Daybook entry

by Laura A

I don’t think I’ve ever done a daybook entry for this blog.  In fact, I can’t remember for sure what the categories even are anymore, but here goes:

From the Kitchen, and into the Living Room

I have in hand my first caffe lungo since last September, excepting the ones my kind friend Jacqueline has made for me when I visit her kitchen.  I don’t make them much anymore because the stores near me only sell coffee ground for moka. But I went to the big Porto Palazzo market today and there I saw some whole coffee beans. It was somewhat awkward trying to explain to the store proprietor in Italian that I wanted coffee ground coarsely enough for a French press, and eventually he refused to go any finer, but I came home with 2 etti (200g) of freshly ground Arabica.  Tasting it now, I still think it’s a little too finely ground.

I made a cup for Sarie, too.  She took a look at the brown liquid in our thick, American restaurant-ware coffee cups and said, “Wow, that’s a lot of coffee. Did I used to drink two of those a day?” Now she’s sight-reading a Schumann quartet.  America is powered by caffeine.

The Schumann quartet was her friend’s suggestion for this summer’s IAM festival in Garfagnana. Yea!  We’re going back! And Sarie’s home schooled music friends from New York, whom we haven’t seen since we moved, are coming again, too. The Schumann is one of my favorite chamber pieces ever, so I’m all for it. Sounds like just the happy sort of music to play from the Bertolanis’ hilltop house.

Outside My Window

There’s a renovation going on in the apartment across the alley.  It has been going on for a month already, and knowing the Italian sense of time, it could be going on through the rest of the summer.  So I look at scaffolding and hear saws all the time.  Makes me feel at home, because the people across the hall from us in New York were renovating before we left. But there are no jackhammers involved, and someone has spray-painted a smiley face on the wall opposite the window.  It’s a friendly renovation.

My apartment also overlooks an upholster’s workshop and an auto repair shop.  With all the comings and goings, there’s also quite a lot of socializing.  I think I’m beginning to recognize the Piemontese accent, because one of the guys in the auto-repair shop sounds just like my butcher.  There’s a certain unusual tenor timbre to both voices.  And several times a day I am sure to hear a car door slam, followed by, “Ciao!  Angelo!”  I haven’t figured out yet which one is Angelo, but that’s mostly because I’m trying not to stare too much.  (And as if on cue, a door slams and the greetings begin again.)

And outside my kitchen window, there’s this:

I feel such satisfaction that these little plants from the market are already transplanted and starting to fill out their pots.

And the swallows are here!

Around the house

I am thinking it’s time to start fixing things up again.  I got extremely tired after the initial push to civilization last November and just gave up.  I didn’t want to buy anything else from IKEA and didn’t know quite where else to go that wasn’t one of the expensive antique shops near Balon.

And when I gave up, I really gave up.  As a result, there are still wires sticking out of the walls and boxes stacked up as lamp tables.  My clothes and all our coats are still hanging in cardboard wardrobes. And there’s no real furniture in the large entryway.  So, I’m on the lookout for inexpensive ways to make our home look a little better.


I read Charles Murray’s Coming Apart recently.  The statistics were interesting, and I suspect he’s right, but the whole scenario of a class split in the US really bothers me, and Murray never explains to my satisfaction why it is occurring or what we can do about it.  The emphasis is on what an efficient job our colleges do of sorting the population cognitively. What seems to be missing is any discussion of how a person can live realistically, yet honorably, by manual labor, or any sense that you can, or would want to, combine manual labor with intelligence.  Meanwhile, the media (not Murray necessarily) seems to look at any efforts at voluntary simplicity as nostalgia. Jefferson would roll over in his grave.

I’m also still reading The History of the Medieval World, by Susan Wise Bauer. She moves along with such speed, trying to cover so much, that sometimes the book degenerates into a list of rulers (and by default, assassinations).  But occasionally her anecdotes are quite memorable, and her dry humor makes me smile. And every now and then I sit down and read a few pages to Sarie, whose Western Lit to Dante class sometimes intersects with my reading.  This week we were trying to figure out where the Volsunga Saga and The Ring of the Nibelungs fit into the historical picture.

Speaking of Susan Wise Bauer, she’s wanting to open an agri-tourism business to counter all those hours spent writing.  So there’s someone trying to combine manual labor with the work of the mind.  But notice, it’s not primarily a farm.

Thinking About

What it takes to prepare a child to go out into the world, especially when you just moved to a different continent and the child wants to go into an extremely competitive field that doesn’t suggest she could easily pay back US student loans.

Thinking about why even state schools are expensive now and why very few of them have good music performance programs, and whether it’s even worth it to enter a music program unless it’s competitive.

Thinking about what a very strange junior year this has been for Sarie.  For all of us.

Thinking God knows what he has in mind for us better than I do.


I’m excited that two moms in our church had babies last week. I’m following our New York moms’ group custom of starting a meals list for the new moms. Our old group was quite efficient in providing a month’s worth of dinners. We did this for dozens of moms during my fourteen years in the city. Only I’m not sure Italians are used to doing e-mail lists, because I’ve only gotten one response so far.  No matter, I’m making soup to take over this afternoon anyway, and if no one else responds, I’ll go next week, too.  That way I get to see the babies more.

And I’ve discovered that Belgian endives on toast with Fontina and a slice of prosciutto makes a nice, quick dinner.

My, this is a long post!  See what a cup of American coffee can do?