31 December 2009

happy new decade...

I had many witty, profound and interesting things to say... but they disappeared into the New Year's Eve baking! Suffice only to say that the ultimate comfort food is condensed milk eaten from the tin with a teaspoon.

Everything I have tried to write today has come out ponderous and heavy. Delete, delete.

I went to work this morning, able to match paint colours in good daylight with no other lighting. The weather was good, sunny, not cold, and I didn't even turn the electricity on. The site was empty, all other workers on holiday for a week or ten days. I like working alone; I can sing knowing that nobody can hear. There's something pretty special about having such a huge building all to yourself.

Now it is time to transform myself... boots and painting gear must vanish, where is my magic wand? Party clothes required. Happy New Year!

Today I am grateful for distant friends who understand the space I am in.

30 December 2009

around the corner

This morning I painted around the corner and up the other side. Work conditions were good today, not too cold, easy to move the scaffolding, and workmen to help shift the heavy furniture. I have adjusted the height of my platform as I managed to hit my head twice on the stone archway yesterday. I am enjoying seeing the progress, but still have the ceiling itself, and other bits and pieces, waiting for me. I have to admit though, I am getting anxious to get back to my other painting. Watercolours seem a long way away when I am up on the scaffolding.

Today I am grateful for Zacchi's obedience.
.

alison stanfield's newsletter

reprinted with permission


THIS WEEK'S ACTION

Decide What Your Year Will Look Like


DECIDE that each day will be a good day and that you’ll be in a good mood. That’s right: You can decide.
DECIDE that you’ll sing, smile, laugh, and dance more often.
DECIDE to make this a rewarding year filled with things and people you love.
DECIDE to set boundaries around your studio time. The discipline of a studio practice is what makes you a professional.
DECIDE to try a different color, experiment with a new media, or open yourself to art that is different from your own.
DECIDE to be supportive of all artists in your community.

DECIDE to set boundaries around your personal time. You can’t be a vibrant artist if you don’t take care of yourself.
DECIDE to understand what is in the food you are eating and how it affects your well-being.
DECIDE to avoid things that upset your well-being.
DECIDE to exercise regularly.

DECIDE to set boundaries around your business time. If you seek to make a living from your art, you must take the planning, marketing, and promotion seriously. You must also pay attention to finances and other “less sexy” business matters like insurance.
DECIDE to use your contact list on a regular basis, whether it means picking up the phone, sending an email, or writing a personal note that needs a stamp to reach the recipient.
DECIDE to explore how social media—like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—can help you network with potential buyers and collectors. There must be something to social media if everyone is using it!
DECIDE that you will learn more about the business “stuff” you’ve tried to ignore.

DECIDE to make the most of the time you have and to stop whining about the time you don’t have.
DECIDE to say No to those things that are not important to you or that get in the way of what you want to be.

DECIDE to take risks. You know that very few people ever reached their full potential without stepping out of their comfort zones.

FINAL WORD: Decide how you will show up in the New Year. Choose the decisions that resonate with you, write them down, and post them in a highly visible place. “I have decided that I will . . . “ At the same time, understand your motives for the decisions. Why did you make these decisions? There must be reasons for your choices. Decisions, goals, and motives are all part of the New Year Blast Off class. Join us beginning January 6! http://artbizcoach.com/classes/blastoff.html


© 2009 Alyson B. Stanfield. Alyson takes the mystery out of marketing your art and making more money as an artist. Visit http://www.ArtBizCoach.com to get articles just like this one delivered to your inbox.

on-line community

Part of my art practice is to blog... or perhaps I should say, to explore other artist's blogs. I am afraid that my blog doesn't really qualify as an artist's blog, except that it is my blog and I am an artist.

The new year resolutions blogs are inspiring. I am going to link to a few here, and add to this post later. And then, maybe, I'll share my resolutions when I make them.

Katherine Cartwright has painted some fabulous eggshell works that I wish I had painted myself. I am a fan on the strength of those works alone. Those works inspired a tiny video I made but have yet to share. Her post for the New Year has a wonderful collection of links to follow, acknowledging other artists who share their work, teaching and learning, on line.

Myrna Wacknov is a dedicated blogger and a generous teacher; her blog is well worth following whether you paint in the same manner or not. The same can be said for Mike Bailey, and his recent post, Breakthrough watercolour, while not specifically for the new year, has a wonderful summary of what goes into a painting.

Now breakfast, and then work calls me, computer time is over.

29 December 2009

one of the things i love

...is being independent. Today I mastered moving the scaffolding, so progress was much faster. No waiting for other helpers who either get caught up in other things or completely forget that they are on their way down to help. (Angel Saturday, come back!)

This morning I noticed the lovely shadows on the wall, telling the story of the renovation, perhaps?
I am struggling a little to unite the lines from the wall under the curved vaulted ceiling with the verticals already painted; the original, more ornate design had a lot of leaves along some of the lines, and I suspect that in the junctions of leaves and straight lines there was quite a bit of slack taken up. I don't have that luxury, and I have a boss with a very good eye! Sometimes, however, four into two just doesn't go!
Click here for a "before" photo.

Today I am grateful for rapid progress and the feeling that the work can be completed on time.

28 December 2009

making ends meet

or not, as the case may be!

Today was marked by lots of waiting time as the scaffolding had to be moved several times. Tiny holes in the wall needed filling, and the final section near the stairs was a bit tricky as the scaffolding was too wide to get close. The boss built me a bridge from the scaffolding, resting it on the hand rail, and told me to be careful not to step back. I certainly was. I was grateful that he waited to make sure I was working safely before he left. It wasn't far to fall, but landing on marble stairs or iron banisters might not have been fun!

Today I am grateful for pleasant company.

11+ ain't easy

Tomorrow I will have been back in Italy for two weeks. The 11+ is not going well. I am not even blaming Christmas! My routines are in tatters and my "new habits" are not yet established. With going out to eat, and having passing visitors at my house, I have been getting the balance of my proteins, carbs and fruit and veges out of kilter.

Domani... there's always domani... I will try to be more disciplined. Today I will change the location of the nuts (too handy, too good to eat) and the vegetable snacks (too cold straight out of the fridge). The Christmas dried fruits have been tempting too, and I tell myself that they are better than chocolate. Maybe they should be less accessible?

But mostly what has been lacking is real exercise. No excuses, the last two days have been glorious for at least a part of the day.

I faced the scales this morning. No weight loss, but my jeans tell me that there has been a slight change of shape - mine or the jeans? I am not quite sure!

Today I am grateful for yummy fresh vegetables.

27 December 2009

another wonderful concert

I still have to pinch myself. I can walk across the road, up to the piazza, and into the local church to a concert with world class performers.

Apologies for the quality of the filming, I still have a slight cough so remained at the back of the church in case I needed to exit quickly. I was concentrating on the singer, not the camera, so it became a little lopsided.

It turns out that the singer, Maristella Mariani, comes from the next village, a ten minute walk away! The flautist is Fabio Angelo Coljanni, and the pianist Andrea Mele.

The video is three minutes long.
video

Today I am grateful for talented musicians and gifted singers.

