Category Archives: house renovations

Shutter Management

Yes! It is summer! For better or for worse. Wednesday we had our first hot day 39C or 102.2F. We seldom use our air conditioning. We only have two units anyway, and they are old. We keep cool the old fashioned way — shutter management and fans.

We close all shutters around 11am. Making it dark inside. In the evening, after sunset, we open all the windows and shutters and let the cool evening air come in. We place fans in the windows to pull in the cool air. This makes the house very comfortable all night. Next morning, when we close up we keep all the cool inside. Works well. Every now and then it will just get too hot for too long and then it can get tough.

My orto is doing pretty well. I planted seven tomato plants of all sorts from seed. They are now happily growing in the new planters I have. Today I spied my first baby tomatoes. All the herbs are doing well except the rosemary which has croaked. Don’t know why. Basil is big and bushy. The little jalapeño I got is struggling for unknown reasons. But it does have quite a few peppers on it.

Qua and Quo, our fishes are doing well. If you’ve been reading this for long you’ll know last year we got three fishes for a small “pond” I made, Qui, Qua, and Quo. Qui unfortunately died of unknown causes. The other two are doing well and getting quite fat. Especially Quo.

This week has been busy! I had a final dentista appointment Monday. Then we met some new friends in the piazza at Bar Mary for caffè on Tuesday. Afterwards we shopped for groceries because we were having friends over for lunch Wednesday. Then, Tuesday night was quiz night, a benefit for a local charity called Books for Dogs/Libri per i cani. They have one every other month. We have a team. So we always attend. It is a British founded charity to support two canile (kennels) that take in abandoned dogs. One has 250! Very sad for the animals. Then our friends came for lunch which was fun.

It is now tax time here in Italy. We visited our Commercialista today. It is not my favorite time of course. I doubt I have talked much about this. Once you’re a resident here you are liable to pay income tax on your worldwide income. This includes a wealth tax and taxes on investments as well as social security and other income. The tax rates are higher here, but I reckon it all works out in the end because we have no property tax, nor state tax, and health care fees are negligible. We must file in the U.S. but we pay no taxes there because of the Italian/US tax treaty. I truly believe if a person wants to come live here they should contribute to the system, and pay for all the things they are enjoying.

I also met with Irma (our architect) to begin a new project. All three baths here are probably circa 1980, when this place was built. So they sorely need an update. We decided to start with the guest bath. It has an old shower which is the one we use because the bigger family bath has only a tub. We will rearrange the room. We will remove a laundry sink which we don’t use, and the bidet. This will be the spot for a new, bigger shower. I want a seat built in. And we both want a rain shower with separate squirter. Then the sink will move into the present shower spot. Probably two sinks. And the toilet will get updated plumbing from the old overhead tank. The dark blue tiles which go nearly to the ceiling will go and we will have a half wall of probably white subway tiles I think. Who knows when we can begin, but it will eventually get done. As always here in Italy, piano, piano!

Friday was our anniversary. We had a good lunch at San Giorgio in the Piazza to celebrate.

We, unfortunately have the horrible Saharan sand in our air again. This is the sunset Friday.

Luckily, today, Saturday, the air has wonderously cleared. It is not as hot either. A gorgeous day. The high will be about 82. There’s a nice breeze. Being market day I decided to walk into town and see if there are tomatoes yet.

Along the way.
It was bustling. I got there at 9:30.

😃 YES! I see my first caprese salad in my future!

And I got all of this. I was in time for fresh eggs. The gigantic garlic is called Aglione. Which means big garlic! It is used in pasta dishes. Milder than the smaller bulbs.

Buon weekend a tutti!

Induction cooking – how I like it

I have always been a gas cooking person. Now I have induction in the new kitchen. I promised to post about how I like it. So far so good! I actually like it, with a couple caveats. Many people don’t know about this. It is a magnetic field that makes the heat, but only in the pot. The surface doesn’t get warm. The metal of the pots get agitated by the field, creating heat. It heats up very quickly, and it cools nearly instantly.

Here is the island with the cooktop. It is hidden. It is above the black oblongs which are where the controls are.

This is a close-up of the controls. The little thing shaped like a corner is to line up the mats for cooking.

These are the silicone mats that you lay on the countertop for the pots to sit on. It doesn’t work without them. They also protect the counter.

I have made numerous things so far. I was pleased to see it gets very hot to sear things like the chops pictured. Here are just a few things.

One thing I don’t like. I boil water for spaghetti or pasta and if I don’t keep the lid on it stops boiling. I also noticed the heat cycles on and off and the water boils then doesn’t, then does. Since I’m not familiar with induction I am not sure this is normal. I have also had sporadic problems with it showing an error when I’m cooking two things at once. I haven’t figured out why. Is it operator error? Is it a defect? Not sure. I guess time will tell.

