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Ciao Everybody,

Today, Tuesday May 20th, is my real birthday. My birth certificate shows that I have reached the age of seventy but I find this hard to believe. It has been a great seventy years.

I was talking about age with Malcolm this morning. I said that if I live as long as Mom lived, I still have twenty-seven years to go. He said he expected me to sail past one hundred. I don't think so. I have much longer legs than Mom and I have always thought that long-legged people do not last as long as those with short legs, something to do with gravity. Malcolm says he thinks that is nonsense.

My two assistants have maintained their enthusiasm for planting flowers.

My birthday presents include a super powerful pair of binoculars (from Malcom) to feed my fascination with all the activities in the valley below and a cell phone (Becky and Roberto) so they can keep tabs on me. Nowadays it seems everyone over the age of ten has a cell phone. I wonder who pays the bills.

I received several messages after last week's newsletter telling me that it is okay if I ramble on. I will still try to keep the letters reasonably short because then you will not be disappointed on the occasions when the week has failed to produce much of interest to tell you.

I will start with the week's painting. I have only the progress on my Santa Maria to show you because the two paintings I completed, I have already sent back to Virginia. With Santa Maria, I have reached the point from which I can start to do the detailed work. I really love this church and it is a joy to be portraying it. I hope to have it finished by next week.

The start of the Santa Maria del Calcinaio.

In my last letter, I told you I was looking for a kitchen. I have chosen a Pullman style layout. In this small apartment, I did not want to give up a lot of space and besides, I am not a great cook. Cooking to Italians rates as important as their national sport of soccer. It is taken very seriously. Both my Italian sons-in-law are excellent cooks, as are most Italian men, having learned from their mothers.

When Roberto took me to visit the shops that specialize in kitchens, there were three close by, all with stunning displays that left me dazzled. I am delighted with my eventual choice. It has incredibly good cabinet space and large twin basins and the whole thing fits perfectly. What has amazed and delighted me is that the whole thing has been installed within the week. Again, thanks to Roberto, the plumber, the electrician and the installation team all arrived at their appointed times, or earlier, and performed with the utmost efficiency.

Enza attends to the rice for risotto in her kitchen while her assistant grates the Parmesan. In the background the TV is showing the lunchtime cooking program.

Meanwhile, I have been learning the Italian way to prepare and cook meals. Enza has been my teacher. Here, away from the big cities, lunch is accorded great respect. Businesses close between 12 noon and 3 p.m. and, since it is only a short distance away, most people go home to cook and eat. I have been assistant chef to Enza and in the process I have picked up some of the elements.

While we work we listen and partly watch the daily cooking program that runs for an hour and half on the television. This is prime time viewing because everyone is home. What has been an eye opener to me is the amount of olive oil, garlic and tomatoes a family consumes in a week. I have been far too stingy with the olive oil in the past. Now I will be freer with it, particularly as it may be the reason the Italians have far less heart attacks then we do in the States.

On Thursday I listened to our President addressing the Spanish peoples’ breakfast prayer meeting in Washington DC. He praised the Spanish strength of "La Familia" (the family). The same exists here in this small Italian community where the family is extensive and strong and the children cherished, not only by parents, but also by cousins and neighbors. I am very happy that Sofi and Michi are so well loved.

One afternoon Michi and I explored a path between olive trees and a bank of poppies. The next day when we returned the long grass and the poppies had been cut down.

This coming Saturday we are looking for a comfortable couch...(Hey! I am adopting the Italian way of saying things. If the future is inffered, Italians usually do not use the words "going to")...What fun to be furnishing an apartment again! It is turning out to be very different from anything I have done before. Hopefully I will have the couch to show you next week.

I continue to pick up Italian words from Sofi, Michi and Enza. Sofi has an acute ear and makes me keep saying a word to her until I get the correct pronunciation. Malcolm is deaf and totally tone deaf and so for him pronoucniation "e molto difficile" but his study of Spanish gives him an advantage with vocabulary and grammar.

A la prossima settimana. (Until next week).


The Moss Portfolio
HC 69 Box 17118 Poplar Grove Lane
Mathews, VA 23109
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©P. Buckley Moss 2003