Monthly Archives: September 2014

DIY updates, friends coming to stay and local fly analysis

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? Apologies for my absence! It’s been a bit full on these last few weeks trying to get the house in order and I’ve had some friends from the UK out to stay too. It’s been really good to show them the new house and area and they seemed just as enthusiastic about the place as me so that was good!

Me & my friends looking out across Lago di Fiastra

Me & my friends looking out across Lago di Fiastra. Thank you for coming girls!  🙂

I’ve been feeling quite unproductive these last couple of weeks as far as the house is concerned however, writing this post has done wonders for my sense of achievement – things are happening, albeit slower than I’d like.  I’m definitely going to keep up with the “stuff done” list if only to keep up my moral!

So we have…

  1. Built a wall where the fireplace used to be. It has been a largely inefficient process involving several trips back and forth to OBI, the hardware store which is a 2.5 hour round trip and pizza away (going there seems to always involve eating out) to pick up more cement, more render (“malta bastarda” in Italian – I can confirm that the name is apt) and more plaster (the top coat – “malta fine”). (DIY TIP: DON’T LEAVE CEMENT OR PLASTER ON YOUR HANDS FOR TOO LONG – YOUR SKIN WILL TURN INTO SCALES AND NO AMOUNT OF CREAM WILL RESOLVE IT).
We ran out of cement so have a hole in the top!

Step 1: Building. We ran out of cement in building the wall so we had a “ventilation” hole at the top for a while.


Step 2: Chucking malta bastarda at it from a distance. Following a later skype with my father, it appears unless you’re building a mud hut in Africa, this is not how to apply it. Worryingly it was my builder who recommended this technique.


Step 3: Top coat (ish) of plaster. We still need to do a top top coat. As er, all professionals surely do. None of the regular tips to make sure your wall is straight apply with this wall. Nothing about the kitchen is straight.

2. Filled in floor holes where various walls and fireplaces used to be using special floor filler. The below is the fireplace hole. I’m about to do a cunning paint job on the living room filled hole to make it completely indistinguishable from the surrounding tiles. Yup.




After… (a bit blurry – I think that helps it looks a little neater in fact so that’s good!)


3. Painted the bathroom and bedroom doors so it doesn’t look quite so unwelcoming going to bed/to the bathroom. I’ve done three coats now but it still needs another and all the paint is cracking at the sides. I think I must be painting over some sort of special paint dissolving lacquer (I hasten to add that I did a thorough sanding job of it first). We’re using “odourless” paint – it smells disgusting!

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…and after: Much less gloomy eh? The doors were quite badly made and so it also serves to hide that a bit!

4. Painted a picture for the bedroom to give it a bit more colour and then promptly moved it to the living room to give that a bit more colour instead. I think it works well with my scavenged green bottle, rope and stick masterpiece.


The locals couldn’t have been any more curious / scathing about my stick acquiring mission.

5. We put up an impossibly difficult mosquito net over the bed. I got ratty with it. Stupid mosquito net.


Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid mosquito net…


How it’s supposed to look…

6. Pane Caldo dug up some more tree stumps from the garden and we’re now splitting that up because it’s apparently good for fruit trees (we’ve been saving our plum and peach stones for growing – at the moment they’re in the fridge so they think it’s winter and then apparently that will encourage them to flourish when we finally take them out).


7. We bought a TV.  And then we got it back and realised we don’t have an aerial. That was an expensive realisation because then….

8. We had an aerial put in.

9. We have a bath! The bathroom was a challenge mainly because the plumber didn’t want to be tied down to pesky dates and times. And who would? “Ci penso io” he said when asked when he’ll turn up which is basically akin to “yup, I’m on the case”. I should have tried that tactic in my old job. The job needed to be coordinated with having the builder here. In Italy, they like to cement your bath in. I did try and raise the prospect of a more English type installation but they dismissed me as crazy. I hope I never want to take that bath out and I particularly hope there are no issues with the waste pipe. He needs to come and put in the washing machine now. I have a rigid set of dependencies for the kitchen to go in and he’s decided that actually he wont come today after all. Maybe tomorrow at some point. HMM.

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Admittedly it doesn’t look at all special here (and it’s probably not) but it’s a functioning bath and I’m thrilled about it! Just need to sort the sides of the bath out now.

10. I’ve tried to tidy up the bathroom walls a bit – they were riddled with screw holes and chips and cracks from the paneling which was up before.

