Guest Post:  By Nerone, the dog


She Who Must Be Obeyed posted this on August 14, 2011.


Yes, another thing Siena would not have understood why it took so long.  We have finally gotten another dog.  After she died I felt that if we were to have another dog it would find us.  Careful readers of this blog might have noticed that  while we were at the Ostrich Sagra, we saw a picture of a promising dog who was living in a rescue kennel.  Well, it took a few days to get there for a visit.  And then the folks who run the rescue kennel had to come out and make sure we were suitable.  And finally we went to pick him up on Tuesday, July 19.

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For a dog who has spent most of his 3 years at a rescue kennel he seems remarkably at home on a couch as well as having very good indoor and outdoor manners.

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His first sagra.  Dogs are welcome here in many places so we want him to get used to going places and riding in the car.  It has been a delight to watch him develop confidence, lose anxieties and enjoy more and more activities with us.

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The farm is not fenced and I am not sure that he will ever be able to be  outside without being on a lead.  Too many bugs, birds, cats, deer and other things catch his attention and he would just run off chasing after something.  But he doesn’t seem to mind walking on a lead or being tethered to something while we are sitting outside.

I thought long and hard about getting another dog.  I mean, I will very probably be at least 70 years old before he dies.  But now that he is here I wonder why I had doubts or waited.  But I know I waited to find just the right dog and Nerone certainly is.  Physically and with all his mannerisms he reminds us so much of Siena.  It really is like having a young Siena back in our lives.  But he is his own dog also.  All of us are looking forward to a long, happy future together.




This Nerone now


I hope I have fulfilled their dreams.  They tell me I’m a good dog.  And I do try.  Sometimes it is hard but I get better all the time I think.  I am sorry that we don’t go as many places together as they would like but my delicate stomach means I get car sick a lot!  It really is best, most times, to just leave me at home. 


I’m glad I have a big, important job now, looking after the whole estate by myself.  I take it very seriously.  Why, just last weekend I caught some kitchen oaf sniffin’ around Marie-Claude’s house and cuttin’ rosemary.  It probably was okay but I didn’t like the look of him.  Now if he had been stealin’ those cats that hang around her house…Well, I sure wooda helped him.


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So here I am…  Happy to have a home!  Happy to have a good job that I like!  Happy to have a schedule that She pretty much follows!  Just happy to be a dog.  And they tell me every day that I am the GOOD DOG!  I guess I finally grew into that.  Shew, it was a good thing that they found me, I could still be waitin’ for my forever family.  I’m glad I’m not.  So Happy Anniversary to me, She and My Ben!

We tried to celebrate with friends by going on the Sunday before Ben’s birthday to the cut steak sagra in Agazzi but just could not manage to get a crowd together.   But on the actual day a few folks felt so guilty about not being able to come on Sunday, that they had Ben and I over for lunch and then other folks invited us for dinner.



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A wonderful curry lunch in the woods…. followed by….



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a steak dinner with a dramatic sunset.


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Pretty good way to celebrate!

Sometimes I have pictures that I just think are interesting or pretty.  No real story behind them.  Just a snap of life here in Italy




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garden, guazzino may 14 101


View from the walls of Anghiari.


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Here’s what is coming up


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Just down the road from us


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Details of what will be going on


And the one where we found Nerone


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One of the reasons I write a blog is to help folks who live in the US to understand that there is a great, big, different world beyond the borders that they know.  And one of those differences is refrigerators.  We were spoiled in the first house that we rented since it had a ‘big’, by Italian standards, fridge.  I knew when we changed apartments that it would be an adjustment. 




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This is the fridge that we had in the upstairs apartment. It moved down here with us since there was no fridge down here.  Many folks in Italy shop for food every day or several times a week. In the years since we have been in Italy we have seen that start to change.   This fridge is a holdover from that time. Also it is small because of the cost of electricity.  Italy has the second highest rates in Europe I think.       I am 5’2’’.  I am taller than the fridge.  I could have been happier with it if there had been more shelves on the door.  Americans do love condiments.   And we do have a number of them.  Before opening another condiment bottle I would have to carefully consider ‘where, oh where’ was another open bottle going to go? 


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The other thing this fridge lacked was the piece of glass that covered the produce drawer on the bottom.  So I was able to keep a lot of bottles in there with produce stacked on top.  But that meant that I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor with the door of the fridge open, taking half of the produce out, looking for a jar of this or that, and then putting the produce back in and repeating that process when it was time to put the jar of this or that back.   This fridge is in our living room because it had to move to make way for….



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Our new giant fridge!  We could have kept the one we moved down and the owners would have bought another one for up stairs very similar in size to the small one or we could buy one.  