26 December 2009

boxing day and traditions

...from giving to receiving.

Traditionally Boxing Day was the day when the lower classes and the poor, and later the workers and servants, came to the wealthy higher classes and their employers to receive their boxes of seasonal goods: benevolence, or rewards for a year's work well done.

When I was a child, without the benefit of Google and Wikipedia, I fondly imagined that Boxing Day was when Christmas excesses and trimmings were packaged up and stored away in the attics I read about in story books. Maybe that is why it is my preference to remove all sign of Christmas decorations as soon as possible after Christmas Day.

Now it seems that Boxing Day is one of the best trading days for store keepers, and the best bargain day for shoppers. Somehow I think that is a less benevolent twist to giving and receiving.

Google tells me that St Stephen's Day and Boxing Day were once intertwined. In fact, I do remember that Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen. So where does the Duke of Bohemia, Wenceslas, fit in? Now his is an interesting tale. Wikipedia again... do read on! Feasts take on yet another meaning! How would you like to be named Strachvas, "a dreadful feast"?

Hoping for a more peaceful story, I googled St Stephen. You guessed it, yet another martyr! This time one stoned to death rather than murdered at a feast.

By now my Boxing Day morning, reflecting on the greed and brutality of man, was becoming rather grim. Best to return to the present, listen to the neighbour's rooster signalling 7am, and take refuge in breakfast, panettone and all - no, I just can't do it. Cereal and fruit it has to be. Panforte from Siena could be my downfall at Christmas, but the huge range of beautifully boxed Panettone, in every combination of fruit, lemon or chocolate imaginable, can continue on its way on the gift merry-go-round. It is too sweet and insubstantial for me.

Today I am grateful for health-giving food.

25 December 2009

God or santa?

I follow the "Chris will walk" blog, and the Christmas entry made me laugh and cry. Human generosity can be amazing and very humbling. But, as always, it is the children who come out with something profound.

Was it God or Santa who asked the person to drop in the bags of gifts? How lovely that the child thought to query this. What drives us all, in the Christmas madness? In this instance, I suspect that it was God, or love of people and of God, that inspired the giving. Having just blogged about Santa leaving me gifts it gave me food for thought.

If it is true that Jesus was most likely to have been born some time between March and October, and we are putting all this emphasis on pagan dates, is it any wonder that "Christ" is slipping out of Christmas?

In my life-changing move to the other side of the world I have had to face unexpected issues. I now place much less emphasis on material things. But still I found it hard to let go of some that I had collected over the years. It is my aim to have a simple, comfortable home that I can happily let others use, not wondering if they will break things I treasure. That is so much easier said than done.

I have become quite anti commercialism, especially when I read about the sweat shop type factories that continue long after Dicken's time. Christmas feeds into the commercial drive, or is perhaps the result of it. We own too much "stuff" already, and "stuff management" after Christmas becomes a priority.

I remember many years ago when my children were small a family member said that they did not want Christmas gifts at all, and would not be sending any but were donating to the poor instead. It seemed a little sad at the time, thinking that the family would not be receiving gifts, and would be having such a simple Christmas day. Now, so many years later, I wish that I had taken more from Deborah's lead.

One of the best bumper stickers in New Zealand is the one that reads "Take only photographs, leave only footprints". It refers to the natural forests and beaches, but could be applied more widely.

Today's Peace quote for the day has just come in.
We cannot live only for ourselves.
A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men;
along those fibers, as sympathetic threads,
our actions run as causes,
and they come back to us as effects.

—Herman Melville

The bells are ringing as I type, calling people to prayer. Fireworks are whistling, although it is light outdoors. It is time to go out, to enjoy Christmas day.

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas, however you choose to celebrate it.

PS added 28-12-09.
Did Christmas originate in Italy? It seems that the also the singing of Christmas carols did.

when socks are the perfect gift

8am, 25-12-09

Santa came! I guess from the North Pole, but certainly via Scotland this year. He left me all sorts of things, tiny packets, interesting packets, soft and squishy packets. He brought me SOCKS!

Sadly lacking in my wardrobe were dark, coloured, socks to match my winter woollies. Santa must have peeked. Somehow the bright socks with frogs and bees and happy faces on them, perfect for the New Zealand junior classroom, and the white sports socks, aren't quite appropriate here - but they just wont wear out!

I guess you could almost say I have a thing about socks. I have socks from Trinity College, Dublin. Socks from Loch Ness with the monster on them. Socks from Verona with Romeo and Juliet on them... and now I have REAL socks too!

While the rest of the family surf, barbequeue and play on beaches, my toes will be well looked after in every colour, matching the jerseys, scarves, hat and gloves that mark Christmas in Europe.

We didn't get a white Christmas, but Santa's email said that she has plenty snow where she is, at -10 degrees!

So now, Christmas morning, I shall listen to gentle pan pipes playing Christmas music and look at a beautiful book of photographs assembled and made with love... and decide which socks are the best colour for today!

Today I am grateful for love and family.

23 December 2009

call me a slow learner but

...I simply can't get used to Christmas Eve being the main part of Christmas. I still think of Christmas Day as being the day of celebration.

The lights in the village and town are very simple and beautiful this year, rows of blue stars across the road up in the historic part, and gold stars down in the newer part.

Some of the daily thoughts for world peace that come into my email inbox have been quite thought provoking lately. Often they mention love, and Napolean even mentioned the hard stuff.
Love is the answer, and you know that for sure. —John Lennon
The more I study the world, the more I am convinced of
the inability of brute force to create anything durable.
—Napoleon Bonaparte
But this one, on the surface not so serious but which I think is quite profound, I really enjoyed!
Intellectuals try not to drown, while the whole purpose of love is drowning. —Rumi
Wouldn't it be great if we could all just let go of our insecurities, trust everyone we meet, and experience life fully?

Today I am grateful for sunshine.

22 December 2009

olive oil and coffee

This morning we bagged the olives. (Note to self: attempting to lug 230kgs of olives up the stairs in ten sacks was stupid, stupid, stupid!) I didn't expect to be going too, and was ready to paint. The harvester, who shares my crop with me, looked shocked. Of course I was coming too. Quick change from painting trou and into some slightly more presentable shoes. As we waited outside for the truck to collect the olives the neighbours gathered. How many olives? Advice for this, advice for that. Sitting in the bus shelter surrounded by well-wishers my excitement of last year and processing my first real crop returned. By the time I got to the press I was as keen as anyone to see the official weight, to taste the oil. Despite the problems of getting the harvest done, I remembered why I love living here.

Ok, so I lasted only one week back here without taking a coffee - here one "takes" rather than "drinks" a coffee. I was offered one at the olive pressers and it seemed churlish to decline. And now the oil is home... yeehaa!!!! 41 litres of oil shared between me and the picker-pruner. This year it is sweet and smooth, the olives being more mature and the press being a modern one.
The olive press, 2009: Last year I really enjoyed the thick peppery oil (picked early and pressed the old-fashioned way).

