12 Dec 1983
Mon. Afternoon

Dear Diane,

Here's our phone number - 011-39-81-867-7747. If I understand correctly, this is all you have to dial to call direct to our house. The 011 is for all European calls, 39 is for Italy, 81 is for Naples area and the rest is our exchange and number. We got our phone over a week ago and it probably has not rung more than 6 or 7 times. And that's usually the hospital calling. I've tried to call Michael at the clinic this afternoon and couldn't get through. The phone system is just not real reliable. Since few people (Americans) have phones, I probably won't be spending too much time just chatting. Plus the phone company here charges by the call. I think it costs about 12¢ to call from our house to the base or hospital. I'm not sure how much it costs to call someone with our same exchange. It costs almost twice as much for us to call you as it would for you to call us so don't expect us to call routinely. For us to call and talk about 6 minutes would cost about $16.00. Therefore, you call us - we won't call you - unless we need to, that is.

Have you ever tried to make our peanut butter balls without paraffin? Don't. Wednesday I had a cookie exchange to attend. Naturally, I thought of our easy peanut butter balls. Well, of course, the base commissary does not sell paraffin. So I proceed to search and ask for paraffin on the Italian economy. You must understand my Italian is not very good yet. I know just enough to survive. I looked up paraffin in our Italian dictionary and was pleased to find the word translated "parafina." Simple, no? Well, I must have asked in 6 or 7 stores for parafina. All I got was blank looks, shaking heads, "Non Capisco" (I don't understand), offers of bread crumbs or something, etc. At a couple of stores, I tried pretending to light my finger and blow it out, upon which I got ushered very eagerly to the candle sections. Since I didn't know how to say "Close, but not quite," or "You know - the stuff they make candles out of," I simply said, "No, grazie" and walked out leaving everyone thoroughly confused. Apparently, they don't use paraffin in Southern Italy.

Tuesday night before I needed the balls on Wednesday, my neighbor said he had some paraffin and offered to let me borrow his. As it turned out, he had used his for cleaning bicycle chains or something and it was quite contaminated. He said he had gotten his at a candle-making shop somewhere, but he wasn't sure it was suitable for consumption.

So, I proceed to comb my cookbooks for alternative recipes to coat peanut butter balls. I finally found a recipe using melted chocolate, butter and white corn syrup. Since I had made the balls up a few days earlier, confident I'd find my paraffin, I decided to go ahead and take a chance on this recipe. Well, it worked, but not as tasty or as pretty. They just didn't cover as nicely. In fact, they were pretty tacky. I went ahead and took them to the cookie exchange even though Michael thought they were second rate. Well, those silly ladies thought they were wonderful. I tried to tell someone they were better with the original recipe, but they just couldn't believe they could be better. I gave up trying to explain then and just kept my mouth shut. Everyone was copying down the recipe. They'll be in for a surprise when they try to find the paraffin. Therefore, sometime this year, can you send me a one pound box of paraffin? Or better yet, bring me some. If you send some, just wait till you have an appropriate package to mail it with since there is no rush. I probably won't want to make any before next Christmas.

By the way, if you think of or hear of anything you'd like to have from here, I'll be glad to send it to you. You've done plenty for us. I don't know if the Anri Xmas ornaments go on sale after Christmas or not. If they do, I may get me some more. Do you want some?

We got a Christmas tree last Sunday. They are from Northern Italy, up in the Alps somewhere. It is some kind of pine, but I don't know the name of it. They were available in Arkansas, but we never bought this particular kind. It is quite open with big spaces in between the branches. We got a 10 ft. tree for $25.00. We could have gotten one cheaper if we had waited a week and bought one on the base instead. But they get a very limited supply and unless you are there before they open and are willing to fight with 300 other families, you only get the rejects. Plus, they didn't get any until the 10th of December and we wanted one before then. We had been paying between $20 and $28 for trees from the Optimist Club lots previously, so we didn't feel like we were getting shortchanged.

