How is everyone?
Busy here again (no surprise there then!)! I fear my updates lately will become a jigsaw of pictures soon, a sort of “guess what I’ve been doing from these snaps” puzzle. The DIY bits haven’t reduced much but have been getting slightly more interesting. Batfink the kitten is a massive distraction from anything remotely productive. I’ve also been attempting to write a novel – I feel a bit guilty writing for the blog when I’ve got a daily novel target to meet! Having said that, I imagine I shall get bored of it shortly (though I hope not – I’m sure I have a book in me somewhere!). Here’s a more specific run down of current events here in Sarnano.
Fai da te (Do it yourself!
We SHOULD be doing beams. The sofa is coming in a week and I can’t even begin to describe the amount of dust that the house is covered in. Ideally it would be nice if the house didn’t look like it was in the midst of a dust storm when it arrives so finishing the beams is top priority now. And with that in mind, we have:
1. Created a chalk board in the kitchen
For someone that hated teaching, it’s odd how much I like this chalkboard! One can never have too many plans.
2. Renovated the kitchen table and chairs.
Before… Not an excellent picture of the tables and chairs as they were before – this was mid-scraping off the wax/varnish.
After… the table now matches the chairs which match the kitchen units. Just need to get / make some nice cushions now 🙂 Ignore the recycling bin.
3. Created a coat/bag hanging device out of my treasured driftwood collection before Pane Caldo burns it in the stufa.
Works alright! One can never find too many uses for driftwood.
4. Made a note board which everybody, but one person, thinks is horrid. I’m still on the fence!
Ok….. fine, perhaps one can find too many uses for driftwood. But it has an attached DRIFTWOOD PEN HOLDER! Who wouldn’t love a driftwood pen holder?!?!
5. Put “seasonal double glazing” on the windows. We have only single glazed windows and well….it gets cold and condensation-y here in the winter! It’s like an elaborate sort of clingfilm that you stick on to the window frame forming a gap between it and the glass and then you use a hairdryer to get it taut. It’s a genius solution – cheap, easy to do and we’ve not had any condensation on the windows we’ve done already but lots on the ones we’ve still got to do. Today, I’m writing on a particularly nasty, blustery, rainy day and the house feels warm (compared to usual at least!).
6. Bought a dehumidifier. Previously we had bought a damp meter. The rationale was that our cantina seems to be a bit damp (in fact, it’s entirely off the damp meter scale). The bedroom and bathroom need regular de-mouldifying (for the Italians reading this – please don’t make note of any of these “new” words) and the bed covers often feel damp to touch. We also have a flat roof terrace above this bedroom which has a pool of water on it all the time from the rain water – a little water feature/reservoir if you will, so it was interesting to note that the bedroom ceiling was officially “damp” too. I’ve since been measuring the dampness of everything in the house but it seems elsewhere it’s not such an issue. The Damp Reduction Plan included the purchase of a dehumidifier and also an extractor fan to install in the bathroom. We have yet to do the latter but the dehumidifier is quite the success – I think it’s already extracted a bath’s worth of water from various rooms and we haven’t even tried it in the cantina yet! The electrician hasn’t come yet to fix the extractor fan because, despite organising a day for him to come, I didn’t phone him every day to nag him. It’s all so efficient here.
7. Acquired/bought some wood from the next door neighbour.
Apparently we shall need another two lots of these “larger” bits of wood. But we have a wardrobe of small branches and…
Now all these smaller branches too (our stufa is quite small so we can’t have anything massive anyway)
This is the stufa. That pot had water in it bubbling away yesterday – I think we’ll be able to make some soups and stews on it. Or at least, that’s my cunning plan.