Olive pressing, 2008: video

Back at work the new system I have devised for the curved lines is working quite well. It wasn't so cold today, rain and no breeze off the snow. Now we are having storm warnings, so it is likely that my internet will disappear again. Don't worry, we'll still be here, Zacchi in front of the heater and Pickle licking up any drop of oil I might spill when putting a few litres into bottles.

Today I am grateful for secure scaffolding.

another two

One for an aussie child with kiwi links and a great-aunt who loves genealogy, and another for a kiwi who lives on a farm. I made a few alterations/improvements to "Ryan" and put a hat on the upright snake after this photograph, but forgot to photograph it again. Drat.

The second one, for Jacob, was framed with raised beading (painted white by the framer) next to the picture and a blue mat. It looked great. The colours are brighter than they appear here. It is my choice to leave the selecting of frames to the framers. They are the experts, and up-to-date with the trends. Sometimes I reserve the right to choose the mat.

I am looking forward to my two next works, although they will be in oil, not my beloved watercolour. But work is work, and to be passionate about it is a bonus!

:-)

i was sure i had mentioned

this occasion in a much earlier blog, but I can't find the reference to link back to. So here is the evidence, the crime and the self-imposed exile. Above: Drat! Caught again!
Below: If I can't see mum, she can't see me, right? Pickle has yet to learn that hiding under the table is not the right option when guilty of the same crime. (And no, the couch is not really that bright. It was the camera flash that changed it).

Today I am grateful for the olive harvest.

november photos

My work place in AutumnPalazzo garden from a window above
The messengers who drop good luck tokens on my car...
The main street

An early start to the NZ journey

and here they are...

The walls aren't really leaning... it must have been a hard day!



The process for the straight bits...

21 December 2009

foties

coming. back at work, happily so.
more later

19 December 2009

and a pukeko in a ponga tree

Merry Christmas, everyone. Tanti auguri a tutti.

Here is the Kiwi version of a well known Christmas song.

It could almost be a white Christmas... the snow is lower on the hills behind us than I have seen it before, and this morning the valley below was lost in a dense layer of white fluffy fog. Tonight will be colder. I am glad that it is weekend and I am not working in the open building. I'll pretend that it is Dunedin... it is still not as cold as it was the night we were racing at Forbury Park way back in the two children days.

Today I am grateful for cous cous and polenta, candles and warm fires.

18 December 2009

the battle for the couch

Yes, I will write about art one day soon.

Zacchi knows well that he is not to sleep on the couch, and if caught he slinks outside without a word from me, looking as guilty as a muffin can look. Pickle, on the other hand, still pushes her luck. You would think that with snow on the hills not too far away the message would sink in faster... caught on the couch and out you go!

We had a little tussle the other day. I was on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, and Pickle was on her perch, the plastic box which doubles as pantry and sometime coffee table now padded with a mat. She seemed to think that my blanket was the better spot to be... how many times can you push a dog off before she gets the message?

Tonight I got up to make a milo; I couldn't sleep, and thought that the day's intake could extend to some winter comfort. Milo is a luxury to be used sparingly. I found Pickle asleep on the mat which was folded beside the couch, up on the pantry perch. This was all OK with me, she often sleeps there when I am in the kitchen. She opened one eye, tried to make herself invisible, and waited to be put outside.

Really Pickle, I know that you intended moving over onto the couch once I was properly asleep, but I don't usually punish BEFORE the crime!

Zacchi, on the other hand, has become the most obedient dog around, quite the educated, gentlemany role model. While Pickle and I tussled he sat upright on the mat near me, saying "Look mum, I'm being sooo good!" I am sure that despite being so well looked after when I am away a little bit of separation anxiety goes a long way in the discipline stakes!

Today I am grateful that Pickle is learning...

11 a day is not easy

Today is the first day of "accountability". I have been home for two full days, and have slept enough to say that any jet-lag is over. That I woke at 5am does make me doubt that a little, but I feel fine! Maybe it was just the neighbour's over-enthusiastic rooster that helped get me up and about so early - it is still dark, and he has been crowing since 3am! Christmas dinner, maybe?

Feeling confident I stepped on the scales. Shock, horror! Dad's cooking was too good. I put on 2 kilos in New Zealand. AFTER the doctor had told me that my knees would appreciate it if I lost some weight.

The new regime is 11 a day (click for Harvard report) ... servings of fruit and veges that is. Maybe it should be 11 kilometres a day! It is not yet 7am and I have eaten three servings already. Luckily the trees are loaded with mandarines and oranges, but I think a better balance is called for. Maybe I should start with prunes...

I was enjoying my vegetarian meals and lots of fruit and veges with my vegetarian and health conscious crew, and was beginning to feel more energetic and alive. A change of diet eating with guests (while still eating healthily) brought a noticeable drop in energy levels. Now I eat to improve my health, not to indulge in treats just because I can. How hard can it be, staying off coffee and wine in Italy?

Today I am grateful for two little doggies who take me walking.

16 December 2009

need over want

As I unpacked my odd assortment of "treasures" that made it safely from NZ to Italy I thought about how generous people are. In NZ I sorted things I wont need in the foreseeable future and wondered who to give them to, whether or not I should sell them, where they would be most useful. Some it was hard to let go, and others survived for another round of selection. Some, in fact, that I expected to be easy to give away, proved to be difficult to find homes for. Sometimes I found it difficult balancing my in-built caution (I might need that one day) with my wish to give things a new home.

I am not as generous as I would like to be. I found that my attitude to parting with things was much helped when daughter number one said "Think of how much pleasure that will give someone". I was thinking only of myself, keeping what I might need, and giving out of a wish to be charitable rather than in a true spirit of giving.

Today (my time) it is 21 years since my brother died. One of our last conversations was centred around his view that "no one person should have too much money". He was right. Increasingly I think no one person should have too many possessions either. Research now shows that where there is a more equitable distribution of material wealth then both the wealthy and the poorer benefit in many unexpected ways.

I had two wonderful grandmothers, a minimalist and a hoarder. I take after the hoarder. After two world wars and the great depression I imagine that she had an excuse to save everything for the future. I have no excuse. It is time to pass things on, even gifts that have been given to me but are no longer things I need. The other grandmother, who left her few possessions neatly ordered and ready to be gifted when she left this world, apparently asked her children "Do you need this?" and if they hesitated before replying it was gone.

I have received generous and unexpected kindnesses and gifts. One friend said "I love giving gifts, it's paying goodwill forward and it's as simple as that". How wonderful are her words, "it's as simple as that"! The next time I think "Can I afford to give this away?" I will try to remember the joy of giving and put my instincts to store for the future well away from me. When I do have regrets about things I haven't kept the regrets don't last too long.

Now, what can I give away to make room for my assorted bits and pieces? Zacchi, Pickle... (just kidding Sally!)

Today I am grateful for having enough.

Christmas thoughts

From an email: A very special Christmas message


T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,

HE LIVED ALL ALONE,

IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE,

MADE OF PLASTER AND STONE.


I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY,

WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,

AND TO SEE JUST WHO,

IN THIS HOME, DID LIVE.


I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,

A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,

NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,

NOT EVEN A TREE.


NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,

JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,

ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES,

OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.


WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,

AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,

A SOBER THOUGHT,

CAME THROUGH MY MIND.


FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,

IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,

I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,

ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.


THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,

SILENT, ALONE,

CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR,

IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.


THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,

THE ROOM IN DISORDER,

NOT HOW I PICTURED,

AN AUSTRALIAN SOLDIER.


WAS THIS THE HERO,

OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?

CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,

THE FLOOR FOR A BED?


I REALISED THE FAMILIES,

THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,

OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS,

WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.


SOON ROUND THE WORLD,

THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,

AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE,

A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.


THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM,

EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,

BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,

LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.


I COULDN'T HELP WONDER,

HOW MANY LAY ALONE,

ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE,

IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.


THE VERY THOUGHT BROUGHT,

A TEAR TO MY EYE,

I DROPPED TO MY KNEES,

AND STARTED TO CRY.


THE SOLDIER AWAKENED,

AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,

"SANTA DON'T CRY,

THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;


I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,

I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,

MY LIFE IS MY GOD,

MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS."


THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,

AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,

I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,

I CONTINUED TO WEEP.


I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,

SO SILENT AND STILL,

AND WE BOTH SHIVERED,

FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.


I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE,

ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,

THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR,

SO WILLING TO FIGHT.


THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,

WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,

WHISPERED, "CARRY ON SANTA,

IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE."


ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,

AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,

AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT."

This poem was written by an Australian Peacekeeping soldier stationed overseas. The following is his request: PLEASE. Would you do me the kind favour of sending this to as many people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to all of the service men and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities. Lets try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.
Please, do your small part to plant this small seed.

Thanks to Krista in Australia for sending this to me.

9 December 2009

coming back soon

Thanks for the emails saying you have missed me! This "no computer" time has been interesting!

My goal for public scrutiny is... lose ten kgs by 1 April 2010. OK gang, keep me honest! I will need all the encouragement, fruit and vegetables that I can get!

Today I am grateful for inspiring television programmes.

27 November 2009

lots to think about

Sorting through boxes of memories is wonderful if you are looking for inspirations for a painting, but not so wonderful when you are trying to be ruthless and give things away.

In an ideal world I would keep only what I need. Realistically, how much does one need memory triggers? Should we look back, reflectively, a little sadly, or should we always look forward, head up, eyes shining with excitement, positive about the future? Why is it that I can be generous and quite ruthless with possessions in the morning, but by 4pm put everything I look at back into the box of things to keep?

One person's trash is another's treasure. Looking at the things I choose to keep I suspect that to another my treasures are nothing but trash. The things it is easier to part with are the new, the pretty, the useful, but how can I part with the worn and cracked objects that hold generations of family history? I think that when the person holding the item sees only a piece of junk then it is time to give it away, throw it out, put it in the op shop. But while it holds a memory then that trash is my treasure.

Today I am grateful for text messages from my personal trainer.

18 November 2009

all good...

Today I am grateful for family and beaches.

13 November 2009

a little busy

Life is just a tad busy right now, so posts will be few and far between for a while.

Progress continues in the palazzo, the fine weather making it much more pleasant work although the workforce is small at the moment.

The olive picking is underway, the mandarines are still a little sharp for me but pretty tasty, and the oranges look promising. The days of constant rain ruined what was left of the persimmons, but at least the birds wont have gone hungry.

Dogs are de-flea and de-ticked for the next month, there is dry firewood in the cantina, gas in the bombola, food in the kitchen, wine waiting for a quiet moment, all is right with the world!

Today I am grateful for people with lovely manners.

11 November 2009

so good

Today I painted from my "cot" up high in the entranceway. It was so safe and secure that I worked at least four times faster that I did when precariously balanced on uneven scaffolding. Progress is never fast enough, but it is visible. I am happy with the overall effect... photos when I get a chance.

Today I am grateful for visiting Kiwis.

happiness is...

feeling connected!

I tripped over my internet connection this evening, but didn't notice that it had become unplugged. Later I wondered why I had lost internet when there was no cold rain, but not too upset I turned the computer off and headed for bed.

Unable to sleep, and not being able to count sheep as they are all indoors away from the wolves and the cold (there was snow on the mountain behind us this morning), I got up and hopefully turned on the computer. Nothing, just the grey unconnectedness of Skype trying to launch itself.

Then I remembered. And yes, one little plug was several inches away from its mate.

I tripped on something earlier this evening, too. I was severely growled at by the poor little creature who promptly removed himself to the safest spot he could find, against the wall and well away from my clumsy feet.

Today I am grateful for forgiveness.

9 November 2009

today's research

My evening "unwind" with mouse in hand took me to this essay entitled "Why we travel". Sometimes I wonder where my head has been for the past 20 years. Why had I not read anything by Pico Iyer before?

I like what he says about writing too. In his words, "Writing Undoes Me".

My meander with the mouse-clicks took me to an interview with Alice Walker. The challenges here sent me off to put the kettle on... what great opening lines these are:
Alice Walker: If you just try to do something, you’re not actually accomplishing anything. But if you resolve to do it, you accept that it is there for you to do and that you’re perfectly capable of whatever it is. And of course there’s no point in trying to do something you’re incapable of. Then you use every conceivable atom, sinew, and instinct available to move whatever it is you’re trying to move. There’s a world of difference between that and simply trying to do something.


What did we do before we had internet?

yay for new zealand!

My website and domain name both expired because I had changed my credit card. Luckily my host gives 15 days grace when this happens. This evening I phoned NZ to give my new details and update my credit card so the bill could be paid.

The efficient, pleasant young man was a delight to talk to. Before we had finished the conversation notifications of the updated account and the receipts for the two payments were in my in-box.

It reminded me of the helpfulness of the bank staff I phoned when I was a bit stuck in the USA.

New Zealand might be short of a few million people, but the ones I strike when needing to deal with something from the other side of the world are competent, pleasant, and refreshingly efficient!

Go Kiwis!

This evening I am grateful for international phone calls.

tired but not wicked

Today was/is wet and cold. It is dark, not great for working but work continues the same.

My grandmother and my mother sometimes said "There's no rest for the wicked!" I am not sure if that related to the present day or the after-life. As I child I assumed it meant the present day, but as I write this I wonder if the seemingly innocent phrase had much darker meaning.

But I haven't been that wicked, really! No rest is not good, so Zacchi and I will put our feet up for an hour, hoping to be more productive later. Pickle is in the dog box for peeing in the cantina.

Aaaah life! It's beautiful but it has its bumps along the way.

Today I am grateful for visible progress at work.

7 November 2009

late night

several attempts to blog today came to nothing... but dinner with Kiwi visitors was excellent!

Today I am grateful for flexible agendas.

6 November 2009

i can't believe i did that

Burnt offerings!

I have gathered, with mixed feelings, the pathetic little feijoas that fall onto the road near my house. It's probably not the tree's fault that they are such poor specimens, it grows valiently between concrete and asphalt. It's a miracle that it produces at all.

Today I sat and lovingly peeled the wee things, thinking of my mother who, every year, bottled buckets full of them for us. I put them on to cook.

