Wednesday, December 23, 2020

 Merry Christmas to everyone.  

This will be a difficult holiday for most of us.  Back in March I never thought that this covid situation would take so long, at least now it seems that we can see a light at the end of the long tunnel.  Maybe by summer we can move around and enjoy some  travel.  I already have some ideas generating on this.  


Right now, on this day, we were to be on Lanzarote Island, one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.  We wanted to go and feel the peace that we find there.  It is so quiet, not crowded and the weather at this time of year does not require a jacket.  


There is a small market on Saturdays where you can find cheeses, breads, crafts, clothing and even a cigar maker.  There is a big volcano, and a small island off the northern side to visit.  





Mainly we sit while I paint while my wife knits and we enjoy the day, the sunshine, and later the food.  I miss this Lanzarote trip, I could live there so easily.


Ciao, Dave

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Winter Arrives in Northern Italy

 Buon Giorno

Bridge from 1100

Winter arrived yesterday with a dusting of snow, and we are projected to have more than a week of  cloudy skies.  Even though the weather experts have predicted this, the sun just broke through to bring out the birds to dine in our feeder.  Right now two doves are shoulder to shoulder porking out, while once in awhile looking up to see if danger is coming.  I think they are making up for yesterday where it was too cold to make a visit.

The virus continues to rise here in Italy, although a bit slower.  We are being told that during the holiday we will not be allowed to leave our municipality.  The are still working on the details on this rule, which should be finalized by tomorrow.  Life goes on here, as I have reported, everyone still wearing masks, and doing it correctly I might add.  I see people wearing them while driving.  I would hate to wear a mask all day at work, they are a pain, and get bothersome as I am sure you know.


I wanted to show you an old bridge we have in our village of Due Carrare.  It was built in the 1100's, and was used up until a few years ago, now being replaced by a stronger one right next to it.  The people who built it did a  fine job,  it lasting so long.  They added seats for people to sit and rest while enjoying a view of the canal below.  It makes a nice touch.  


One would hardly ever know this bridge exists, there is no big sign announcing it, pointing out its historical significance.  I know that if this bridge existed in the states, there would be a huge sign, parking lot, ticket booth, a hot dog /taco stand, two old farmers selling bad olive oil, several gardeners selling bio vegetables,  a few craft artists and a motel nearby.  That is how America works.  There are so many old structures here that people don't stop and consider much.  

In our village we have homes that were built in the 1100's still be used.  There is a canal that turns a waterwheel, and they used to have two of the wheels that were used to grind grain sitting out at another bridge.  Someone removed them, obviously realizing the market value I suppose.  

There is a television show in the US that has two guys who drive around America finding old stuff in garages, attics and basements.  They make deals to buy things they will sell later.  They collect cars, motorcycles, art, signs and more.  They are known as Mike and Frank, and they have been to Italy twice to buy cars and motorcycles, etc.  I watched those shows and laughed as they got taken to the cleaners by slick dealers here.  The Italian dealers here who collect things are not your country bumpkins, they are smart and know the prices and values of items people collect.  

I mention these two characters because on one of their shows they were asked to find some grain grinding wheels like we have here in our village.  Or had!  The person asking them was the original Star Trek's Captain Kirk, William Shatner.  They eventually found some wheels, brought them to Shatner's new home and presented them on the show.  Those wheels were quite expensive.  Maybe someone here watched that show and removed the wheels.  Maybe our mayor knows, I will have to ask him if I see him soon.  Or whenever the virus is finished!  

I usually spend my mornings in my painting studio working on some watercolor paintings.  I try to stay busy while we all hope for an end to this terrible world wide situation.  Here are some of my latest efforts.

A Rainy British Setting


A Blend of Slovenia & Greece
several photos used

A Castle in Slovenia


We just had a power loss here, for only 3 min. but somehow it froze my blog work and it is only possible to continue with centered text.  Sorry.