8. Done almost nothing on the beams. When I say done almost nothing – we have actually put hours and hours into it with absolutely little, to no visible sign of change. There’s definitely been no change in the last few days as Pane Caldo has been hit with a severe case of ‘man flu’ and well, I have no patience for the beams. For anyone else out there taking off paint from their beams, here are some tips: 1. Chipping with scrapers can work OK to a point. Do that first. 2. Manual sanding will make you want to hang yourself from the very beam you’re sanding. 3. Electric sanding? You’ll go through a sheet every two inches. 4. Wire brush? Seems to have only compacted the paint on our beams. 5. Wire spin-ny brush on drill – speeds up the paint compaction process. 6. Paint/varnish removal goo – works alright up to a point, combined with the scrapers it seems to have been the best at getting the top layers of paint off. 7. Heat gun serves only to lose feeling in your arm.
Other Miscellaneous Items
I’ve also been on various chestnut hunting missions which have been fairly successful although I was caught out by the Italian signage system that led me into the middle of the local forest following the `number 4` trail. It pointed me up what I can only think will be a waterfall when in rains and then the signs stopped. In fact, the only signs that I did see were “don’t come in here, we’re hunting”. By that point, I’d gone reasonably far into the unknown, with no mobile phone reception and a dwindling phone battery. Even then I couldn’t stop picking up chestnuts. I think it’s an addiction.
Also, on a cooking note, it’s been excellent having a decent kitchen. I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent kitchen myself before – it’s much nicer cooking now and we’ve since expanded our repertoire considerably from pizza and pesto pasta.
Some very nice chocolate goo-ey cakes
One of our lovely neighbours gave us a new leaf vegetable to try. It’s a bit like spinach. They call is rape – you pronounce it rap-ay. I cooked it with some potatoes and other bits and pieces the other day and thought it was nice. I don’t know what it is in English but it’s meant I’ve had to change my recipe naming strategy which is usually on the lines of “cheesy potatoes”.
This is the vegetable in question.
Remember my mushroom fascination? I found an organised bunch of people that go out on nature trails and mushroom hunts. There doesn’t seem to be anything coming up now until next year unfortunately but I’ll write and try and join them.
They had a display of lots of different types of mushrooms, all labeled with “edible”, “poisonous”. My favourite label was “suspicious”. I made a note not to eat any suspicious mushrooms.
We’ve been to a couple of autumn festivals – one somewhere near Smerillo and one in Sarnano. The one near Smerillo (I say near Smerillo because that’s where we were heading to until we ended up going to another villages’ festival because I’d got the date wrong. It was seamless though, I hadn’t even realised we weren’t going to the right festival). It was absolutely heaving with people and full of food. I’ve concluded from this, and all the other Italian festivals I’ve been to, the crux of what is considered a good festival in Italy is food. There’s stall after stall of food – either of the ‘hot off the shelf wild boar kebab’ variety or different cheeses, honeys and breads. And people queue for hours and hours and hours to get their lunch. If you go to any of these festivals, I suggest you take a packed lunch with you while you queue (alas, I think then you’d be missing the point of the festival).
Wherever we were, it had good views!
And insanely long queues…
And a great little band…
And creepy stuffed people attached to trees…
I’ll give Batfink (named after Batfink the animated cartoon character who has rather large pointy ears) his own section this week because he’s so cute. When he sees me he runs up to me for a cuddle (and food, but I’m positive it’s mainly for a cuddle). We’ve come clean to the next door neighbour and have admitted he comes in sometimes, and far from minding she seemed happy that he had someone to look after him. So given he and all his fleas like to come in and sit on us in the evening, we decided to deflea him using Frontline and I must say, it’s a miracle! I’d never seen so many fleas on a cat before. Batfink was the itchiest cat ever, and you could see why – the nasty fleas were crawling all over him, his eyes, mouth, ears… ugh. Poor puss. Anyway, no more. We managed to get 20 fleas off him (all the fleas seem to come to the surface) and I imagine there were dozens more. And then….now that we’ve made him all cuddly, cute and de-fleaified – the next door neighbour seems to have claimed him for her own in the evenings!
Batfink in a box
Batfink on a lap
Batfink on another lap
Right, that’s enough from me this week. Hope you all have lovely weeks!