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No hole. From a distance, I think my patch job is amazing. Better even still if you’re standing outside of the bathroom. However, if you look at it in a slightly different light, it looks like I’ve patched it with another completely unrelated colour. I’m going to investigate tile paint to paint the whole lot. Has anyone used it?  Any tips?

11. We’ve started taking paint off the beams. It’s soul destroying! I think it will take years to do using my current hitting it with a mallet and scraping bits off strategy. It’s so demoralising I’ve not touched it for the last couple of weeks!

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Before (sort of). When the wall was taken down, this beam in it’s natural wooden glory was underneath so we were hoping to restore the others to a similar style. However….

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…this is the result of HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS of work on the other beam. I might have to resort to less manual methods.

12. We’ve bought a sofa. I’m really really excited about having the sofa but it doesn’t come until the end of October! Meanwhile we’re sitting on horrible armchairs and there’s only two of them.

13. I have put up a bookshelf. Not just ANY bookshelf but one in a niche which didn’t have a single straight line. It was made perhaps even more challenging because in an effort to do things cheaply, I’m using only stuff that’s already lying around the house/Scorpion Den (cantina/basement).


Looks like a bookshelf eh? I don’t think I did too badly for a first attempt.

14. I am in the process of giving our living room tables a makeover.




After: strategic troop planning table for local area

15. I haven’t made a decision about heating yet. We’ve had the stuffa (wood burning stove) on a couple of times and it does do a very good job at heating the stairs area. Perhaps we’ll need to sit on the stairs and just use the sofa for special occasions during the winter!

On a non DIY related note, I’ve been trying to acquire some kittens from the next-door neighbour. It’s going slowly but it is working. So far named kitten characters include: Neve (“Snow”), a two year old white male whose ear seems to be falling off and only has half a tail and Pellosina  (“Hairy but cute”!) a black and white female that’s just had kittens. I don’t know what the others are called yet but I shall endeavor to find out!


There’s 5 kittens – this is Pellosina and her kitten. Cuties!

I met up with one someone I met through the blog recently too and had also bought a house in Sarnano a while back. It’s lovely to meet someone that’s bought in the area and has been having very similar experiences though alas, she’s only part-time here. Her house is stunning and significantly more finished than ours which has given me a bit of kick to get things done!

In rubbish house news, I completely forgot about the Estate Agent fee’s. There’s a minimum fee we needed to pay and because the house was cheap, even with a discount it’s ended up being about 10%. Very depressing!

We’ve been exploring a bit – this was a walk that started from the quaint little town of Acquasante to the top of a mountain nearby…


From the panorama point of our walk, you can see lots of mountains. Apparently. We had somewhat of a big cloud so we just saw the base of them!


It’s been very mixed weather of late – it was glorious sunshine when we left and it started getting increasingly ominous looking throughout the walk. Made for some good atmospheric photos though.

Wildlife watch

Deer watch: The deer have increased to an impressive five deer at the same time now. I’m thrilled Deerdrie has friends and family. It’s rutting season coming up apparently so I wonder what that will mean for the field out the back where Deerdrie and her herd spent their time. Interestingly the Italians are very specific with their deer names. Our ones are not simply “cervi” (deer) but “caprioli” (roe deer). I’m disappointed we’ve not seen any wild boar yet though. Next month the hunting season starts and they start shooting them so in a way I’m pleased that they’re keeping a low profile to be honest.

Flies. We have flies that come into the house when the doors are open – there are mainly 3 types (listed here from least to most annoying):

  1. One that clings desperately to the wall and doesn’t move. Ever. Even if you poke it.
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Does anyone know what this is?! It seems to be the least intelligent fly imaginable. You can pick them up by their wings and escort them out the building but I don’t think they enjoy that method of removal.

2. One that flies around in hexagons in the middle of the rooms.

3. One that flies around and lands on things.

I’ve been doing research on fly friendly methods of getting rid of / repelling them which include clear bags of water and I even created a (entirely unsuccessful) fly trap from a coke bottle. The house needs a lot of airing – it gets quite a lot of condensation in the mornings so one of the first things we do is to open up all the windows and doors and then we’re overrun with flies! I need fly screens!

What’s a bit odd:

I must have mentioned the issue with plugs before now. The plug sockets in this country are nothing less than absolutely infuriating. There are MULTPLE types of sockets. One requires an exhaustive supply of plug adapters and Krypton Factor style thinking in order to produce a satisfactory result. For instance, our kettle, bought in this country, requires 4 adapters in order to be used in the kitchen.

