Smells Good

​Early Winter Morning   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  13 x 18″  33 x 46cm 

It has been a beautiful week in Rocca Malatina.  The sun is shining, and every morning there is a soft white near-frost cover on the grass.   It is cold, but still above freezing.  I can smell everything.

I know smells are supposed to be stronger in the summer, but it is this time of year I could always smell the chocolate shop in our neighborhood in Paris.   Maybe bad smells are stronger in summer, but give me a damp October day and I can almost tell you, eyes closed, where I am standing.


​Chickens under skinny tree   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  13 x 18″  33 x 46cm  

Here, Harika runs around in circles, spurred by these cool temperatures, stirring up the spicy scent of mint which is as thick as the grass in our yard.   The neighbors (sadly) cut down their towering spruce and our house filled with the pine-y aroma; days later I still detect its lingering perfume outside.  I picked scores of apples from our trees – laying some in for the winter in the basement, and making apple crumble just for fun.  The house smells wonderful.

Friends brought us quince, that aromatic fruit which lends itself to jelly.  Blair loves them, odd-ball as they are, and he wants to sit and smell them.  He is painting quince as we speak.

2015-10-24-2159  ​Quince  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/panel  9.5 x 14″  24  x 35 cm 

I painted a lot this week, enjoying the sunshine.  Shadows are longer, the sun no longer shining directly overhead.  I miss our luncheons on the deck, but there is a coziness to being indoors.   We got our chimney cleaned, something people here found astounding.  It had perhaps never been cleaned in the history of the house.  The chimney sweep wanted to know the last time the fireplace was used.

Farmhouse near CastelVetro   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  13 x 18″  33 x 46cm

The fireplace is in our kitchen, where I am eager to roast a whole salmon, or lamb chops.  I can roast vegetables and keep our kitchen warm with the fire.

The Cream Puff has been in the shop, getting its heater fixed (mercifully, under warrantee).  On the one hand, I am thrilled to be free of a car; on the other hand, I miss getting around.  If I win the lottery, I will buy a big luxury car (a Rolls-royce, or Bentley, maybe) and have a driver for Blair, Harika and I , who will loll in the big leather (smells good) back seat.

Laurie and Blair Pessemier

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Chillin’ with Cream Puff


Vines and Trees  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/linen  9 x13″  21 x 33 cm  
​One of the things we discovered this week is that the cream puff (our new car) has no heat (who would have checked that in 80 degree temperature?).  On the internet I learned this is a common problem of the Citroen C5, and with a little fiddling, might be fixed.  Meanwhile, we have no fear of falling asleep at the wheel, regardless of the hour.

We drove to the dealer, who wasn’t open and we forgot our phone.  On the way we passed a wonderful building, pink and white below and brick and turquoise above.    So we set up and painted.

​The Old School  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  10.5 x 16″  27 x 41cm

The man who lived in the next-door house came to see what I was painting.  It was a school, he explained, since closed.  I thought it such a shame, because it was so pretty, and new schools are usually so ugly.  I told him I thought kids would love the school, it would feed imagination.   He hoped I wouldn’t be bothered by his dogs.  Envisioning guard dogs, I assured him I had a dog myself.   His were the three yappi-est dachshunds I’ve heard in well, a dog’s age.  They urged my happy painting on.


Building in Pink, white, brick, turquoise  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/line  16 x 10.5″  41 x 27 cm  

We went to our friend’s birthday party near here last night.  I made corn bread, as an American gesture, and we visited with a variety of American and Italian guests.  English was the predominating language.  “It will take you two years to feel at ease with Italian,” a compatriot told me.   Although I learn more and more words, I am thinking she could be right.   We drove home in 40 degree temperatures.


Habiba and the Dinner Guests   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  NFS

It’s overcast and cold today, but we are running the art show another day, to correspond with the chestnut festival here in Rocca Malatina.  We’ve substituted some of the paintings we sold last weekend with new ones.  We had over 100 people visit our house and 10% of that number made purchases.  It was a giant Italian lesson, and I was bowled over by how many wonderful people live in this little town.

We went to a beautiful restored castle not far from our house on Saturday.  “Not far from our house” can mean just 30 kilometers, but it takes an hour to negotiate the hills and bends.  The Rocchetta di Mattei was the home of an 1850s electro-homeopathic doctor.  Mattei was famous world-wide and even Tolstoy mentions his “cure” in a book.  He had a marvelous arabesque house, built on a “magic” stone outcropping, with stunning views all around.   “Can we just look around?” we asked the fellow at the entry, “we don’t speak Italian”.  No problem, he said and found us an English speaking guide.  There was a hard cover book about the place, written in English and Italian.  “There are only 1000 copies, and one of them is in the Vatican.”  We bought it.  Presto!

​Vines in the Fall  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  16 x 10.5″  41x 27 cm 

Laurie and Blair Pessemier

The Cream Puff


The Church, Rocca Malatina   Blair Pessemier Acrylic/linen  15 x 18″   38 x 46 cm    Sold

“I’ve got a car for you,” the proprietress of the coffee shop announced to Blair on Wednesday.  A town resident had died, and the family was wishing to dispose of the car.  “Free!” she told Blair.  Touched by her generosity and thoughtfulness, Blair had to refuse. “We are picking up our new car today”.