Inauguration of the new kitchen

I know it has been a while so I’m catching up now. We have been pretty busy. We had to outfit the kitchen, both by buying some new things and also bringing things up from the other kitchen. It took a lot of work but it has now reached a state of usability!

We took a trip south of Perugia to a store called Alessandrelli. It is a housewares store. I bought some frying pans, some glasses, plates, salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl etc. These things along with what I bought online pretty much put me in action. Pictures on the ride to and from show the beauty of Umbria in spring. 💚

I had invited four friends for lunch on Thursday which was Liberation day here in Italy. It may have been premature! But it all worked out in the end. I didn’t know how to use the appliances. I learned how to use the oven. I made a cake! I also learned how to use the induction cooktop. Interesting and will be a future post.

On Monday, we go on a short trip to…Albania! Yes. Albania. Not just anyone wants to go there, but it is what they are calling the “new Croatia”. The beaches are said to be legendary. And it is incredibly cheap! I will, of course do a trip report. It is just for four nights. Probably too short but we can go back. There are flights from our local Perugia airport which makes it easy.

Ciao for now!

Nearly done!

So today we got the countertop. The plumber finished his work. And the electrician sort of finished. He still has several things to finish. He will be the last man standing.

The counter people were extremely proud of their counter with its embedded cooktop. We got a pot of water boiling and discussed the way the controls work. Pictures to come in another post. Here are pictures from today with captions.

Countertop on truck
Elevator thingy
Working the counter and plumbing
Workers are gone. Still electric things to go but mostly done.
Luther called the island Greenland 🙂
Sink
Wine cooler has 2 temperatures, one for white, one for red.

Tonight I cooked dinner up here. But not in the kitchen. I had marinated a flank steak and cooked it on the outside fireplace. But I had to stay nearby to tend the fire to get it hot so I stayed upstairs for the first time. I found it very comfortable. I love the sofa. Here is a view of the kitchen from the sofa. Loving it. Finally a relaxing moment. 🙂

Kitchen, the end game

Monday, bright and early the cabinets arrived. Each painstakingly brought up on foot or in the elevator if it would fit. First here are a couple pictures of the empty space.

I like the color of the wood pieces. And I like my choice of cabinet colors. A very subdued sage leaning almost to beige. I can definitely see the green in them though.

First picture is just after delivery. The others are after they finished for today. The island is not yet positioned where it will be. But you can get the idea. I also found out the counter won’t arrive until Wednesday. The electrician and plumber come tomorrow.

I’ll post more tomorrow! Ciao for now!

Back from Ospidale

This past week we were invited to a birthday party for a young woman turning 18. Her parents threw a big party with a full five course dinner for seventy of her friends. They are our adopted Italian family. Vera and Graziano. I really enjoyed watching the young people. Beautiful in the flush of youth. Wearing all kinds of things… much flesh exposed! The meal was good, a lot of food but fortunately you could turn down a course if you wanted, and I did! Pictures with captions next.

Birthday girl. She has the most amazing red hair. Really sets her apart. She is pretty, AND super smart.
Vera and Graziano, mom and dad.
The adult table
The kids
Kids

~~~~~~~
Then the dread intervento happened on Thursday. I went to the hospital early, around eight. They immediately rushed me in and I changed into the hospital clothes. They covered me with a shiny blanket and I was wheeled to the surgery floor.

I gotta say, all the people (nurses, anesthesiologist, medics) were so nice and friendly. Happy to talk about where I was from, to tell me about their families who lived in the U.S. One, a nurse with raccoon eyes she had on so much makeup, told me, upon learning I was from near Washington DC, that her daughter lived in Walla Walla and did I know it. The explanation that it was Washington State and not DC which were on different coasts was hilarious. So I was well entertained while I waited. I will add, no one spoke any English. The norm for hospitals here.

All went well and when I woke I had a real scare because my throat closed up and I couldn’t breath. Probably because of the removal of the tubes. It subsided with oxygen. Whew. Back in my room I slept. The doctor came later to explain the findings. I had two different infections. One fungal in my cheek area and one bacterial behind my eye. The issue in my lower sinus in the cheek was a “fungal ball”. Like it has colonized and rearranged the furniture in there to make itself at home… but this also enabled a bacterial infection to get in the cavity which is right behind my left eye. He said that was more dangerous because it could have affected my eye or gone into my brain. So I am glad I got it done.

I have some pictures of my room. It was for two but it was all mine. It also had another whole room with a sofa. The nurse who brought me in said it was my “suite”. After procedures which was painless I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything hot. Nor was I allowed a hot shower on my head. So dinner came and it was puréed vegetable soup. They told me I couldn’t eat anything hot but this soup was piping hot. I asked if it was a mistake. No. I just needed to let it get cold. 🙄 OK then. It wasn’t very good cold. But I was famished so I ate it. Next morning breakfast. I had a choice of tea or milk. I decided on tea. But of course it was very hot. Another wait for it to cool. Sigh.

My room
The “suite”
Cold, but meant to be hot, soup. Horrible.

Back home on Friday and return Sunday then again next Thursday to find out the lab results and future treatments if any. Following instructions. Still not eating anything warm. I miss my coffee.
~~~~~~~~
Saturday we went to a celebration of life for a friend here in Umbertide. John Littlewood. An artist and illustrator with a rich and full life. He was British and his wife is American. They started their own businesses and lived all over the world. In the end Umbertide welcomed him. He was an old world gentleman. Friends with all. My memory of him in the piazza always walking to Bar Mary for his caffè will endure. The celebration was in his small gallery in town. It was packed. He was well loved and will be missed. I plan to buy some of his art as I never have and I do like it a lot.

