Category Archives: New apartment

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!

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

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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.
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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!

Thanksgiving week

We are in Thanksgiving week. There are a few other things happening. We have done some doctor stuff. We got our flu shots Tuesday. But we want a Covid booster and our doctor said we need to go to the health department (CUP). Well I asked in the Facebook group for expats here called Umbrialiens and got some interesting insights. I got a link from a friend for online appointments and was surprised that none were nearby. Another friend north of us said the Upper Tiber Valley, where we are, has a shortage of vaccine. Only health care people and over 80 years old can get it. I guess that explains the lack of locations near us. I really don’t understand how our little area doesn’t have vaccines when the rest of our region does. 🤦🏻‍♀️. Mystifying. Anyway, we made an appointment in a town near the lake and will go in December. I know so many people with the virus. I really don’t want to get it, or if I do, I want it to be not terrible.
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I had a lovely coffee with a good friend, Elizabeth today. She is doing well and expecting a lot of guests in the upcoming months. She wrote a book a few years ago about the Upper Tiber Valley called Sustenance which is a wonderful chronicle of the artisanal producers in the valley.
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We had a lovely dinner with our friends Susan and Gary last night. We went to Grace, our nice neighborhood restaurant. Good food. Great to catch up. You may remember they were our first friends here and had the small apartment we stayed in during our first renovation. And another bigger place. They have sold both so they won’t be here often and we miss them a lot. We are simpatico is in all ways. Hard to meet people like this. We did plan a vacation together next year for October. Should be fun. To the Loire. We are compatible travel companions and always have fun together. 🥰 My most interesting dish from dinner was a red cabbage soup. I love the color!

I also met with my architect, Irma, at Nicoletti, the falegname (cabinet maker) who will be making our cabinets. It turned out to be productive but somewhat stressful. The decisions I was making I’ll have to live with for a long time. 😳 I was surprised to see the list of orders for custom made cabinets included the UK and France. It was cheaper for Nicoletti to make them and ship them than to have them made in their own country. I went into the factory part which was a beehive of activity. They can make ANYTHING exactly like you want. Pretty impressive. Anyway, now I’m in the queue. They will make them in January or February and install them in March. Hopefully the first two weeks of March since we will be in the US after that. I don’t really want my house-sitters to have to deal with it! I could always put them off until we return I hope!
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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We will go to Calagrana which will be making the traditional meal. The evolution of Thanksgiving at Calagrana is interesting. Ely being British and Alberto Italian didn’t know much about the feast. About 9 years ago our friends Susan and Gary wanted to have thanksgiving but they couldn’t cook the huge turkey at home. So Susan hired Ely to roast one for her, plus appetizers etc. Ely was up all night roasting the 35 pound bird and talking to her sister in Philadelphia who collaborated. We picked up the turkey and had the feast at Susan and Gary’s house. That was the same for the next year. Then we decided it was easier for us to go to Calagrana than to bring the bird from there to us. Ely and Albi invited us into their home since the restaurant was closed for the winter. That went for a few years. Then, Ely having become an enthusiastic Thanksgiving fan, decided to open the restaurant for the feast to anyone who reserved. So now that’s what we do. Tomorrow we are guests of Susan and Gary and we will be a table of ten I think.

I am thinking that next year, once I’ve got a kitchen, I’ll have a meal at our house maybe for our single friends who would enjoy coming together for the feast. And some of our other new friends. Since Susan and Gary now live in Florence and have sold here I’m not sure how often we will see them.

HAPPY THANKS GIVING. EVERYONE! There will be a post about our meal soon.

Upstairs kitchen

I haven’t posted much about the new kitchen upstairs. I find it very hard to figure out how to use these two floors that we have. The very idea of a kitchen on each floor is hard to get my head around. And how best to use them both. The thing is each floor has a living area and a dining area plus other rooms and the top floor the terrace. So to use those spaces on the top floor DOES mean there needs to be a kitchen. We have been entertaining on the terrace some. It is difficult and requires a lot of thought about what you make.

On Saturday we invited our friends Debbie and Bob over for lunch. I made potato salad ahead. I grilled tandoori chickens and grilled veggies on the day, both of which I did a little ahead and let them rest while we chatted. It was pretty easy except for carrying all the cutlery, glasses, serving bowls and plates up and down the stairs. Debbie brought the dolce, (thanks Debbie!).
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Yesterday we got our new, ginormous refrigerator delivered, which was no small task let me tell you! This was to the 4th floor (North American). Lots of steps. It is an LG French door refrigerator with ice maker. This will help with entertaining…I think. I can at least bring up cold dishes and wine and water ahead of time. That will help a lot. Anyway check out Moby Frig.

And this view is the space where the new kitchen will be. The refrigerator is where it will be, that wall will be torn down and the back wall will be cabinets, sink, oven and dishwasher. In front will be an island with cooktop. Still much to decide.

Deciding what to do with the floor has been a big decision because there are already two types of tiles/stones. Irma (my architect) thinks we should take out a larger portion of the old floors than I wanted so that the three flooring types will stay separated. I’m still thinking about that. I already chose the flooring which will go in the new kitchen. It is a product called gress. It is a very hard, almost indestructible kind of material. Very easy to maintain, zero absorption. They produce big slabs, 2.20 x 2.80 meters. We want to go big so there will be fewer seams so it won’t be busy to clash with the other two floors.