I went to the computer to check for an important email.

Then I remembered a phonecall I needed to make.

Now I am eating brown, sticky, caramelised feijoas...

CyNICal, will I be forgiven?

Today I am grateful for sticky brown where it could have been crusty black.

5 November 2009

boundaries of space and time

I have been listening to John Cleese talking about creativity. Thanks T, Webcomics and Youtube. I have tried to listen to it four times now, but keep being interrupted or distracted. Twice however, the interruptions have come right at the point where he is emphasising the need to have boundaries of space and of time.

Earlier today I read that when we are young one of the words we use most frequently is "No". As we get older we find it harder and harder to say. I didn't ever manage to say "Yes, I will do XYZ for you. But I also need to do ABC, DEF, GHI and JKL in that time. Which one to you think I should cancel so that I can do this for you?"

To create I need tranquility. Lately I have found that to paint even straight lines well and happily I need a peaceful workplace. When I am in that tranquil place my works grow with gentle layer upon layer. Just occasionally I like to work with more energetic input, responding rapidly to each brush stroke. But if I had to choose only one way of working, it is the quiet reflective way that suits me best.

I may be working hard at the moment, but I am not being particularly creative. It is time for more "stuff management"...

Today I am grateful for helping hands.

4 November 2009

the list

Reluctantly I accept that I wont be harvesting my olives this week. The weather has packed it in and pickers are hard to find. A local will do the work, for a half share of the oil, but the olives wont be picked for another ten days or so. I was becoming quite possesive about the crop and the process, so I have had to let go. Big sigh. Meanwhile I am hoping that we (neighbours and I) might do the pickling olives on Sunday.

On a brighter note, work is coming along nicely in the palazza. I have outlined the panels and doors (photos tomorrow maybe) and it is beginning to look a little more finished. Today every time I turned around someone had borrowed my ladder, and the light went out several times as electricians worked upstairs. But at the end of the day I had painted many metres of geometrical design and it felt like progress!

Pickle is asleep under my bed, keen to behave now the cold is coming. Chewing my wrist brace was not a good idea however; she was severely reprimanded, and is now safely away from my "Noh! Noh! Noh!" Zacchi has decided that Pickle is smelling very interesting. Separate dorms time!

So, olives are off the list, Pickle is at the top of it now, and the other jobs are being ticked off slowly but steadily.

Today I am grateful for our wonderful bread, baked in a wood-fired oven.

3 November 2009

clutter queen

To my great delight I read that "big picture people" are notoriously messy. At last I have an excuse! It is not so many days ago that my computer desk was ordered, tidy, not an unnecessary thing on it.

Today...

Hair tie
Newsweek magazine
Camera
Reading glasses
Moisturiser
Wristwatch
Owl shaped earrings
Clothespeg (no, I have no idea!)
Hand cream
Dictionary (maybe that is essential)
Mosquito spray (WAS essential, not so much now)
Wheat bag
Massage oil
Tissues
Business card holder
Headphones
History book in Italian (hence dictionary?)
Old Ryanair ticket
and of course the things that should be there as well :-)

and under the desk: jandals, running shoes, house shoes, stapler and hole punch (so that's what crashed!)

The crazy thing is that I really LOVE it when my house is tidy, I LIKE an ordered work space. There just always seems to be something more important to do...

Today I am grateful for the flavours in my lunchtime soup.

food for thought

"The more we sweat in peace,
the less we bleed in war."

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
.

2 November 2009

from daily peace quotes

If you think you're too small to have an impact,
try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.

—Anita Koddick
.

1 November 2009

end of an era?

(Draft only)

Has the financial crisis had an interesting spin-off that will be written about in art history assignments in years to come?

Currently running at the Tate Modern is "Pop Life: Art in a Material World" (until January 17). The timing and significance of this exhibition is the subject of the October "Newsweek" article entitled "Pop Goes the Market". Writer Christopher Werth discusses the impact of the financial crisis on the contemporary art market.

The art market remained bouyant at the beginning of the "decline of the material world" (my term, not a quote). Sothebys sold Damien Hirst works for a total of £111 million (around $US200 million) after the recession had hit. But the (over-inflated?) confidence in the art market bottomed out quickly, prices falling by 50% and expected to drop another 30 to 80% of pre-crash prices, and I suspect that with this fall we might also identify the end of the post-1950s art movement known as "Pop Art".

If Pop art began with Andy Warhol and his exploration of the mass media through his art, did it end with this world banking crash? Werth writes "But as the Great Recession takes its cultural toll - excess is out, thrift is in - art's flashiest, wealthiest practitioners (and their loyal customers) now appear as out of step with the "new norm" of financial restraint as bankers pocketing multimillion-dollar bonuses on Wall Street." (Newsweek, October 19 2009, p.48). This set me thinking about art movements, how and why they come and go, and where we all sit in the big big picture.

Have we seen the swan-song of this flashy era, where gold and diamonds command huge prices as collectors fall for the marketing hype, or will Pop art continue, with the brand-marketing celebrity artists filtering themselves off into a sub-genre that will re-emerge when the financial rollercoaster eases onto smoother tracks?

Not being a particularly "material girl" myself I quite like the prospect of the market leaders becoming a mere, transient, sub-genre! But don't get me wrong; I have respect for these artists (as well as a fondness for a Hirst made entirely out of dead flies) and believe that they are a product of the society that we live in, reflecting in their work the social and economic times.

That, surely, is what art is about. The true histories are not written in books, but may be read by looking retrospectively at the collective art of any period. Knowing who commissioned work, how art was valued, and what messages and values are represented surely gives us a better insight into how society functioned at any one period of time than a history book in which the author may or may not disclose his own political bias.


Footnote: The expression "15 minutes of fame" was coined by Andy Warhol.

31 October 2009

sometimes a pumpkin

...but today I was Cinderella. It's Halloween, but I think I'll choose another fairy tale instead.

I spent this morning in the palazzo all alone... and with no distractions other than my work my imagination had a field day, imagining the magnificent staircase and rooms in different eras. Have I walked up this wonderful staircase in beautiful gowns, with delicate slippers on my tiny feet? Or are my size 41 broadfit running shoes the only ones that know this marble?

I wonder if that is why I don't like television very much? Things are so much more colourful, the music so much more to my liking, in my mind. I have far more choice as well; the imagination knows no bounds! It isn't hard to prefer my own thoughts to what is offered on the free-to-air channels, but I do admit that they are useful for revising my vocabulary.

This morning I found the "sweet spot" in the "music room" of the palazzo as "Po Kare Kare Ana" reverberated, my vocal chords unfettered by listening workers. No, I didn't tape it! But I did think about the Kiwi soldiers who were living in the building, singing to their guitars in the same place 65 years ago. I wonder what songs they sang, as they wrote to their sweethearts at home?

Now to prepare the panels for the room, and tick that job off the list as well.

Today I am grateful for "Eskimo slippers".


Later:


heeheeeheeeheeehaaaaa
I'm going out for pizza shortly. I was going to a Halloween dinner in another town, but the travel arrangements didn't work out. I was disappointed at first, but now I have an evil plan! The halloween torches with a selection of shadow images wont be wasted! I am ready to go out, and had time to play...

