhammers when the house was being renovated, now we wake to the sound of chainsaws or super-sized jackhammers used to break up the bedrock. No complaints though, since in addition to a new park we’re also getting free firewood out of the deal!

We’ll be totally ecstatic when the trees in our garden are removed….then we’ll be able to have the roof cleaned and the gutters cleaned and repaired. The wall in our bedroom is already suffering from the soggy mess that’s stuck in the gutters. My only fear is that by the time they’re finished working in the park the rain will have set in for good and Mauro won’t be able clean the roof and repairs the gutters….way too dangerous.

There’s no way for us to get to this section of gutter, and it must be full with ten years of accumulated pine needles and leaves that have fallen or blown in from the many trees in the park. The trees nearest our house will be removed to prevent any future problems with the foundation.

Normally I consider myself pretty much of a “tree-hugger”, but these trees are not only ugly, they also create a constant mess with falling needles and zillions of round seed pods. We get no shade from them and the suck up what little moisture is in the ground. I’ll be more than happy to see them go….especially since we’ll also have a better view of the truly magnificent trees that are located in the park.


My poor little rose bush continues to struggle. I’m not sure that “bush” is even the right word….it’s just a few branches. 
Once the work in the park is completed, maybe it will get more sun and do better next year. If it doesn’t make a dramatic improvement by this time next year, it will be history. No time for plants that aren’t happy.


Armando asked Art to help him in the orto the other day. Located just a short walk from our house, Armando’s has everything you could ever want or need in a home garden. He has a nice size greenhouse covered in heavy plastic in which the tomatoes continue to flourish, plenty of lettuce and spinach and greens still growing, and a nice variety of fruit and nut trees although I couldn’t tell exactly what they were.

Art came home with a large amount of spinach and a type of green I hadn’t seen before….it’s called rabe……pronounced “rah-bay” and is a bitter-tasting green, much used in this area. I cooked up some of the spinach for dinner and combined the rest with ricotta, eggs and cheese for a filling for pasta. The rabe was cooked later….I parboiled it first to make it less tough, then cooked it with pancetta, garlic and some balsamic vinegar. Art liked it but it was too bitter and tough for me.


The reason we missed the procession in San Gemini was because we had to stop by Corinna and Maurizio’s house on the way. We had called to ask if they’d like to go with us, but Maurizio told us it was his birthday and that his family was coming over for cake. Later they planned to go to a dog show and maybe look for a puppy. I wished Maurizio a happy birthday and was ready to say goodbye when he asked me to wait….Corinna wanted to say hello.

Corinna then asked….over and over and over….if we couldn’t stop by for just a minute to have a piece of cake with them. Of course initially I said “no”, thinking that this was a family occasion, but she was SOOOO insistent, so I finally said yes, we’d stop by for just a few minutes.

When we arrived, the only other family member there was Maurizio’s mother, and apparently she had been helping to make fresh pasta because we saw it sitting on a large wooden board to dry. We found out that cake was a long time away….lunch hadn’t even been served yet!

The rest of the family….Maurizio’s sister, her husband, their daughter and the daughter’s boyfriend arrived. Once again we tried to bow out gracefully, but everyone insisted we stay for lunch. At first of course we felt as if they were just being polite, but eventually we felt as if they really did want us to stay, so we agreed.

We had drinks before lunch and a few snacks….some cheese, some bruschetta, some crostini. Then we all sat down to lunch. The first course was the homemade pasta with a sauce that included wild mushrooms that Maurizio had gathered himself. His sister seemed a little leery of the mushrooms, but we all seemed to have survived.

Next came roasted chicken and several different vegetables. One thing that constantly amazes me is the Italian’s penchant for COLD green beans. I don’t mind having things served at room temperature, but for green beans, COLD seems to be the favorite temperature, and it’s always a rather unpleasant surprise for me. Chicory greens were also served along with the chicken.

A beautiful cake was served for dessert… with whipped cream and layers of pastry. After dessert there was coffee, then liqueur, and finally, once everyone could barely move, it was time for Maurizio to open his presents.

Because we hadn’t known of the birthday, of course we didn’t have a present. I told Maurizio that we’d have him and Corinna for a special dinner one night soon. Because he usually does all the cooking at home, I hope this will be a treat for him.

We then left for San Gemini, having missed the procession, but sharing in the birthday celebration had been so much more fun!


When Art had an MRI done on his back while we were in the states in May, no problems were found with his back, but they did see cysts on/in his kidneys. Of course all this happened right before we went back to Italy, but a call to the urologist eased our minds. The doctor told us that Art should have an ultrasound when we came back in the winter, but that these cysts were nothing serious.

Now that we’re in the Italian healthcare system, Art told his doctor here about the cysts and asked if it would be possible to have an ultrasound here. Per que no? So a few weeks ago we went to the hospital in Marsciano for the ultrasound, scheduled for 11:45. The technician told me where to go to pay for the test….I think it was about €30, and when I returned with the receipt Art was already having the ultrasound done.

He emerged from the examination room with the films in hand, and today we took the films to show our family doctor. He said that for now everything looks fine, but he wants Art to have another ultrasound in six months to see if there’s any change.

Between our $15 co-pay and the “uncovered” expenses in the states, I’d be willing to bet that we got off cheap at €30. Additionally I submitted this charge, along with all the others to BS/BS for reimbursement. I was pleasantly surprised when a check for $163 arrived at my sister’s house a few weeks later. All in all, we ended up paying about $20 out of pocket for the ultrasound, Art’s blood work , the EEG and his visit to the cardiologist (with an EKG).


While taking care of the house and the plants for Belinda and Giacomo, we’ve had the added bonus of gathering walnuts and almonds. The trees were just bursting with fruit and every time we stopped by we gathered a large bag to take home and crack. Originally we used a hammer, but an unfortunate miss (by me) convinced us that a nutcracker would be much safer.

Of course once the nuts were shelled and we threw out the rejects, we didn’t have nearly as many as we thought we did. Still, plenty for what we need, and I was happy to have the walnuts since I plan to use more walnuts and fewer pecans….the price of pecans will go up as a result of the recent hurricanes, so I’ll save those for pecan or Derby pie.


Today we reluctantly cleaned up the garden. Much as we hate to see summer end, it has, and on top of that we leave for the states a week from today (!!!) and it had to be done. Art saw Adamo and asked for some manure from his nephew’s farm, for the orto. Even if it doesn’t arrive until after we’ve gone we can still spread it around and turn it into the soil on a clear day sometime in the winter.

I moved the pots of herbs to the front, near the door. I think this location will be more protected, and also more convenient for me during the winter. I should have planted my basil in two or three plantings, and in fact I meant to, but somehow they all sort of pooped out at the same time. Maybe next year I’ll plant some basil in mid to late July and see how they do.

As the seasons change the vineyards are turning golden,

with a few bits of red here and there.  When those leaves are lit up by the sun it’s absolutely magical.  The olives look fantastic this year….the trees on the road where we take our walk are heavy with olives. We hate the fact that we won’t be here to help with Giacomo and Belinda’s olives, but for some reason their trees didn’t produce a lot this year, so the harvest shouldn’t be too bad. Maybe next year.


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