Next big thing is the kitchen comes on Monday and will be installed Monday and Tuesday, All the players will be here, electrician, plumber, carpenters, work crew. It should be finished and usable this week. Exciting.

The weather is summery. Highs about 80. Really nice. There is a street food fest in town on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Looks good. And here is a picture of a park near the Rocca.

Stay tuned for the KITCHEN!!

New kitchen comes next week!

This week, other than getting the pre-op testing for my intervento next Thursday, has been all about the new kitchen. I have visited the falegname (cabinetmaker) twice. First to double check the color they painted the cabinets, and today I viewed my absolutely spettacolo isola (island). The cabinets are painted a very light sage color. The island, the shelves behind the counter and the wine rack will be wood.

The island is enormous. It is not wide because of the room we had, but it is long. It will be a beautiful piece of furniture. Here is a picture of the working side. The side that faces the cabinets on the wall. There are two deep drawers. One has an inside smaller drawer for cutlery and tools. There is a big space for trash cans because we have many due to recycling. And a smaller side cabinet with shelves.

This next one is the front side facing out into the room. It will have shelves for books and things.

This is the interior drawer for cutlery and tools. You pull the big drawer out and the smaller drawer is spring loaded to pop out inside.

Picking the color for the wood was really hard. I liked the lighter color, but thought the darker one was better for the whole kitchen and the room. I hope it looks ok!

Nicoletti is the name of the faligname. They are very busy. Known all over Europe they make cabinets and furniture for people in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK among others. The quality can’t be beat. Every single piece is fully hand made. I was told they cannot fill the positions they have open for craftsmen. They advertise all over Europe. They offer competitive salaries and don’t even require experience. They will train the new people in the trade. Seems, with the high unemployment here this would be a very attractive deal. But they still can’t fill the spots. This is a shot of the big working area. I watched them cutting the wood for the island on Tuesday with that big table saw. Cool.

A la prossima!

Doings

Time to do an update on doings in Umbertide. Normal every day errands like grocery shopping can be more interesting here. This day I was shopping with a Monk, he had a jacket over his robes but still had his sandals plus a warm wool hat. I saw he was perusing the toilet paper…because even a Monk needs toilet paper I guess.

We also ordered another pallet of pellets for our stufa. While I was standing next to the checkout window I noticed this ad for poultry. You get 10 one day old chicks if you buy a 20 kg bag of feed.

Sunday, friends who have moved away were back and we were invited to join them for lunch at Calagrana. Of course we accepted and were so happy to be a part of the looooong table of about 20. I knew nearly everyone there so it was like a big family event. Much fun and good food.

All my gifted bulbs are coming up. I don’t know what these are but they are the earliest bloomers. Such a pretty deep purple. I cut back all the ferns and I could see the furry fiddleheads all curled up ready to grow. I weeded all my beds (Jill 😁). Those weeds just keep coming back but they look good now. And I added four bags of soil to the bed with the olive tree which had a lot of settling and I could see the olive tree roots. I hope it is happier now. I did all the final preparations for spring in the gardens. Brushing off my hands for a job well done!

I ordered some tomato seeds from a website with hundreds of heirloom varieties. And I bought some trays to start the seedlings. I haven’t ever tried this before. I always just bought plants. I wanted some different varieties and they just don’t have a lot of variety of types here. We shall see if this was a lesson in futility!

I have been very busy up on the terrace this week other than the gardens since we had a really nice day yesterday. Mostly we have had a lot of rain just about every day. After the construction, of which much took place outside, the surfaces were covered in cement dust.

Then I scrubbed all the pavers on the floor of the terrazzo. You could hardly see the color of them through the dust. I’m sure there is still dust there but they are much better. I also washed off all the chairs which were filthy and the table top and all counter surfaces and around the fireplace and oven. What a mess. And a lot of work. I still have another half of it to do but it may need to wait a bit.

The reason for the wait is an upcoming trip next week. What exotic place will we be visiting this time, you ask? Well it is the United States. Yep. We have not been back for five years. So it truly will be an “exotic” place. I think we may be in for culture shock.