Dressed with Halloween earrings (brown owls with orange shining eyes, the black cat ones I have already worn this week, and the pumpkin ones I thought I had are not there... did I give them away, perhaps?) I shall slip a torch up my jacket sleeve... there will be a bat image shining down onto the footpath as I walk with my unsuspecting English friends. I wonder if I can manage two torches, perhaps a jack-o-lantern on the other side?

Who says that "grownups" can't have fun?

Today I am also grateful for a sense of mischief!

30 October 2009

friday came fast

I can't believe the week is over already. Wasn't it only yesterday that it was Monday? I tidied all my pots and pans and paints and brushes into the corner, made sure that the sponge was in clean water, and walked out of the building into beautiful sunlight. I am thinking of going back to work tomorrow and taking Monday off, but deep down I suspect that when tomorrow comes I will have changed my mind. I do work so much better when it is peaceful though, and I suspect from this afternoon's activity that all the apartment doors will be hung on Monday; that will be a noisy event.

We are having incredible weather, well into the 20s and with glorious blue skies. It's not even cold at night yet... the bathroom is still warm enough for me and that is usually the telling factor. Last night's fire was for ambience, not warmth.

Photos of autumn coming.

29 October 2009

drat drat drat

I am missing my temporary flatmate already. I have no idea what to eat tonight! He was only here for a short time while relocating to Rome, but it was rather nice having someone to share the shopping and the dishes with. We even managed some real conversation, but my lack of serious Italian did frustrate him terribly! I suspect I will also miss the unending supply of grapes that arrived home with him each evening. How did he know that they would always be gone the next day? On the plus side, I have my computer back, my pages will stay up where I want them, and my television now works. It also augurs well for the real flatmate arriving next year, that will be fun!

I found that I eat better meals when I have to think of someone else as well. I think I would be pretty hard to live with, but compromise might be worth the effort.

Something to ponder though. As he gathered his things to leave this morning he made the mild observation that being in my house was rather like living in a studio... I suspect he was referring to the endless number of work stations, my lack of domesticity and no apparent order in my chaos. Ah well, colourful and welcoming it is, you can't deny me that!

Today I am grateful for shared evenings.

PS I'll start with a beer and a bag of Hula Hoops (thanks CyNICal) while I think about dinner... maybe I should try a more Bohemian lifestyle for a bit?

PPS I progressed to peanut butter toast and milo made with full milk.

PPS With a glass of red by the fire, a magazine or three to read, the kitchen clean and tidy and Zacchi curled up at my feet I'm pretty OK. There may not have been a balanced meal, but there was no compulsory watching of TV at my house tonight!

full potential

I'll write this blog when it is fully formed in my head. This post is to make sure that I do it.

In brief, though, I think that we must always do what we can to reach our full potential. I don't mean striving to the point of stress or unhappiness, but working steadily to that place of completion, when you know that all is right in your world.

Maslow, I always did think that you knew what you were talking about.

28 October 2009

christmas chocolate

The wonderful Italian chocolates, not available over the summer months, are back in the shops again. Will Power, wherefore art thou? I think it is most (un)fortunate that my favourites, Mon Cheri, are among the expensive and not to be munched every day. The box I bought for my sister is already half gone.

Today progress was difficult to mark at work. I did a little bit of this, a little bit of that... nothing really worth photographing. The surrounds of the round window are finished, I will add that photo later. I continue to be frustrated by a huge spa pool which is sitting between me and a wall I need to work on. Not only is it stopping my progress, but it also blocks my light. Other areas are held up because they need plastering. I will soon run out of the things that I can do, which might be a blessing as it will give knee and wrists time to settle again.

Today I measured for panelling up in the apartment where I worked initially. The acoustics in that room are amazing; I couldn't resist a little echo testing. Even my warbles sounded good - well, at least to my ear! (Don't feel obliged, I didn't actually record it for public viewing. Please keep in mind that these were tiny little sounds made very tentatively so that the other workers didn't hear me).

Today I am grateful for handcream.

video

i have discovered

that it is difficult to blow out matches with a paintbrush in your mouth
that quiche doesn't cook when the gas bombola runs out
that two dogs create 4 times more poop than one
that I would rather live alone than be second to a TV set
that my expectations from life don't change
that laughter really is the best medicine
that the generosity of friends is amazing

Today I am grateful for
yellow leaves on trees.

26 October 2009

bits and bobs

It's the little things that count. Every day I bend down to wash my brushes, fill my bucket, use the hose. This morning some thinking person had lifted the hose up to a much more user friendly position, tucking it in behind a downpipe - a copper downpipe, I might add! Why didn't I do that?

I have a love-hate relationship with the entry to our building. It is a shared space, quite magnificent if painted and re-dressed, but noone but me cleans it. I hadn't swept for many weeks, and it certainly showed. I was being obstinate... but in the end I crumpled. There are limits, after all! OK, so it's not a love-hate relationship with the entry, I love it unconditionally and wish I could restore it too to the grandeur it once had. It's the dirt I hate to see there.

I have a slight knee problem (recurring but not a major) but long doggy walks are out of the question. Those pleading eyes certainly know how to make me feel bad!

to be continued...

25 October 2009

different music

This weekend has seen some YouTube time, sharing different cultures through music. One video took a lovely tour through rural New Zealand to the tune of Pa Mai, kareoke style. If I had learnt to speak Maori when I was young I am sure learning Italian whould be so much easier now... at least as far as pronunciation goes!

I spent some quiet time perusing the many files, in a strange kind of nostalgic place. In the end I returned to Kiri Te Kanawa, singing a range of songs in English and Italian. These seem to suit my multi-cultural space.

Right now the autumn sun reaches into the house; the windows are open and the chanting of the soccer supporters floats up from the valley below. Daylight saving has finished,the leaves are turning a glorious yellow.

From my peaceful perch on the hillside I can close my eyes, listen to music, and transport myself anywhere I choose. Zacchi and Pickle, however, want me to stay here, go walking, and maybe, if I am good, they will let me photograph the autumn colours.

Today I am grateful for inter-cultural tolerance.

24 October 2009

beautiful sunset

Back in the "good old days" we had autograph books where we wrote little rhymes and messages. I hope mine still exists somewhere, but I haven't seen it for far too many years. It came to mind because this evening we have a particularly spectacular autumn sunset. I was driving home from a huge funeral when I saw it, and then from my kitchen it simply intensified as though it was giving Mirella a fabulous farewell.

The whole town farewelled this 59 year old, taken far too soon. She had been at the local Wednesday market every week since she was a child, and, as I heard so many times today, never said a bad word about anybody, and was always ready with a smile and a quick retort. The main street was simply choked with cars. The band (which often leads a funeral cortege) blocked the road from one direction, the traffic in chaos completely choked it from the other direction. I too parked in the middle of the street blocking others in.

An Italian friend who travels frequently said once that he likes to visit schools and cemeteries, as you can tell a lot about a nation by the way it treats its young and its dead. I think I would add to that the nation's health care systems as well.