Therefore, I will show this final photo from the Jimmy Dore Show on youtube I frequently watch.  The topic:  cars in line to receive food because the people have no funds to buy food.  Where is this?   America, the richest nation that has ever existed in history.  All this while their government politicians are about to take another vacation after doing nothing but argue.  Their heads are in the sand.  Shameful



Ciao.














Wednesday, November 11, 2020

An Hour In The Life Of My Italian Village During Covid.

 

From My Village By Train in 40 Minutes

Welcome back to my What’s On My Plate blog.  Today I just wanted to capture a small snapshot of life in my small village.   You could drive through it in only 4 minutes.   I will relate what I saw in our main piazza.  What happens here, I believe, is typical of most small towns and villages in Italy.   In the next few minutes you can read a bit about a typical morning in Italy.  Let’s start off with a visit inside the town hall we call Municipio.



I went in for  a short visit with our town mayor in his office.  Mayors are called Sindaco in Italy and like any town around the world they do their best to keep the lid on things.  Right now he is very concerned with the virus and the economy.  Money is tight, and he has to juggle upkeep of the village and the resources to pay for it.   My mayor is young, likeable, and has a genuine smile.  He tells me that he is a secondary math educator when he is not sitting in the Sindaco’s chair.  


My visit was more than interesting as his office was the place where my marriage took place.  All his furnishings were put back in place, so it did look a bit different.  I gave him a new painting to hang on the wall.  He has a great viewpoint from his window which looks down on the piazza.  




The point of my visit was to discuss an idea for our village to have a museum dedicated to watercolor paintings.  There is only one other museum in Europe dedicated just to watercolors paintings.  I believe this would be a real plum for us and it would bring in people from out of our region.  Plus, watercolor paintings do not get the recognition they deserve as most of the ones owned by museums are laid away in a drawer and not displayed.  They are known to lose their color intensity due to sunlight.  However, now we have a glass that protects paintings from this problem.  The door is open for this, and I am very hopeful.


His office is large, and on the walls are many plaques, flags, notary letters and honors.  The windows, all across the front,  are large and so it is well lighted.  The walls are colored what I would call an office light brown.  The table where we sat was a good height and the chairs were comfortable.  Italian furniture can sometimes be quite small and low to the ground.  Maybe I should write a blog about Italian chairs and furniture, which is much like their less roomy and low to the ground automobiles.  I have a hunch that the airplane seat designers are all from Italy!


Judging from what I have read on Facebook during the past election, I figured that my mayor was upbeat and wanting to improve life for our citizens from the seniors to the young.  When he mentioned that the village will build a new library, which will include a small concert hall, workshop rooms, and more, I felt assured that he is the kind of fellow that can pull it off.  The museum for watercolors could be part of this building, which became a big part of our discussion.  I left with a good feeling and knowing that I will be able to be a voice in the future.


Upon leaving the Municipio I walked through the portico that memorializes the names of fallen soldiers of both wars.  For a small village there are a lot of names.  Many have the same last name.  Also found here are notices that the mayor and his staff wish people to be aware of.  During elections there will be big charts that have all the candidates and their parties placed next to their official logo.  There are many parties in Italy, unfortunately because of this they have trouble working together.  Things are difficult to bring to fruition when there are not enough votes.  


The sun felt warm and I sat down on a bench near the fountain that shoots streams of water several feet in the air.  At night this is lit up, a kind of miniature Bellagio Hotel atmosphere without the music.  When there are no cars going by you can hear a pleasant shooshing sound.  It was good to sit in the sun and do some people watching.  I heard a voice calling to his friend across the piazza, and after a few comments they waved and said, “Ciao!”  Two women crossed the busy street, one pushing a baby carriage.  They were dressed warmly in black jackets and tight jeans,  a fashion here.  They both had scarfs which is also an item that Italians, men and women, don’t leave home without.  Italians believe that if you get a chill on your neck, you have a good chance to come down with something.  


From behind me came another baby carriage, this one pushed by what must be the grandmother.  Grandparents support their adult children by baby sitting in Italy.  You even see grandfathers pushing a stroller, everyone helps out, especially now with covid, the adjusted work schedules and schools being in session.  