It is not a “for fun” trip. We are finally going to empty our storage facility which has become quite expensive. Much work. It is important that I am successful but I’m feeling pretty good about it now.

My local cousin has a friend who will take my antiques. Sadly no one in our family wanted them and I don’t want to ship them. I have some new stuff which I will give away for free on the FreeCycle network. What I want to keep will be shipped over with an international shipper. They will help with inventory and valuation. A person can ship their own household goods over here duty free for one year. Obviously I am far beyond this time so I have to play customs duty of 34% of the value. It kind of stinks I have to do this with my own used stuff. I will need to look into every box and be sure I want to send. The cost of shipping plus duty makes me want to limit the amounts. Thing is, I left my favorite things there. I assumed I’d move back. It is the biggest mistake I made when we moved here to keep it in storage. Things I don’t want will be donated and finally I’ve got an appointment with NOVA Junk to come pick up all that is left.

I am bringing some really big suitcases. I will put some things into them like my paintings and art that I own (that will fit) and also all my Christmas ornaments. I will wrap well in bubble wrap and hope for the best! I also have silverware. I’m thinking of bringing that in my carry-on. I read the TSA webpage and it “should” be allowed but as we all know, the TSA agent makes the decisions. Makes me nervous. I will also, naturally, be doing a shopping trip for some things I use here. Stuff that is expensive or not of the quality I like, or just can’t be found here. OTC drugs, vitamins, aluminum foil, hominy, canned hot peppers, chili powder, chocolate chips, pecans. Not much really.

I will be pretty busy and a little stressed (ya think?) but I will feel much better when I am done. I have not made any plans for social things during this time because I don’t know my schedule. I am sorry I won’t be able to see my friends. We will see family who live nearby for a meal sometime.

I will be writing about my impressions of the U.S. I know I am in for sticker shock big time. But I am also very interested to see what things I notice, that make an impression with my new eyes. It should be interesting. Stay tuned! 📺

New kitchen – post 9

Today they pretty much finished the space which will now wait for the cabinets and appliances. There are some covers that need to be made to go over the electric and plumbing. But the walls and ceiling are done and have been painted. The floor is laid and grouted and the terrace has been rid of all the trash and built up detritus. There is still a ton of dust that needs to be cleaned up but I will do that a little at a time. I can finally access the upstairs internally again. I am pleased with it.

From the door to the stairwell.
From the stairs
From the terrazzo

~~~~~~~~
Over the weekend we had lunch to celebrate our friend Doug’s successful passing of the extremely difficult written driving test. I’ve spoken of this before. The test is in Italian, technical Italian, and draws 30 questions from over 7,000 possible questions. You can miss 3 and pass. All Americans, and Canadians (I think) must take this test within a year of becoming a resident in Italy. After a year it is illegal to drive on your US license. I’ve got lots of friends here and every one of them has passed despite not necessarily being fluent in Italian. It takes months of study, you must enroll in a driving school and really it is a matter of memorization. Anyway, it was a special day for Doug and five of us had lunch in Bevagna. It was sunny but chilly. First picture is of an early flowering tree in front of one of Bevagna’s gates.

Lunch was at le Delizie del Borgo which is situated just outside the walls of the city in a pretty park. Captions beneath the photos.

Steak with fennel and pomegranate
Passito – after lunch drink
Doug’s dessert. No idea what it was but it looked great!
They have cute coffee cups with hats! Keeps the coffee nice and hot.

Then, we lucked into (not) another parade past our house. I was just taking a nap and was roused by the pounding bass from enormous speakers. I have no idea what the occasion was but I took one photo.

You can’t say Umbertide is not a happenin’ place!

New kitchen – post 8

Here it is Friday already. We had a four day kitchen workweek. Thursday they didn’t come. They needed to let the plaster and concrete dry. We went up to check it out this afternoon after they left. It was a horrible weather day. Really high winds and torrential rains. I was surprised they worked because they cut the floor outside. The flooring is neutral and the color doesn’t clash with either of the other two floors it touches. I think that is the best we could do and it defines the space. The photos are darker because of the clouds outside.

From stairs
From the door into the upper floor from outside. Closest room is the office
From terrace.

So next steps are the grouting between the floor panels and painting the walls and ceiling. The carpenter comes Monday. I think he will be building the boxes to cover the plumbing for the caldaia and the electric breakers in the terrace side wall.
~~~~~~~
Tomorrow we are going out for lunch! We are meeting our friends Steve and Roselyne and Doug in Bevagna. The occasion is to celebrate our friend Doug’s success in passing the written test for the Italian drivers license. It is the single hardest thing an American immigrant has to accomplish to live here. And he passed! Definitely a cause for celebration. Hoping the weather will be nicer tomorrow!