Saturday, December 22, 2012

Italian Chimneys

Hello there.  I am in Oakland, receiving email photos from Manuele on the progress of our apartment in Umbertide.  The chimney in the family room is being opened up so it will be big enough to cook bruschetta and be warm while we watch tv.  It is quite a production.

I wonder if Santa could get down this chimney?
It is going to be beautiful one day.  Manuele has had major problems with his back and has gone to the doctor for cortisone shots.  Ugh.  He said it was horrible.  He has 3 slipped disks, and he is only 37.  Not good.

On the good news front, our friend Joseph and Paul finally sold their house in Mill Valley. Yeah! It looks like everything will be coming together for the final move to Umbertide some time this spring.

Yesterday the Stoic One and I went to K-Mart (a discount department store).  We went to the lay away department and randomly paid off 2 people's lay aways.  Our only criteria was that the items in the lay away needed to be children's toys.  We found two great looking accounts, that were steadily paying but had not made their final payment.  They will be very happy to get the call that their account was paid!

We are off to southern California for Christmas.  I hope that all of you have a very Happy Holiday and a very prosperous new year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I am back in Oakland beginning to stress myself out.  There are many reasons for this.  First, Christmas always stresses me out even when there is nothing to do.  Next I am stressed out thinking about all of the things in the future we need to do to get ready to move to Italy.  So far all we have done is pack our books up in some boxes, and talk endlessly about what we should do next. Then I am still working which is good stress but stress none the less. 

Mainly I am stressed out about this book I have finished. It is called My Five Stones and it is a spiritual memoir.  I have been writing it for about 7 years and I finally finished it.  Quite an accomplishment you say?  You have no idea.  I'll get to kitchens in a minute but first you are going to have to go down my stress path with me.

Ok, so I finish the book, now what?  The first thing was to write a "query letter" to an agent to see if they would represent my book to a publisher.  The publisher gives you and advance, of say $5000 unless you are Steven King, and any book you sell a percentage goes to the agent, the publisher than you.  You practically never make your advance back.  Still the ego presses forward and I am determined to be published. Let me tell you the things I have riding against me according to the reject letters.   1. Never published before.  2. Never published before 3. A book about women in prison? Yuk!  Sigh.  So I kept torturing myself with rejection letters and eventually I decided to go straight to an Ebook on Kindle.  This has been a long process that I will not bore you with.  Anyway, it is finally edited, proofed, etc.  Ok that is all good.  Now, I have to find someone who has published a book, who will read my manuscript and say something nice about it.  Sigh.  Very stressful.  So far this project has cost me 7 years of my time, and white hair added to my gray hair.  If it is ever ready to go, I will let you know.

Now about kitchens.  Here is a picture of my kitchen in Oakland.

We were discussing the kitchen layout in Italy with Manuele.  As you can partially see this is a basic U Shaped kitchen.  There is a door behind me, the stove and the Stoic One's area are to the left, my lovely sink and dishwasher are to the right, peninsula straight ahead.  Fairly typical.

Ok.  So, we get a U-shape design for Italy and Manuele has a fit.  Where is your privacy, he says.  You are going to have to keep your kitchen neat all the time.  I nod clearly not getting the point.  Ok, he says, clearly trying to impress a point upon me that I am not getting.  Say you have a bottle of red wine and you drop it on the kitchen floor.  Sounds like me, I say.  Ok he says, what are you going to do, just clean it up in front of everyone, ask your guests to help you?  I think this is a legitimate choice, not hyperbole, so I say, ask my guests to help me.  He looks horrified.  No...Susannnnn....You can not have this open space.  I respond it is a very American thing to have an open space kitchen.  As a matter of fact, The Stoic One chimes in, people actually walk right through my kitchen to get to the seating area.  Manuele didn't believe me, so I had to take this picture to show him.  Later on, he said, I have also heard that Americans put their things right on the street to sell them.  This is true Manuele, it is called a garage sale even though we put things out on the curbs.  He answers, why you do this Susan.  I say to sell things.  He gives me the same blank stare I gave him earlier. You think we are having cultural differences?  I'm going to take a picture of a garage sale and send him.
More later. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December in Umbertide