I have been to more funerals than celebratory events here. Friends go to the homes prior to the event, and all leave for the church in a procession. I don't usually do this, but today was driving a relative of the family. We parked at least a kilometre from the house, and as the house was at a crossroad I estimate that there were at least 5 kilometres of cars outside the home before leaving for the church. Outside the church were so many more.

Mourners filled the street, the people there in greater numbers than for any festive procession. Here many follow the hearse on foot, sometimes walking as far as 4 kilmetres from the church to the cemetery. Today the band led the way. Huge wreaths are mounted on a separate vehicle, this following directly behind the band.

Outside we talked as the service continued in the church. We all silently reviewed our own lives, and resolved to live more for today, and to seek a better balance of work and relaxation.

The quote from the autograph book that I remember quite often was this:
"May there be just enough clouds in your life to make a glorious sunset".


Today I am grateful for honest communication with good friends.

23 October 2009

really tis friday

...aching feet, tired eyes, we wont even think about the legs and back for now, they are taking their turns, but it is FRIDAY and work is over for the day! Hoorah!

Now to shower, drink tea, pour gallons of moisturiser into parched hands and put the feet up for a bit. I am constantly grateful for my comfortable couch!

Photos later - maybe!

Today I am grateful for tasty pasta with lentils.

22 October 2009

feels like friday

Home, tired, showered and clean. It feels like Friday. Couldn't I start the weekend early, please?

The stairwell is progressing, a little faster today. I finally found a way to get some light. I climbed up onto the scaffolding that is waiting for the workers who will clean before I paint, and I removed two panels. Instant light! I had been working in the shadow of the monster.

This afternoon the kiwi do-it.yourselfer came unstuck! I was up there again, moving the second lot of scaffolding, when the boss came in. I had made rather a lot of noise and sent a shower of rubble down the stairwell. Too dangerous, he says, for me to be up there dismantling it. I didn't confess to how I got light this morning. The good thing is, though, that a light has been found. It is a little harsh, creating brilliant glare in places and dark shadows in others, but it is portable and I can move it to where it serves me best.

The plan is to finish all but the inevitable touching up and retouching of the stairwell by tomorrow evening. Being an optimist will help!

This morning the storms hit us for a while. Water poured down from the mountain, making gushing rivers down the pretty little streets. I watched with huge relief as it travelled speedily on its way over my concrete, not lingering to soak down into the cantina. Whew!

Today I am grateful for a red raincoat and yellow umbrella.

21 October 2009

oil required

Maybe I should drink olive oil instead of wine. I am sure my joints are starting to creak as I go up and down the stairwell. Or is it the change of season? It can't POSSIBLY be old age or over-exertion!

The beautiful window on the first landing:Today I am grateful for messages from afar.

20 October 2009

progress on the walls

Today another worker on site - there were three of us today, lost in the huge building until the smell of coffee drew us all to the same spot - reassured me as he said "Now it is starting to be something" or words to that effect. I have been an age already, working on the stairwell. Last week I undercoated, and trialed some colours. Yesterday I used rabbitskin glue and tempera (sorry TK and all the rabbits) to age the new paint. I haven't attempted to hide the joins between old and new, but hope that the top and bottom lines will hold it all in a satisfactory way.

As worked my way up and down the stairwell, with all my colours and mediums, the other workers seemed a little bemused at what I was doing. I guess they had reason as I had trays, tubes, rulers, rags, brushes of all sizes, and I roamed up and down touching up a little here and reworking something else there, not completing a single section. At coffee time they asked about my brew, the rabbitskin glue heating on the gas burner. They seemed unconvinced, slightly incredulous at the lengths I was going to to recreate what still looked like an amateurish mess.

This afternoon, after changing one section and reworking parts already "finished", I worked on those top and bottom lines. About half an hour before knock-off time the more senior man looked at the stairwell, smiled warmly, and affirmed that it was coming together.

It is about time!

Today I am grateful for positive comments.

PS Scroll back a few posts for updated photos.

19 October 2009

tired

but still much to do!

The view from the top of the construction site is worth taking the extra flights of stairs.


Today I am grateful for willing helping hands and company for dinner.

18 October 2009

all about texture

Pasta is all about texture. It doesn't seem to matter how many different types you have lined up in canisters or packets along the shelves, chances are that the one you really want on any day is not there. Despite my efforts to keep life simple the range of pasta in my own kitchen continues to grow.

I am trying to learn the names of a few favourites, but they still all sound similar to me. There is some progress though; I can now stand at the supermarket shelf and imagine them cooked, visualising the appropriate sauce, vegetables or meat in each steaming bowl. I remember them better in translation: butterflies, little butterflies, big butterflies, snails, ears, little ears, shells, and yes, you can even buy alphabet pasta. I have yet to check which alphabet has been used, as the Italian alphabet does not have j, k, w, x or y. You can read the names of the letters of l'alfabeto italiano here.

I got on the scales this morning, not something I do very often. Pasta and pizza damage minimal. Chocolate and cheese... that's another story!

First fire for the season:I am looking forward to winter soups and healthy living.

Today I am grateful for sun-ripened tomatoes.

17 October 2009

15 October 2009

my little champion

Last night it was pretty cold. Well, comparatively cold. Our temperatures dropped dramatically, and the torso has yet to adjust to the new regime. Today I have three layers of (summer) clothing and am too hot. Yesterday two were barely enough to keep warm. It is time to hunt out the winter clothes.

But in the meantime I decided to heat the kitchen with the gas heater. I was given two some time ago when the owners no longer wanted them. One has always performed well, the other rather erratically. At the end of last winter I was down to using one, not wanting to mess about with gas. Two weeks ago the oven bombola ran out of gas, so I stole the partly used one from a heater. Yes, of course, Murphy saw to it that I stole from the good heater.

Last night I lit the "other" heater, not knowing which it was. I could smell gas, but the flame seemed to be fine. The connections checked out OK. I pushed the heater near the "natural ventilation" of the old door with holes in it, and I opened the window a fraction. I figured I was safe enough if I tried it for a short while. Zacchi, a gas heater magnet, came in. He loves the gas heater so much he has even woken me on a cold night asking to have it put on. It is his favourite spot, between the heater and the computer, for the winter.

He looked worried. Well, more worried than usual. He wouldn't sit in front of the heater. He went from side to side, around the back, sniffing, not settling, then looking at me, trying to tell me something. I assured him that I had checked the fittings, all was OK, it was just the gas from start-up. He wasn't convinced. He went to the oven and sniffed all around that bombola, looking at me as if to say "Listen to me! This is what it should be like." He did the whole ritual of sniffing around the heater, then over to the other bombola, twice more. When I still didn't move he gave little short barks.

I got up and turned it off. I removed the bombola and attached it to the other heater. I wrote "Bad Heater" in the dust on the ummm... bad heater. By then I was well and truly warm, no heater required.

Tonight I will try the other heater, with my little champion beside me.

Today I am grateful for my faithful companion.

14 October 2009

how did it get to be wednesday?