The church bells began to ring, in the piazza they are pretty loud, I think they have four different sizes and randomly they clang to announce the end of church or the beginning.  These bells are so loud that one can hear them on a Sunday morning at 7:30, four blocks away,  when trying to sleep in.   When I first moved to Italy I thought these church bells were kind of romantic as in America, only churches in small towns have them (and only one bell), which they ring at around 10:00 and 11:00, and only on Sunday.   My father’s town in Colorado had only two churches.  His had a bell and my children always thought it was a big deal to have the privilege of pulling the rope before or after church.  My village church has the bells on an automatic system, no rope pulling here,  and now for me, not so romantic.


However, I have learned some nice stories about these bells in Europe.   There are novels about the bells and how the people tried to save them when the Nazis were gathering bells to turn into munitions and weapons.  The first time I heard of this, it was not a story in Italy, but in Holland.  There is a bell factory near Utrecht (huge bells) and they pointed out that the church across the street took down their bells during the night,  just one day before the Nazi soldiers came to haul them away.  There is a town in southern Italy with a similar story.  Bell factories are not a typical tourist place, but seeing the big bells broken out of a cast, and learning how they are tuned, gave me a real appreciation for them.  

Here in Europe there are many big churches where you can take an elevator to the top of the steeple and see the huge bells while taking in the view of the city below.  Those big bells are heavy, you have to wonder how much trouble it was to get them way up there.  Actually when in Europe one does a lot of wondering….How did they do that?


Across the piazza I could see that the bar where most of the customers are men over the age of 75.  There were only a few sitting at tables outside.  I have had a few coffees there, but I usually visit another bar closer to my home.  In a past blog I wrote about this old fellow’s hangout and I called this place the Old Farts Bar.   Even though I am at the age of them, I did not feel comfortable there.  I am not sure if I went there for 20 years I would feel comfortable there.  The bar where I go I know many of the people and several friends have been made there.


Parking their car at the piazza were two workers, who walked towards the Muncipio.  Their car is one of those very small cars owned by the municipality.  Functional, cheap and efficient, I am happy to see my tax euros wisely used and not being overspent.  These two men wore electric neonam colored garments, a type of clothing workers wear here in Italy.   Just past them,  I could see that the small gelato shop was closed.  It is strange to me to see an ice cream shop closed, but it seems Italians don’t go out for ice cream in the winter.  Could it be because they think cold is bad for the digestion?  You know that Italians do not like ice in their sodas, right?  Yes, if you order a coke here, no ice, unless you are at McDonalds or Burger King  where they give you more ice than soda.  When we go to America my Italian wife always tells the server, no ice!  Ice or no ice I am hoping that someday a Burger King will open here.  I miss those whoppers.  Even my friend in Kazan, Russia has a Burger King!  



If you could sit with me on this bench at the edge of the small piazza you would see a bread shop where they make the typical bread of Padova.  If you expect it to be like a bread found further south in Italy, you would be disappointed.  


Breads are one way that regions of Italy characterize their differences.  I actually have to make my own dark rye bread to get the taste I prefer.   They do make these bite size pizza things called pizzette. They are quite tasty, but habit forming.  Once I asked the shop clerk why they did not make dark brown bread, and the answer was because no one asks for it.


Just steps from the bread shop is the farmacia where prescriptions are filled.  We are modernized here!.  Yes, my doctor can send my prescription through an AP to the farmacia.  When I go in, they find my name on their computer and I walk out in just a few moments.  One can still go to the doctor’s office and receive a printed out prescription, but I would only use this if I have a need for something new.   Because of covid people wait outside after taking a number.  Due to covid, only two clients are allowed inside at one time.  There is a plastic barrier at the desk to protect the workers, and us from them.  Pharmacies are not like Walgreens in America where you can buy snack food, film, cooking gadgets, souvenir t shirts, watches, cameras, frozen food or shampoo and make up.  One will find only medicines and herb/bio things in Italian farmacias.  


Beef Cheeks and Potatoes
Home Made Here 

One thing missing in my village is a trattoria (restaurant).  We would be frequent customers, but for some reason we do not have a restaurant.  The many coffee bars serve food at lunch, but this food is not made there.  There is something about the laws that regulate what type of establishment can cook and what kind is allowed to serve food out of a box or the freezer.  A trattoria would be able to cook different pasta dishes, meat dishes and so forth.  We need one here.  It would give the village some charm.  All villages need a center, so if it was up to me, I would just drop it in right near our piazza.  



Mexican Combo Plate

I joke with my Italian friends about opening a Mexican food restaurant, or even parking a taco truck in my village.  This confirms how crazy I am, but also how I miss realistic Mexican food here.  I grew up in New Mexico, which still lives in my heart and as you can see above, my stomach.

 


Tamale

After covid is beaten I will take a bag of tamales to our Sindaco, we will celebrate our freedom with hot sauce!









It is not a busy day at my piazza, there are more birds sitting on top of the roof, than people walking past me during this hour.  Most people are staying home to be safe and going out only when they must.  I am one of those, this peaceful hour will be my last for a while.  Now I will go home and fill my time with painting, playing the piano and studying Italian.   I will dream of the travel we have missed so far since March, and then make plans for travel in the future.  My total count is now 42 countries, and my goal is to get to 45 before I cannot get around.  Let us all hope for a vaccine that will enable all of us to go and enjoy other places, people and customs.  I greatly wish this for you.  

Stay Safe,  Ciao!


I




Saturday, October 24, 2020

Travel Painting Exhibition

This blog post will include some of my latest paintings that have just arrived from the framer.  I rarely get to show them matted in a frame.  I will include a short description with each one.



There is a river near Puerto Vallarta, quite close to where Elizabeth Taylor made a movie.  This house was set in the jungle, and I added the lady with her laundry, changed much of the foliage and added the boat.



Joan of Arc received the leadership of the army of France in this castle, Chinon, France.  Chinon is also known for its wonderful red wine.


The old center of Chania, Greece, has tiny streets and the architecture is Venetian.  I found this priest added much to the feeling of this composition.  But to me, it is all about that blue door.


Budapest is a beautiful city and we found this not so old castle with a lot of charm.  


This is also found at that castle in Budapest, on the right side of the last painting.   


An old church in St. Petersburg, Russia.


My friend Jonathan Barker allowed me to use his photograph.  It is a scene in Great Britain.  I enjoy painting reflections, always a challenge.


A scene from a boat harbor in Great Britain.  The tide had gone out, and  two boys on a hill above, watch the fishermen make repairs.

I placed some boats together and put them in a scene from Cornwall, England.


We had visited a castle above Lasko, Slovenia and saw this scene looking down at Lasko and its brewery.


Near my village is Padova, known for St. Anthony's Basilica.  Also famous is this astronomical clock found in the center.

We were lucky enough to be able to travel to Slovenia, a most beautiful country.  There is a castle near Celje.  


The final painting is also from the castle in Celje, Slovenia.  This is the entrance, which nicely showed through the portal what lies inside.

I hope these have encouraged you to travel when we are able.  There are so many magical places.  I hope you can see that Europe is not just about Paris, Rome and London.   Let us all hope that next summer we will have the way cleared for a healthy travel experience.  Stay safe.  
       Ciao!

 

Monday, September 21, 2020

 Ciao tutti, Hello everyone.



Several years ago I visited
the house of Marco Polo in
Venezia

Today I am looking out my window and seeing a blue sky and the day is just about as perfect as it could be.  However, in a few hours the rain will arrive in the big clouds that are building over the volcanic hills nearby.  We have had a wonderful August and September this year.  If we had tourists, they would be having a memorable visit.  Now is the perfect time to paint Italy, no tourists in the scenery.  

Yesterday I voted in Italy's election.  The process is about the same as in the United States, but the lines are not as long and everything seems to go faster.  Elections here are held on weekends so that everyone has a chance to vote.  A second day is open for voting on Mondays.  Many merchants who have small shops do not have them open on Monday morning, so this helps them to have the time to vote.  

Upon arriving at the middle school I see a huge chart with all the parties and individuals listed.  It is best to know where they are before going in to vote.  I think a big problem that Italy has is that there are too many parties, maybe more than ten.  So the vote  is split many ways.  One can find a party that is progressive, right wing, racist, green, left, and more.  It is a bit confusing to me and I had to do a bit of research before voting.  

At the first door of the school I found a Carabinieri officer, several volunteers and a guy dressed in a suit (don't know why he was there, maybe some election official.)  There were no signs pushing who to vote for, or people encouraging a vote for someone in evidence anywhere.  We walked down the hallway and found which of four doors to enter.  I was curious to see into the classrooms, and a bit shocked to find nothing hanging on the walls, such as bulletin boards or educational things for the students.  My wife mentioned that maybe it was because they have a rule to take things down during the election.

We stood on markers designating social distance, everyone wore a mask properly, and moved up to the door until it was our turn.  I went inside, showed my identity card and my election paper which said I could vote.  Then I moved to the left and a man handed me a pencil and three separate ballot forms.  I went into the booth with a shower curtain like set up for privacy.  It took me about two minutes to make my X on candidates, etc. and I went and put my ballots in boxes indicated for which belonged inside.  All done.

We walk back down the hall and I mentioned to my wife that most of the people we were seeing were older than 45.  She joked that the young were still asleep after a night out at the disco.  I think all the discos are closed now due to the virus, however.  I think most of the young people were sleeping as it was early.

It is kind of funny that one can sleep in my village on a Sunday as the priests wake everyone up with the bells banging away at 7:30. Then it seems they clang them every half hour.  Can you tell I am not a fan of this?  My downstairs neighbor, a man that has an irritating character,  is the bell ringer which doesn't help my feelings when those bells go off.  I live three blocks away, but those bells are right up in my attic!

My Province, the Veneto, has 5 million residents.  The officials have done a pretty good job slowing the covid down, and at this time we have a total of 12 people in intensive care in all our hospitals.  The cases in all of Italy have risen a bit after August, which is vacation month for most Italians, but nothing like what we are seeing in France or the United States.  One can only hope that this remains the case.  Here it will be up to the youth to do their share of the mask wearing, as they tend to not wear masks when hanging out together.  The older folks are wearing them when away from home.  


3rd Oldest Astronomical Clock
Padova, Italy

The next days will bring rain to our area and the air will be more clean and clear.  I kind of miss the days when the freeways were empty and the skies were a beautiful blue.  The sound of silence was wonderful.  Someday there will be only electric cars, and old guys like me that do not hear will have to be careful crossing the street.  This week I am hoping to go out and paint on days with no rain.  Here are some paintings I have finished these past few days.


A visit to a castle in Slovenia
 
We drove by the fields of grape vines and it looks like they have been harvested and new wine is making.  I always think back to watching I Love Lucy and her episode of stomping grapes in Italy.  I was 8 years old then, a while back.  I hardly knew what Europe was.  I saw that they had borders where you had to have a passport, which Lucy lost and caused Ricky to pulls out his hair and speak Spanish, Cuban accented.  I didn't know back then that I would live in Italy, or even had spent a total of two years in European travel before moving to Italy.  I just remember that I wanted to know more about places far far away.  I still have that desire. 

Back roads in Slovenia

 

This next two weeks I plan to take photos of my village and what you would see if you were here.  Then you will see them in this blog.  I hope that you and your family is safe and taking care to remain so.  Wish you a good day.  Ciao

Friday, August 21, 2020

Days in Slovenia

 

Country Road Scenery
Slovenia
There is a magical place in the small country of Slovenia.  Slovenia is located just above and to the right of Italy.  This posting will attempt to show you just how special it is.  

4 Hours From Our Home Is Kog
We went to a tiny village called Kog, located in the upper right hand corner near the boarders of Croatia, Hungary and just a bit farther one can find Austria.  Therefore, you can expect that the houses in Slovenia to look quite a bit like ones you will find in those countries.  Many are covered with flowers near windows and in front to greet everyone with a smile and a good feeling. 

Rows and Rows of Vines
 

Kog is famous for a wine maker named Milan Hlebec, and this area is called Jeruzalem Road.  The hills are crammed with grape vines of many types, and if the hillsides are touched by the sun, there will be vines.  You will find other crops growing, but mostly for family use.  Most of the villages are located at the top of the rolling hills, which allows for more ground to be available for vines.

  

Castles to Explore
13 years ago I hardly knew where Slovenia was located, I knew that Yugoslavia had broken up into other smaller countries, but I really had no clue about its history, people and customs.  I was asked to attend an artist colony in Kog, a major journey from Denver, Colorado.  Artists would meet, paint and enjoy the food and wines at the large Hlebec winery/bed and breakfast.  All the artists would leave a painting for the Hlebec collection on the last day.  This was a real honor to be selected and I did not hesitate to confirm I would attend.  

This week turned out to be one of my most memorable weeks of my life.  This is why we went back last week, to renew friendships and enjoy the beautiful scenery, food and wine.  



On my first visit, my Slovenian painter friend, Bohan, suddenly stopped the car and pointed to the sky.  I looked up and saw a huge stork nest.  Having never seen a stork before I was amazed to see the huge size.  Then I saw a stork...HUGE.  Here is one flying, which reminded me of seeing a flying dinosaur it was so big.  





In the town of Ormoz, there is a large nest on top of a house, featured in the video.   We saw three other storks while in the area.  We also saw 3 deer, very small ones, which seemed unafraid until our car got within 10 feet of them.  


Anytime we can escape what I call pasta land we enjoy the different foods.   Slovenian cooks know how to make a stomach happy.  Milan Hlebec's wife is the ultimate expert.  She told us that she is out of bed at 3:00 preparing food and trekking out to find herbs and mushrooms.  We were surprised to see a pile of mushrooms as back in Italy this is not the season.   I had never seen a blue mushroom before, and she had a pile of different types.  

The next day some of them were mixed with egg for our breakfast.  

While sitting under a roof of vines our glass was never empty as Milan proudly kept pouring his wine.  No one was refusing.  Spending a few hours, relaxing and talking to Milan (translations by his son) made a nice afternoon, and, a nice nap, after.  



On our last night, my painter friend, Bohan, brought his family and we dined under the vines while listening to a young lady perform on the accordion.  She played for over two hours, all Slovenian songs.  The lady with the stripes on the left is Milan's wife a gifted chef with secret recipes.


Her fingers flew around a button style accordion, which is interesting to me, as mine is a keyboard.  Her bass buttons had a low wheezing sound that is sometimes typical of European squeeze boxes.  Her sound was like going to an antique shop to find lots of old and interesting objects.  Listening to historical music is just like going to a museum to me.  When she finished she packed up her accordion and headed down the hill on her bicycle.  It had been a good night to be alive.

Here are some shots of the food we tried.  I left the fried frog legs out because it looks like the bottom half of a fried bambina.  If you ever get a chance to have this dish, don't pass it up.   Yes, like chicken.


The Sauces!  






Hop Farm in Celje, Slovenia

There are a lot of farms that grow hops which is used to make beer.  The bitter taste in beer comes from hops.  Slovenia has some major beer makers and this hops farm was just across from our bed and breakfast.  I can testify that their beer is very good, we brought some home for later this Fall.  

Even The Bees Enjoy Color
That Is One Sweet Truck 


Slovenia is a beautiful country, mountains, hills, lakes, friendly people, and great cuisine.  People considering a trip to Europe think about Paris, Rome, Firenze, Pisa, Berlin, and London.  Big cities are destinations to visit, but small countries like Slovenia can take you back to old Europe, kind of how it used to be while having all the modern conveniences.   I am happy to live so close that we can go several times a year.  I hope you have enjoyed my fotos and you might consider going some day.  Many of them will be a future watercolor painting.  

Ciao!  Stay Safe.