We are back in Italy but for just a few moments.  We stayed in Rome one night, and then pushed on to get here.  I liked it much better than arriving in the middle of the night to a cold and dark place.  We will leave here on Friday and be back in California on Saturday.  A whirlwind trip.  I always wonder why we make these trips so short when we are here.  When I am home in Oakland, I always say we can't stay long because of my work or whatever.  A dilemma. Reminder to self, 14 days in the minimum stay here, 10 days is way too short to even adjust to the time zone changes!

We have had a variety of weather here.  Sunny, raining and foggy.  The market is here today, and unlike California, there are only autumn things for sale: persimmons, leeks, potatoes, pomegranates.  The market is filled with oranges, reds and browns, just like the landscape.

The fog across the valley looks like a large cloud just plopped down between the mountains.  There is something romantic and sad about the fog. Maybe I have seen too many English movies with single women walking through the mists only to meet their untimely demise. Thankfully, the sun is now starting to break through and there are pink streaks on the tops of the hills.  The Tevere is a muddy green from all of the rain, but the sky is blue and the color of the river is starting to change. I wish you all were here to see it with me.

While we were gone the grandmother of Max died.  Now the estate is being contested by the mother and the cousins and the nieces.  Thank god we are not in process of buying that apartment.  I am sure it will sit empty for the next 50 years, and the attorneys will "eat" all of the money in the estate, according to the Italians.

They brought a 30 meter Christmas tree into the piazza yesterday.  I don't know how many feet that is but it is huge.  It was quite the production getting it into the piazza, off the truck and into the stand.  They used a cherry picker to put on the lights, (only blue lights) but it won't be officially turned on until Saturday.

We are making progress with the new apartment.  Here are some "before" pictures.  Can't wait for you and Me to see the after pictures! This is our new front door.

Only 20 steps to get to the apartment, not 65!!!!!

This is our living room.  We will put in new hardwood floors and new windows.  There are 13 windows in the apartment, but we need to replace them with double pane windows if we will be able to afford the heating bill!

THis is the kitchen.  It is lacking a few things....they come to measure for the kitchen today and will make it to fit this space.  It is so much bigger than our current kitchen.  The Stoic One will be very happy.

I am standing in the kitchen area taking this toward what will be the TV room.  The window to the left is where we will have our breakfast table.  There is a little balcony off the french doors to the right.

This is my sister Sarah's bathroom, otherwise known as the guest bath.

View of Lucio's orto (garden) from Sarah's window.

View of master bath and master bedroom.  Lots to be done here.

We just met with a realtor who is going to list our little apartment for sale.  I have so loved this place. It probably will take forever to sell, so I won't worry about it.  I will miss this view but not the stairs!

Update on the Manuele family.  He is such a trip.  We were at Antonietta's (the mamma) for dinner and we were talking about the move over here.  I told him I was thinking about shipping over my MiniCooper and wondered about the process.  He said, there were some things that needed to be modified for Italian standards, but not much.  Should only cost a couple hundred euros according to him.  Then he looks at me suspiciously and says, "What color is the car?"  I happily respond it is purple with white stripes.  He looked as if he were going to faint dead away right in the middle of our lasagna. "Nooooo," he says.
"Yes,"  I say "that is the color."
"Bah, leave it in California," he says. Mamma nods agreement.
"But why." I ask even though I have told myself to NEVER ask why in Italy because the answer never makes sense.
'Everyone will know where you go," Mamma says and they all nod their heads in unison.
  (As if that doesn't happen now.)
When you come to Italy next, see if you see any purple cars.  If you do, undoubtedly, it will be ME!

Off to the market.