Here is what the product looks like when installed. This is not my color choice.

My color choice is Trust because it is warmer and there is just a hint of red in it and I “hope” it blends with the other two which also have red.

So, once I find my architect, who seems to be MIA since we returned from our trip, I will have a better idea about when this work will start. Not looking forward to the noise and mess. But having a kitchen will be nice.
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We’re havin’ a heat wave 🎶

Yup. Italy is one of the countries in Europe that’s getting slammed the next week or so. I was feeling especially sorry for the tourists in Rome and Florence. Man is it HOT! 🥵 They predict 40s starting Monday. 42C Wednesday — that’s 108F. Compound it with crowds of sweaty people and waiting in-line (no shade) to get into the sights it will be miserable.

It is natural for people to want to see the “Big Three” major sights (Rome, Florence and Venice) especially on their first trip to Italy, but I strongly advise against it in any hot and high season. Especially this year with an over abundance of tourists after Covid. So what if you’ve got to wear a jacket? It’s so much better than what is going on here now. I was talking to my Italian teacher yesterday and she got rather worked up about it all. She is adamant that Italy needs the tourist dollars, and it does, but why can it not be spread out into regions with less crowds and just as amazing things to see? Not to mention you’ll see the REAL Italy. These mega tourist destinations will be a very sad initiation to Italy. There are so many undiscovered places. Tuscany is always overrun. But Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo are all wonderfully uncrowded and all in the center, equally easy to reach. Go to the “Big Three” in winter, late fall, or early spring, and in summer the countryside and small towns.
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In our new apartment we are getting used to managing the temperatures. I open the windows at night when it is this hot at 10pm-ish. And leave them open all night. I’ve got fans in every room pulling the cooler night air in. I watch the morning temperature closely and shut all the windows and shutters when it hits 80 outside. It stays fairly cool inside. It doesn’t get above 80 when the temperatures outside are mid nineties. The fans help a lot. At night we decided to move upstairs to the sofa bed. There are two AC units up there but that’s a big room with no doors and open stairwell to the downstairs so it doesn’t get terribly cool. But better than downstairs. Also, a bonus, it’s very quiet in that area.

Today I got out early (for me) to the market. I bought a bounty of veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, arugula, cucumbers, potatoes, squash.

Believe it or not, between us we eat about 30 tomatoes a week.

Another thing I have to do is figure out how to make meals in this heat. Italian kitchens are usually tucked away from the main living areas. That’s good and bad. Our kitchen has a door to shut it completely off. Until today I thought that was stupid. I also have a very big hood that really pulls the heat out. So shutting the door, opening the windows and using the hood keeps it mostly cool and isolates the heat in that room. I still try to cook early, while it is cool, for dinner that night.

Today, when I came back, I roasted three tomatoes with garlic and I pressure cooked cannellini beans. Our dinner will be pasta, tossed with this sauce, beans, basil, pecorino cheese and bread crumbs. Served room temperature.

I also made pesto. I have four plants and they are all doing very well. I keep it producing by snipping the branches just before they bloom. I go down to the two itty bitty leaves below the big leaves. This allows those small leaves to grow and it doesn’t get rangy and ugly.

Remember my puny tomato plants. They are heirloom American tomatoes. A gift from my friend Joanne. Just look at them now! They look a bit messy. The basil is beside the olive tree. There are three tomatoes and a jalapeño plant. The tomatoes try to encroach on the pepper so I keep them tied up. I figure the tomatoes will ripen when we are on our cruise in August/September. My luck! My house-sitters will benefit.

I have a post half written about our upstairs kitchen reno. That is upcoming. Keep cool y’all! And Buon fine settimana! A la prossima!

Shelves, sofa, things!

My cabinetmaker Paolo, works slowly. I’m not in a big hurry. It is a good thing I’m not because it has taken since February so far! He finally finished two of the three things I had asked him to make. I just went and looked and it doesn’t seem I took pictures of the supports for some shelves the sellers left sticking out of a wall when they removed, and took the shelves. These supports are iron and embedded into the building so they couldn’t easily be removed. They were also ugly. If I were the sellers and had shelves custom made to fit onto these supports I – Would. Not. Have. Taken. Them! But that’s just me. So, of necessity I needed to replace those shelves. They had to be thick because the supports actually insert into them. Paolo finished these shelves last week and installed them. I also replaced some other shelves the sellers took in a small space. It is a good place to store things. Kind of a pantry. One thing remains to be finished by Paolo, a custom built corner cupboard in the hall from the front door. He says he will be finished by next week with this piece.

I really don’t have enough “stuff” yet. I suppose over time they will fill up.
The space is narrow, but still works as a pantry.

A woman who lives just outside of Umbertide is downsizing at her house. She advertised some things and I bought a few. I can use the crocks and urns for flowers if I want, and they are pretty. I still need some decorative things especially for my bookshelves. I paid her a visit today. Their house has a spectacular view. They are up in the hills to the west of Umbertide. The view is of the entire city and also our big Monte Acuto and other big mountains to the east. I just learned the old name for the big mountain is Montaguto. Aguto is an archaic way to say acute just like Acuto. Here is their view. They lived here for 25 years and have now moved back to the US – Maryland. They return here twice a year. She says less stuff is better when they aren’t there all the time. Here is the view. Click for larger picture. You can see it better.

I bought a pretty group of hooks for coats with grapes. I didn’t get a picture. I still have to mount it. I also got two antique crocks (American). I had some back home. They are very useful as well as pretty. One of these will hold my utensils in my new kitchen, if ever I get one!

The others are purely decorative. She said they were Egyptian.

Finally, after many delays, we got our outside sofa. First I received an email saying delivery would be between such and such date and such and such date. A week in duration. Well that came and went. So I got a phone call. They would come Monday. Monday came and went. No sofa. Another call on Tuesday. They would come Wednesday. Sigh. Well, a guy did show up all by himself. I had paid for delivery a casa, and assembly. Riiiiggghhhttt. I asked him why there weren’t two people. He shrugged and said “it’’s Italia”. He said if he complained he wouldn’t have a job. Poor guy was so sweet. He was apologetic he couldn’t assemble it. But he did take it out of the huge box and brought it up piece by piece. Watdaya do? So we spent some of our anniversary and the day after assembling the sofa. Picture.

I like it a lot, which is good! And it will be nice to watch the sunset. It faces west. Speaking of anniversaries. June 21 is a special day. First, it is the Summer Solstice, happy holiday to all the Druids and Pagans out there! And for us, it is our wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to us! Finally for me, I retired 10 years ago on June 21. Never a better decision was made. 💕

I also had an excellent adventure yesterday but I will save that for a future post. Ciao for now!

Qui, Qua and Quo

I bet you’re wondering what this will be about. 😉 Those words are Latin. And they happen to be the Italian names for Huey, Dewey, and Louie — Donald Duck’s nephews. And now, they are the names of our new fish 🙂. Of course we don’t know if they are male or female but that doesn’t really matter. To me Qui, Qua, and Quo are not gender specific. At first they stayed hidden but this afternoon I went out and fed them and they came up to eat. I have always had a small “pond” with 2 or 3 fish. I had not gotten the fish yet and noticed the water of the unfinished “pond” had mosquito larvae. The LAST thing I wanted. Qui, Qua, and Quo already took care of those!

I finished the pond yesterday after gathering a ton more rocks out in the mountains. There is a quarry and at the entrance are lots of nice rocks. Then, I added my little fountain. It makes a pleasing noise.

Finished “pond” with fountain.

Here are other pictures of the flowers and plants. They are doing Ok. One or two seem to be struggling. I also have a “vegetable garden”. I was gifted by my friend Joanne with three tomato plants, heirloom tomatoes grown from seeds from the States. I hope they produce! One seems to be doing well, the other two maybe not so well. And I’ve got one jalapeño. Plus all the herbs.

Next to the pond, ferns, a hosta and ginger which is a ground cover. Also an impatien for a bit of color.
More ferns and a survivor hydrangea. Plus petunias.
Lavender, daisy, more ferns.
Vegetable garden.
Herb garden.

My little lemon tree is super happy here. I’m amazed at the number of baby lemons! I counted 25 but it is still blooming and I assume there will be more.

We are headed for a heat wave, our first this year. We will see how this house is in the heat. So far I’m closing it up by around noon. Closing the shutters keeps it dark and cool enough. Now is the time for more salads for dinner. We both like them. Last night we had a delicious Greek salad. I bought arugula at the kilometer 0 market which has a nice bite and fresh sweet tomatoes which offset that bitterness. Dressed with good olive oil, lemon juice from my tree, oregano and feta. Perfetto!

Buona domenica !

New friends

Our old friends sold their apartment in the Piazza to what are now our new friends. They are here for their first (short) stay. They are trying to equip the place with the necessities of living there. The furniture was part of the sale but much else must be bought.

We met them and we all went to lunch in Montone, our nearby hill town. We ate in Antica Osteria in the main square. Seems it may be under different ownership but we all enjoyed our lunch. They enjoyed visiting Montone, a town they had not yet seen. Here we are!

The view!

Today I finally finished unpacking the last boxes from the move. They were dishes I have no space for, and summer clothes which we didn’t need so I didn’t feel a big need to unpack! But I felt it was time.
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We have a mourning dove nesting on our terrace. She doesn’t seem to mind us being out and about. My only worry is that we have engaged a carpenter to replace some old wood on the big canopy over the terrace. I want to warn him away from her nest. He won’t be here for a couple weeks but I don’t think her eggs have hatched yet.
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Today we got our sofa for upstairs, inside. I think it makes the space look much more inviting and lived-in. Homey. Next a rug.

Finally, tonight we went out for pizza with our friends and their guests. We went to Degusto. Very near our house. And just next to the public swimming pool. They have an excellent crust. It looks dense but it is, in fact, light as air. Here are some drool worthy pictures. 🙂

Mmmm mmmm good!