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Ben and I had been tracking fridge prices since December.   I was really tried of the weekly game of trying to get all the food packed away after shopping, sitting on the floor trying to find something, and having to say no when Ben wanted to buy something that was frozen.   So we watched prices, decided on which features were most important, fresh food on top, freezer on the bottom, A++ electricity usage rating, frost free and of course price.   Even though, every month since we have moved, we have spent most of our disposable income buying furniture for our ‘furnished’ apartment or buying some bit or piece to fix something up so it is just a little more comfortable to use, we decided to go ahead and spend a big chunk of change on buying a fridge.   And it helped that the store we would be buying from was having a big sale from mid-June to early July. 


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Instead of the usual 4 or 5 on sale there must have been 20 or 30 on sale.  We studied the ad again and had decided on the Whirlpool (far left, center row).   After our much used VISA card closed its billing cycle for June, Ben and I went to the store.    Of course there were no more Whirlpools left.  But back in the scratch and dent room was a Bosch.  Ohhhhhh, it was love at first sight.  Even though that big Bosch had been beat up a bit it was almost everything we wanted.  All that was missing was frost free.  And the price…. less than the Whirlpool and bigger too.  Well the salesman tried to talk me out of it.  Pointing out every dent.  But it had spoken to me. 


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Just look at those shelves on the door.  And the produce drawer with a glass top that works as a shelf too. 


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And the freezer!  The center drawer alone was bigger than the whole freezer that we had before and there are two more drawers!  Look!  We have ice cream and the type of bread that Ben likes.  Not one or the other. 


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And it is taller than I am!   Fridge Love!  What a rush! 

I like having a TV in the kitchen.  I easily spend 2 to 4 hours a day in the kitchen.  At night, Ben and I watch TV together, and Nerone too in the winter.  (He doesn’t join us as much now that he is working outside 8 to 10 hours a day.  Guarding this place is a full time job you know.)  Just as Ben watches programs on his computer that I would never watch, I watch programs that he doesn’t enjoy as much on mine.  So when we moved downstairs I figured  instead of having to drag my computer in the kitchen each night I would buy a TV for my birthday, for the kitchen.  After the move, when the TV guy came I was able to get him to string a wire for the antenna but not the dish.  Connecting to the dish would have cost another 100 Euros or so.  Since I didn’t have a TV yet, he suggested that I wait until he came back when someone moved upstairs to fix things up for them and see if I wanted to go to the trouble of connecting to the dish then.  Sounded reasonable.


April comes and Esselunga has a sale on TVs and all.  A really good sale.  Even though  my birthday is not until May, Ben and I decide to look  at the ad.  I have measured the space and have picked out a nice basic TV that is only 100 Euros.  But, I am whining because it has a black frame.  For some reason I want it to have a white frame.  My mind is really set on this.  It has to be white.  Normally I could care less about that sort of thing.  Right now we are looking at fridges and I don’t care if it is stainless steel, or white or scratched as long as it has the configuration and the energy efficiency rating that I want.  So I was puzzled about why white was so important and why I was whining.  Ben pointed out a Smart TV that was white.  Also more expensive.   We looked at them online.  This would be our first Smart TV.  Would it do what I wanted… which is to watch reruns on Netflix and other things from the internet like ACC basketball.  It seemed that way so I bought it.


Get it home.  The first problem is navigating the internet with a TV remote.  You can do it but it can be frustrating.  Just finding the on screen keyboard can take a long time.  I think the manufacture has a separate keyboard that for another 50 or 100 Euros they will sell you.  Finally, I figure out that I can download an app to my tablet so that my tablet can act as a keyboard.  Then I try to connect to Netflix.  Seems not to happen.  So I email the manufacturer help site in Great Britain.  (Sometimes it’s just easier to do things in English)  They refuse to help me because the model might be different.  Oh, gee thanks.  So customer service oriented….  Using google translate I contact the Italian help center asking about streaming from the internet or from my computer and how to find the onscreen keyboard.  FOUR DAYS later they get back to me (in their defense, there were some national holidays involved). 


This is the response:  (I have removed the name of the manufacturer and replaced it with – and used google to translate it.) 



Dear Ms. Taccarino ,

thank you for contacting — Customer Service Italy .

With respect to signaling , the specific browser on your TV is not certified for watching streaming movies .

– certifies the vision of such content through the appropriate application in the area of premium TV 29LN460R such as, for example , Youtube and Chili .

These applications improve the user experience of Smart TV , adapting the vision of the content to the device on which it takes place , allowing the correct view movies.