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Exhibit A

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Exhibit B: Box of plugs. Even with all these things, I sometimes have to give up on the concept of getting electricity to some things.

Right that’s it for this week – I’ll try not to leave it quite so long next time so there’ll be less of a bombardment of DIY updates and photos! Have good weeks all…


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Renovations, aliens and comic conventions…

Ciao a tutti 🙂

Come stai? I hope you’re all well. There’s been lots going on in the last couple of weeks… including an array of exciting house developments:


The Ikea people came! As predicted, they couldn’t find the house so I drove to meet them at the local school and led them back. It means we finally have a fridge! Cold, not gone off food has been such a joy. And we have a bed! It came without slats – surely that’s rather integral? Turns out we had some in the cantina (basement) left in the firewood pile so after studying them for a while to ensure they weren’t riddled with something nasty, we’ve used them. Lucky!


Now we have a bed, we’ve moved bedrooms to the larger one on the main floor rather than a smaller one upstairs. I think it was Klaus The Scorpion’s bedroom before so we’re marginally more paranoid than usual. However, it was my “make at least one room look ok” cunning plan. It just needs a bit of colour now but I’m on the case with that. I’ve “renovated” the wardrobe that was already in the house so it fits in a bit better. I’m about to renovate a rusty old chair for putting clothes on. I’m going to have to be a neater person – my current strategy of tipping everything on the floor whilst trying to find something to wear and then leaving it there is not conducive in this house (see the new regular “Wildlife Watch” section at the end).


Bedroom as it was… (note dark brown wardrobes – the single one is now a scorpion proof tool chest in the cantina, and the other one has been turned into, well, a wardrobe)


Bedroom as it is now. It needs a mirror and finishing touches and a bit of colour but it’s a lovely room now I think and the renovated wardrobe doesn’t look too bad I think.


When we moved in and chucked a few things out, somebody had riffled through our bin bags. I think that’s a bit odd. However, I have a confession. I scavenged a glass bottle at the bins the other day (thought it’s not the same as rifling through someone’s rubbish eh? It was sitting prettily outside the glass bin). I bought it back for cleaning and I hadn’t quite realised exactly how disgusting the cleaning process would be. Thirty minutes of gagging later whilst I tried to get out congealed wine (I really hope it was congealed wine at least), we now have a beautiful bottle! I’m going to do something with it. Probably I wont put wine in it. In fact, wine for me has forever been tainted by said cleaning experience.


I like my new old bottle. I have exciting plans for it.

Knocking down walls

The most exciting development has been the destroying of the walls. A couple of local builders came and knocked down the walls between the sitting room and the stair area and I love it! I should add they weren’t load bearing so the rest of the house is still standing. It’s so much bigger and lighter yet feels a lot cosier at the same time. I’m so pleased with it.  If I’m in another room I sort of pop in just to have a look at it. It only took a couple of hours and has made such a difference. Not only that, in knocking them down it exposed one of the beams and it looks actually quite easy (famous last worlds) to get the paint off the others now (they’re painted white at the moment) so that’ll be a fun evening task.


As it was…(taken from the “stair well” area… it was a weird little space – too small to do anything with but took up an inordinate amount of space).


Mid demolition…


The finished lack of wall! You would only have been able to see the back of that armchair from this view originally.



An Ikea kitchen is being delivered and fitted on the 1st October, I hope. But, first we need to get rid of a fireplace which takes up most of the kitchen, move the plumbing around a bit and get some electricity into bits where there isn’t currently. Lots to do! But, we’ve made a good start (the royal “we”, I had nothing to do with it really). Next week hoping to block it off with something or other.




After…. well there should be another “after” photo coming soon with it looking like a white wall, fingers crossed.



I’m desperate to have a bath in the house somewhere. We bought one from the local “edilizia” (an edilizia seems to be a place where you get house stuff from). We were given a choice as to whether we want to pay 10% or 22% tax on it. I went for 10%. I feel like it might be a trap. Anyway, to fit the bath in, we need to take the shower cubical out and get rid of some wood panelling at the sides of the bathroom. I was worried about what we would find underneath the panelling but it was just tiles. They were painted though so we decided to scrape that off. WHAT A MISTAKE! It took ages, I can barely use my thumbs for using the scrapers and it still looks like an ugly bathroom! I think I’ll cross the re-tiling bridge later. I hope I can get the bath in shortly.