Today my "best room" (ie, the one that functions as lounge, guest room, studio, dressing room and so on) was measured for new window and doors. All my exhausting work across the road will be converted into double glazed objects of beauty with chestnut coloured wooden surrounds. I would love to continue through the whole house, but pian piano, let's start with where the winter wind blows!

Right now I am really really regretting ordering and part-paying for the kitchen doors; it would have been lovely to have them all the same, but with the treatment two little dogs would give them it is probably best that they are alluminium - assuming that they will arrive before THIS winter!

Tomorrow my Christmas present arrives early... and with her probably some earl grey tea! Better go sort the fireplace so it is all ready to light when we get home from the airport.

Today I am grateful for the exercise I am getting up and down the stairs.

12 October 2009

only 75 days

Today an incoming email proclaimed "Only 75 days till Christmas".

I am not sure I wanted to know how quickly the year has flown by. This Christmas I intend doing something completely different, but I have yet to decide what! Because I don't like the terribly commercial side of Christmas I think I will focus on a beautiful meal and a little excursion somewhere new. Thinking about what it might be is becoming like a game. Do I want to do this? Or that? Or maybe something else? There is something rather nice about looking at options, weighing up the weather, the distance, the possibilities. I used to avoid that because it highlighted being alone, but now I enjoy being a little self-indulgent.

I will visit the displays of the nativity scenes. I will probably go to midnight mass with friends. I will sleep in as long as Zacchi permits. And then, my kitchen will fill with the smells of Kiwi cooking!

But there are 101 things to do before then. I had better get back to them!

Today I am grateful for a promise kept.

11 October 2009

beneath the skin

A discussion about religion this morning had me sharing this post written by a UK Muslim woman. When I first read this I found myself saying "how true, how true". I think that the more I live in this "free, liberal" culture, the more I understand that such freedom can also be a form of entrapment.

I defend my right to dress in comfortable clothing, to wear jeans that fit in my definition of "fit", to wear make-up only when I feel like it, and to wear shoes that support me and wont lead to a shakey fall.

Today another beautiful bride was married in our beautiful, ancient church. As I headed up towards the piazza in my NZ footwear, purchased with good grip on cobblestones in mind, I passed a young couple going down. She had her hand delicately on his shoulder, walking a little behind, her head slightly turned. At first I thought she was unable to see. But see she could; once again it was the incredible shoes causing the delay. They made slow if beautiful progress down the sloping cobblestone path.

It could be that I am the one trapped in my own stubborn ways, or that I am unknowingly envious of the beautiful and the elegant. But, at the end of the day, I know which form of supposed entrapment I prefer. Give me the hijaab over the heels any day!

Today I am grateful for a mind of my own.

10 October 2009

on glass

Today I visited the next task, painting on a large mirror already glued to the wall. It will be a challenge. Still, that's what keeps life interesting!

The task:
Paint on vertical glass (I will be using only light red, yellow, blue and a mushroom/brown colour to achieve all my shades).
Pick up the colours in the room, with a muted yellow of the curtains and the bronze of the door being the dominant tones.
Blend a lively freehand painting with a mix of classical Italian and modern furnishings.
This must be completed around the palazzo work. Luckily it is in the neighbouring building.

Wish me luck!

Today I am grateful for home made pasta.

9 October 2009

patience, or lack of

Ok, so patience is not my middle name. I promised myself that if I stopped fiddling tonight and put my brushes away (twice dipped into the orzo, nice colour for the cabinet actually) I could take the masking tape off and see it without the splashy edges.Now to resist completing the details, working on the faces, and touching up the little bleeds and rough edges; it is a long way from dry.Later: This second photo is taken when dry, today, Saturday, in daylight. The effect when the painting is on my mantlepiece is much more dramatic. I am happy with it, even though the camera doesn't catch the light and dark effectively. I will finish the details tomorrow. Distance helps sometimes.

PS: Some of the not-so-straight lines are actually the paper cockling because I didn't stretch it. They will settle out later. It is 300gsm hot press, but I use so much water that I really need to stretch this too.

friday night progress

I am trying very hard to keep this loose and fresh, knowing that at the "tidying up" stage I will be tempted to go into too much detail.

It is almost ready for me to pull off the masking tape, when the clean edge will make it so much nicer. I am trying hard to resist... it has to be dry, have one more wash, and then I can really start to have fun with it. Can I wait until tomorrow? Or will I use the hairdrier on it?


Posting this has really helped me to see the flaws. They jump out when I am one removed from looking at the real object, where the eye tends to see what the brain thinks should be there!

never-ending story...

When I finished touching up the fresco and a few lines in the entry of the palazza I thought that my work was almost done. It seems to keep growing though... I have not finished the walls, or their decorations, but have started on the lower stairwell while I wait for the plasters to finish their part.

Yesterday a new set of scaffolding went up in the stairwell on the top floor, a part where I go only to peek at the view or to look at progress in the apartments. I wondered what repair work needed doing. Today the boss, with a cheerful grin, said that the scaffolding is for me... and it is NOT the part where I know I have more scaffolding work. I don't think he was joking.


Today I am grateful for the beautiful views all around me.

8 October 2009

i suppose

I suppose I should be grateful that the dogs insist on taking me walking, no matter how tired I am. It's really good of them to care so much.

Zacchi, to show that he is pleased with my efforts, trots along like a little champion, not pulling, not running on the road, not even sniffing the cats or the rubbish bins.

Pickle, on the other hand... has a mind of her own!

Today I am grateful for some exercise after a tiring day.

7 October 2009

slow but steady

Today was a bit tiring, and there was not so much time for the watercolour tonight. A little bit of progress, but not as much as I would have liked. I came close to losing the likeness on the seated figure while working on her eye make-up, but I think I have saved it. There is more work to do around the eyes of both women. I need to bring back the smile of the younger woman which disappeared in the last wash, and add the details of the eyes once the flesh tones have dried.

I am working in variable light conditions and must walk away in that "betwixt and between" stage when it is not quite time for the artificial light but the natural light is too fickle.

Today I am grateful for steady balance on the ladder.

6 October 2009

day two after painting walls

The shift from sponging walls to look like marble during the day to painting a watercolour in the evening is a big jump but a welcome change as well. Here is the next stage. I am blocking in colour to get some depth, then I will work more on the mirror images. There is a cabinet of china to go in the background later. This photo was taken with only the light of a lamp and I quite like the effect. Perhaps I will use this as a reference for final washes.

Today I am grateful for my midday dinner (thanks Franca).

5 October 2009

gently does it

As promised, to keep me honest, the first stages of the double portrait. It has taken me a while to get the correct mirror images, best angles and composition sorted, but I think I have got it now.

I am working from photographs which I have reversed to give the mirror image which is what the portrait is about. Getting the relative positions of mother and daughter, along with the hairdresser standing behind the bride (he will be in the picture but out of the mirror), almost did my head in. If they are looking in at this angle, they should be looking out at ? angle... and on it went. By comparison the relatively complicated background should seem simple!
I am not sketching too much background or foreground in yet; should I happen to lose a likeness I don't want to waste hours of measuring and drawing.

Today I am grateful for this wonderfully mild October weather.