In reference to the appearance of the keyboard , positioning the web address bar and selecting a number on the remote will bring up the keyboard on which to type the letters .

In case of need of further information or clarification , I invite you to fill out a new application at — attaching the message to its previous communications .

Thanking you for your confidence in our brand to take this opportunity to extend

Sincerely .

199 600 099
www.–.com / en

General Note : Do not reply to this email .
For more information, repeat the request via the web, attaching any previous communications .





No, no, no, Aint’t gonna happen is  what this says.  The manufacturer has decided that even though there is a computer built into the TV, that computer can only access on the internet what the manufacturer has selected for you to access.  Which in Italy does not include Netflix or Hulu.  And don’t miss “General Note”   I can’t just hit reply.  Noooo, I have to copy this email and start all over with a new request if I want any more help.  Ohhhhh, very helpful customer service. 


When Ben and I looked at these TVs online, no where or way did either of us understand that what or how we wanted to use the internet feature of the TV would be so controlled.  I am so disappointed.  But now I have had the TV for a week.  And it works.  So I really don’t feel that I can take it back.


So back to the internet to see if there is a way around their control.  Somehow I ended up  on the Unblock-US site.  Oh my goodness Unblock-US  renewed my faith in customer service centers and the folks who work in them.  It took a string of 26 email exchanges and when I received one (usually within an hour or so) I could just hit reply and tell the rep what happened when I tried the latest suggestion.  I am especially fond of this one. 


APR 23, 2014  |  10:55AM EDT
Stuart Cook replied:

Hi Martha
You can sign out of Netflix on your –TV, by pressing the following button combination on your remote
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Up, Up, Up, Up
You may have to try this a few times as the speed required is quite precise, if done correctly, you should see a screen with a deactivate button or logout button.
Select this to log out and then you will be able to login with your US account.



Hasn’t technology come far?



Netflix uses a bit of deceptive advertising, the ‘Anytime, Anywhere’ banner that appears really means as long as you are in a country that they service. From Wikipedi:

Netflix, Inc. is an American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media available to viewers in

North and South America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom),



But do you see that info on the Netflix site? Maybe but you have to look for it probably in some small fine print.   So tough luck if you are somewhere else. But the ads really don’t say that do they….



Well it took about 10 days and all these emails but now, using Netflix I can watch Andy Griffith reruns, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frazier, oh just all sorts of things while cooking, washing dishes or just sitting down.   To achieve this I had to program the TV into thinking that it is in Great Britain (because Netflix is available in Great Britain but not Italy) and by using Unblock-US Netflix thinks I am in the US so I am able to watch all these shows.   I am also able to watch PBS online and looking forward to seeing the next season of ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ when it starts again at the end of June.  And I am really proud and pleased that I persevered to get this to work.  I do watch TV in Italian too but that requires ‘work’ to get it to make sense.  And isn’t part of watching TV to relax and have fun?  So I don’t feel bad about going to such lengths to ‘cocoon’ myself in American experiences. 


So this is a cautionary tale to anyone moving or visiting here.  If you think you are going to be able to continue to watch some series while you are vacationing, start planning and getting all the software, subscriptions and apps before you leave the US.   And I certainly recommend Unblock-US.  VERY HELPFUL FOLKS!  Easy to understand directions.  A great service that I am more than happy to pay for each month.   http://www.unblock-us.com/


This is our second spring here so I am surprised by the number of plant volunteers that I am finding.  I am surprised because before we came not much ornamental (read flowery summer plants) gardening was done here.  I am guessing that I am responsible for most of these volunteers. 


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garden, guazzino may 14 123


There are several of these lobelias underneath where there was window box last spring. 


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Unfortunately when I went to move one to transplant it, the plant snapped off at the root.  But after a few days in water new roots grew again.



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This little viola probably came from the ones that were in the planter that you can see in the upper right corner


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This pansy must have come from one of the pots of them from this past spring





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And this brave soul in the middle of the grass.   It is kind of interesting to think about the dispersal of seeds and how resilient they are.  Recently, I was reading an essay about ‘Reversal’ by Germaine Greer in the May issue of Smithsonian magazine when I came across this paragraph. 


Field flowers no longer grow amid the crops in England’s fields, but once the backhoes are withdrawn

from roadworks, poppies spring from the disturbed ground.  The seed they have grown from blew off

the fields maybe a generation ago, and has lain in the soil ever since, waiting for someone or something

to break the sod.  Year on year the poppies keep turning up, every time bringing  their promise of resurrection.



Only in the case of the viola by the tree stump was the ground disturbed.  Maybe after a few more springs I won’t even need to buy plants… just wait for them to pop up. 


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