The bathroom... it doesn't look bad here actually. There's a shower next to the bidet, behind the camera.

The bathroom- as it was. The paneling needed to come off to fit the bath in.


This is what was under – the tiles were painted a cream colour. That was a nicer colour than the blue original tiles but it was patchy so needed to come off.


And now it’s just blue (after HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS of work)


We spent some therapeutic time in the garden getting rid of weeds (and almost a century old rose planted by the next door neighbours beloved granddad), raking, digging up tree stumps and marking out where the lake, forest and orchard will be going. Despite a few hours work, the garden looks almost identical to what it did before. I’ve decided that gardening, though therapeutic has the potential to be very unsatisfying.


I can’t express how confused I am about how to heat the house and get hot water. At the moment there’s a wood burner (called a stufa in Italy) which is basically in the stairwell and used to heat, er, the stairwell and little else. It’s poorly located and after testing it, doesn’t seem to emit much heat. For hot water we have a boiler that runs off electricity. It’ll be cold in the winter and we need a better heating system. We seem to have multiple options for heating water and the house all varying in price from the absolute fortune in the long run to well, an absolute fortune initially. My confusion is not aided in that the Italian’s call almost every mode of heating “gas” as far as I can establish.You can get your own gas tank thing which you can just attach your oven to, a bigger one outside, or you can connect to a methane gas only I don’t think I can in my area, or you can get gas oil maybe which is something else again and I don’t even know if I can get it…… some of them you can use for cooking, some you can use for water, some you can use for heating… CONFUSING! Then there’s a wood pellet stufa (Wood burner) debate. It seems to be nothing less than absolutely extortionate to set it up but cheaper in the long run. On a separate note, I hadn’t realised that pellets looked like cat litter – I thought the Edilizia was diversifying into pet toiletry requirements. Anyway, I think my winter heating strategy might involve a lot of blankets at the moment.

Non house related news

In other news, I’ve been interviewed for an Ex Pats magazine – have a look here. Fame and fortune is surely not far off!

We’ve been exploring the local area…


This is Lago di Fiastro. It’s massive. I had thought we could walk around it but despite its size, there are also sheer cliff faces on one of the sides!


And…. it had a “beach”. It seems odd calling it a beach given it’s nowhere near the sea but there were people sunbathing and swimming. So, a beach. It was a boiling day – could have done with a swim myself! I think it would make good snorkeling too – there seemed to be a lot of fish.


This is Aquasante. There seem to be a few walks that start off from here. Hoping to do one this week and then one of the others “for experienced trekkers” at some point soon too.


This was a really interesting place – I think it’s called “grotto di soffiano”. There’s a couple of chairs and a little garden up there. We wanted to walk further on having heard there’s a waterfall and lake but I wimped out; the “walk” down seemed to be akin to throwing yourself off a precipice.

Back in Falconara, we found a Comic Festival which was a bit of a surprise. Quite interesting though, particularly as they had people drawing in “comic book style” at some of the stalls. It’s inspired me to want to have a go at drawing some comic-style images. They even run courses in Jesi, one of the local towns. It’s a shame I’m moving further away from that, it would have been good!

Comic convention in Falconara...

Comic convention in Falconara…

What’s a bit odd?

The local people we buy things from are absolutely not at all worried about getting paid. The bath people have delivered the bath and weren’t at all concerned about me paying them despite my special trip into town to get cash an hour before (everything needs to be paid in cash in Italy it seems. There are no receipts. Poor Tax Man). The wifi man came, spent a couple of hours crawling around on our perilous looking roof and said we could just pop in and pay him whenever. It’s lovely how trusting they are and obviously if people weren’t paying then they’d probably stop that strategy but it does seem unusual to the “pay up front” general English strategy.

Wildlife Watch

This week’s exciting bedroom discovery was a “House Centipede”. A house centipede looks like one of the particularly creepy aliens from Men in Black. Here’s a picture I’ve borrowed from the ApartmentTherapy website (check out the website here, it’s very informative!).

House Centipede

Apparently they run at the equivalent of humans running 42mph. I can confirm, they are quick.

Nice discoveries now… We have a deer frequenting our local field. She eats breakfast and dinner when we eat ours which is nice. Her name is Deerdrie.

Where's Deerdrie?

Where’s Deerdrie?

And in other exciting news, it turns out that lizards like dead flowers…



That’s it from me for this week.

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