The kids love the tree. Steven has appointed himself "chief icicle picker-upper." Angelique is getting excited about Christmas and that's rubbing off on little brother.

Last Monday Michael got a pink slip in the mail saying an insured package was at the post office ready for us to pick up. Tuesday afternoon I went in to the base to get it. I got to the post office right at closing time. I gave them the slip and they proceeded to try and find my package. They didn't find it the 1st time, but they found the package you had sent and quickly made out a pink slip for me to sign for it, and they proceeded to look for the other package. Well, they looked and looked and looked. For 45 minutes they looked - through every bin at least three times. I kept imagining all those Christmas presents that someone had bought for us lost forever. Finally some smart girl walked through and discovered the 1st pink slip that Michael had gotten in the mail belonged to your package. It seems somewhere along the line it had gotten stamped with two insured stickers, both with different numbers. Some guy had written the number off the sticker on the back, but everyone was only looking at the sticker on the front. Does that confuse you? It was very confusing at the time.

Anyway, your package arrived last week. Thank you for the tapes. The kids just love the Christmas specials. We haven't had a chance to check the others out yet, but I'm sure we'll enjoy them. We've got our neighbors' VCR again while they are in the States for Xmas, so we're busy borrowing and recording tapes. We'll send you a list of all we've copied when we finish. Thank you very much for Steven's little red suit. It is darling. He likes the teddy bear. Angelique needed the long sleeve white blouse, too. So, thanks again. Steven will probably wear his red suit for Xmas if I can find a shirt for it. Surely I can find a white one if I can't find a yellow one. A turtle neck would be warm with it, wouldn't it?

I've had the latest flu-like virus going around. I hope I'm on the tail-end of it. I missed a tour Saturday & church Sunday. Today I've mainly rested, but I still ache a lot.

I've got to go to town tomorrow, and Wednesday I want to go with our hospital officers wives group on a tour of Christmas Alley in downtown Naples. We're suppose to go to a Xmas party Thursday nite, but I think we'll have to miss that one. Friday night I'm supposed to go to a friend's house where we're all going to share our Christmas handicrafts. Saturday night we have another party. Sunday is the hospital's children Christmas party. The next week is not quite as bad - only a few engagements. So, you see, this is not a good time to be sick, nor do I have any time to recuperate. So this illness will just have to wait till next year.

I got a letter from Mother today. It sounds like she's trying to back out of coming to see us this summer since they are buying land & house, etc. I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed. I'm not giving up on them totally, yet. Have you seen the house they are looking at? We are considering buying an adjoining lot to theirs. We probably won't ever build a house there, but it might be a good investment if they are developing that land. Mom & Dad may want to buy it someday, even. Do you and Bill have an opinion about whether it would be a good investment? We have this money just sitting in Dreyfus fund.

By the way, speaking of Dreyfus - we have no way of knowing what interest rate our money is drawing in Dreyfus. In the States we had a toll free number we called periodically that had a recorded message telling what the current interest rate was - it fluctuates daily. This is the number - 1-800-223-9846. Could you call this number sometime and tell us what they say the current rate is? This recorded message will tell you the current interest rate for a lot of things, but the only one we want to know is Dreyfus Liquid Assets. This is a weird request, huh?

There is something I meant to tell you that I can't remember. I'll probably remember tomorrow after I mail this.

How much time do you all get off for Christmas? Have any big plans? Your usual "run around and try to make Christmas at everyone's house"? I guess we'll miss all that this year. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Both, I guess. It will be nice not having to rush off to here and there, but we sure will miss everyone.

If you can, can you catch the 1983 News Summary on one of the major networks on tape for us? Michael says NBC or CNN. He seemed to think you'd know what he was talking about. A one or two hour news recap of 1983 shown during the last week of '83 sometime. We have few good sources of news.

I'm getting tired. I'd better get to bed.

You all have a very merry Christmas. Have fun and don't worry about us. I think we've got enough going to keep us occupied during the holidays so as not to get too homesick.



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