Church and house next door   Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 14″  27 x 35 cm  
​People who buy cars online miss all the fun.  Where else can I sit with a swarthy southern Italian who taps in his words in Italian and they come out of the computer in English?  And we don’t just stick to car talk – he tells us his brother-in-law is a painter; I tell him my best friend’s name is Sal, like his.

A friend who speaks both Italian and English tells us, “this guy is southern Italian, I can hardly understand him. And besides that, be careful” (there’s a trickiness associated with the south).   I reply that I am from somewhere else, too, don’t speak Italian at all, and Sal deserves a chance to sell me this car.   Besides, the fact his name is Sal, and my friend is Sal (who sold us almost every car we bought), has big good vibes to me.   And I can see this guy, smell him, shake his hand, look in his eyes.   Our insurance agent says, “where did you find this guy, I can hardly understand him.”  The name of the dealership is “Passione Auto”.

​The Yellow Tree across the Street    Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 16 ”  27 x 41 cm   

The salesman at Renault was a nice person, don’t get me wrong.  He did everything right.  But Blair and I couldn’t face a car payment and a WHITE car.  Almost all cars in Italy are grey or white.   And Sal had exactly the car we are seeking.  Yes, our new wheels are candy-apple RED, just a shade off Ferrari.

He assured us he could do the paperwork necessary to register it in our name.  We got  international drivers licenses, but otherwise we have the same papers we always had.  Two other dealers wouldn’t work with us, and even the immigration specialist had his doubts.

So we returned our rental car (the last of 5 months of loaners!) in Bologna and powered up the road to Paradise in our new old Citroen C5 wagon.


The Cream Puff  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   9.5 x 14″  24 x 35 cm  

Laurie and Blair Pessemier

p.s.  our “Mostra” in Rocca Malatina has been a roaring success.  GRAZIE TUTTI for your good wishes and patronage!


mostra posterOur show poster — next weekend, bring friends t0 via d’Azeglio 808 in Rocca Malatina    2 until 7 on Saturday/Sunday/Monday

As winter comes on, I can smell fires burning in the neighborhood.    In the early morning and late afternoon, I am put in the mind of Istanbul, where I once smelled those 5 PM fires signaling the start of supper.     On the weekends I smell the delicious fireplaces, burning alder or chestnut, chasing away the chill of the country house of a Bolognese or Modenese neighbor enjoying the fall landscape.   I am about to light my own fireplace, in our kitchen, replete with soup pots and tigelle irons.

Cold rain in the Village   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  30 x 30cm   12 x 12″

“Look, it’s Hercules”, our backseat passenger exclaimed on a ride down a country road on Tuesday.  The man walking his bicycle at the side of the road seemed fit, a bit beefy, but by no means did I think this man the historic superhero.  “He’s my brother-in-law”.

Hercules has eyebrows you could use to  knit a sweater, but otherwise, he is just an Italian guy with a flat tire on his bicycle.  Our passenger suggested we stop at Hercules’ farm, just down the road, and tell his wife Esther he’s on his way.  You have to get used to these sidetracks if you’re going to live in Italy. People stop and visit all the time, schedules be damned.

Esther walked us out to the back yard, to show us the pond, which they fashioned from the stream running through the property.  The ground was soft beneath our feet – I realize this means nothing to most people, but after 20 years on the Paris sidewalk, actually stepping on the soft breast of mother Earth can almost bring me to tears.   I could smell the dirt, the grape vines, the garden.

Esther pointed out the piles of grape skins, remains of squeezing, spread around the ground to enrich the soil.  She handed me as squash as I was leaving, a  beautiful dusty-turquoise model, which she advised me to bake.   After I paint it.

​Squash   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/linen  33  x  41cm    13″  16″ 

This morning we awoke to the thickest fog I think I’ve ever seen.  I could almost capture it in my hands, and could certainly take big bitefuls.   Paul called to say he was up by the Sassi, we must come and see.  It was as if we were in an airplane:  fluffy white clouds below and pure blue sparking sunshine on the treetops and rocks.  Breathtaking.

​Fog in the Valley   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/linen   33 x  76cm   13 x 30″  

I feel lucky to have travelled and seen as much as we have.  It is those ephemeral moments of fires starting and fog, soft earth and hard squash, that give my mind a joyous air.   I think of travel before now, and trips to come.   I made a proposal for 8 to 14 painters to paint with us in Paris next May, and am really looking forward to it.  Here, I distribute flyers to paint in Bologna or Modena, and practice mixing the colors of fall.

Speaking of our former city, our friend in Paris, Richard Nahem, has launched a new, wonderful “postcard” program one can subscribe to.  Each month, he makes three postcards from his images.  To read more about it, go to:  Eye Prefer Paris Postcards.

Richard wrote a wonderful post about doors in our region of Emilia-Romagna…     and to learn aboutBologna click on this great NYTimes article…   Momma Mia, enough links!!!

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER