Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Thrifted chopping board

At the weekend I finally got round to cleaning up the chopping board I bought a few weeks ago. It took a lot of scrubbing with hot water and vinegar and then sanding down as there were some pretty deep cuts and scratches in the wood. It was well worth the effort however, the grain in the wood has come up really nicely and it was so much more satisfying than going out and buying a brand new chopping board.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Getting Knitty

The days are getting colder and the nights are drawing in, it's time to get my knitting needles out again. I like nothing more than knitting by the fire with a steaming mug of my aunt-in-laws homemade laurel tea.

I learned how to knit when I was about 8 years old and my skills haven't really progressed since then! I've only ever managed to knit things like this simple cowl..........

........or these very basic fingerless gloves.

I've never actually followed a knitting pattern, all those abbreviations scare me a bit (k2tog, psso, sk2p - what do they all mean???) However, if I'm going to succeed in my Challenge of the Utmost Kind, I decided that I need to work on improving my knitting skills so I can make myself something a bit more useful than gloves with no fingers!

So, I searched online to come up with an easy pattern I could follow. I thought I'd start with something really simple and work my way up. I came up with a dead easy pattern for slipper socks and at the weekend I completed the first one using wool which some friends gave me for my birthday almost a year ago.
It's a bit of a funny shape as I didn't have the right kind of wool or the right size of needles. However, it's cosy and comfy and I think very 'chic' in the granny way. Now, I just have to knit the other one..........

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Uncovering hidden secrets

We spent a strenuous morning today knocking plaster off the walls in the house. It's hard work but I loved doing something physical - I'm fed up of all the talking and planning.

We uncovered some lovely hidden features under the plaster like this old chimney breast...........
and some not so lovely features like this big crack in the wall!

Here's me in action. That dust gets everywhere in spite of the dust protection gear!

Hope you had a productive weekend.

Sarah Elizabeth x x

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

House Plans

We finally have the final plans from the geometra for the adjustments we're making to the house and all of the documents we require are all ready for submission to the commune for approval. It's taken us over a year to get to this stage. I'm not even sure why it's taken so long. The geometra is a friend of my husband's family so it's mainly been my father-in-law who has been dealing with this side of things. We're not making any major changes to the outside of the house, basically just putting it back to the way it once was. The only big change is to slightly enlarge some of the windows.

Piano Terra (Ground floor)
We have two options for the placement of the kitchen. We can either have a big kitchen / diner in the 'taverna,' the large room where we opened up the arch I posted about here, and a small living room / den next door. Or we can use the large room as a living / dining room and have a smaller kitchen next door. The plans show the kitchen in both locations (we won't actually have two kitchens!)What do you think is best, a large kitchen or a large living room?

The downstairs bathroom will be more of a laundry room with a loo, and possibly shower if space allows, rather than a bathroom the way the geometra has shown.
the 'cantina'

Piano Primo (First floor)
The problem we have upstairs is that we only have 2 rooms we can use as bedrooms. The external staircase enters into the third room so it can't really be used as a bedroom. The geometra has shown it as another living room with a little kitchen in the corner (not quite sure why she thinks we need yet another kitchen!. However, we're planning to use this room as a study / library. We'll also put a sofa bed in there so it can turn into a guest bedroom when required.
the 'library'

This weekend is going to be spent in the house knocking the plaster off the walls. I'm getting extremely impatient now. It seems like the real work is never going to begin.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Flea Market Finds

To kick start my challenge of the utmost kind, last weekend we paid a visit to nearby Pissignano to check out their monthly flea market. Held on the first Sunday of every month, it's one of the biggest second hand and antique markets in Umbria with over 200 stalls. It was a bit of a recce for us to see what type of goods are on offer. Although we're not quite at the stage of buying furniture etc. yet, I want to start collecting bits and pieces for our house when and where we can. There was a huge variety of treasures on offer from vintage motorbikes to fabric and lace. Here are some pictures of what was tempting me.........

1. Vintage suitcases

2. Old kitchen scales

3. Copper pots and pans

4. Vintage radios

And here is what I bought.......

1. A dirty old wooden chopping board in need of a good scrub

2. Some 1950s provençal fabric

I could have bought so much more though. I have to be patient however. At the moment we need bricks and mortar not kitchen scales! Nonetheless, I think this could become a monthly outing for me.

Now to decide what to do with that fabric.......

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A Challenge of the Utmost Kind

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently. Thinking about what my goals are, what I want to achieve and the type of life I want to lead. The past year I've been floating along on the excitement of wedding plans, trying to get our renovation project off the ground and building my reputation in the school where I work. I've not really spent time examining my life and where it's going.

Blogging has opened up a whole new world to me and I've come across so many women who I've come to admire and even envy. They're mothers, home-makers, crafters, gardeners, cooks. They lead healthy and thrifty lives, caring for their environment and their homes, raising healthy, happy families....they seem to do it all and I wonder to myself, why can't I be more like that? They're living the lives I'd like to lead and it's time I did something about it.

While planning our wedding I came across the blog Imagine Lovely. I was in awe of Tania Verdez's challenge of buying only second hand or home made items for a whole year, this included planning her handcrafted vintage wedding. I discovered that she was taking part in a challenge set by Tif of Dottie Angel. At the time I read about it and thought, as I often do, that's something I'd like to do....maybe one day.

Recently I've been growing more and more concerned about the impact of our consumer society on the environment. Then I came across the Story of Stuff Project. Their video about where 'stuff' comes from and where it goes scared me into really thinking about what I buy and what I do with the things I buy.

So these discoveries combined with a feeling of lethargy about my life now that the excitement of the wedding is over have led me to the decision of taking up Dottie Angel's challenge. For one whole year, starting on 10.10.10 I pledge to buy only second hand or homemade goods for myself and my home. This will include as far as is possible the things we need for our home renovation. Where it's not possible to buy second hand or homemade (second hand paint might be difficult to come by!) I'll buy the greenest product available.

Already I'm feeling overwhelmed by this challenge and at the moment I see only obstacles. My family and friends in Italy are going to think I'm crazy. There is a distinct lack of charity shops or thrift stores in this part of the world and I have no idea where on earth I'm going to do my shopping. However, I know that I have the blogging community to continue to inspire me and I'm relying on you, my blogging friends to get me through the coming year.

Let the challenge begin!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Beautiful Venice

The second day of our mini-moon we spent in Venice and it was every bit as beautiful as I had imagined.
Everywhere you look there is something even more spectacular to see.
We encountered acqua alta (high water), a phenomenon which occurs in Autumn and Winter when the scirocco wind blows causing higher than normal tides. Piazza San Marco was flooded and although there were raised walkways to cross the square we decided, like hundreds of others to take our shoes off and paddle about in the water. It was such a warm sunny day after all.
We had a (very expensive) aperitivo at a cafe where the waiters were wearing bowties, white jackets and rubber waders!
It was so surreal but at the same time magical, sitting there drinking our prosecco in the middle of a giant puddle while a quartet played a waltz behind us.
Unfortunately, just after lunch the battery of our camera died so I hardly have any photos. It's probably just as well, I don't think my limited photographic skills would have done Venice justice!

L'Isola del Sole

I don't know where this week has gone! It's taken me all week to get round to posting about our mini-moon in the North of Italy. We stayed in a hotel in Grado which is in the north eastern region, Fruili-Venezia Giulia, not far from the border with Slovenia. Grado, or L'Isola del Sole (Sunny Island), as it's known, is a lovely seaside town in the centre of a lagoon on the Adriatic Coast. We spent a lovely day exploring the old town, walking along the beach and eating sea food.
I love taking pictures of windows!
Lanterns inside the church
This room of the church was under water.
The most common way to get around in Grado is by bike..........
........or by boat!
an interesting quote on a blackboard outside a bar. It says,
'The worst prison is the one we create for ourselves"
I loved the bright sunny yellow of these beach huts.
After a lot of walking we definately deserved this tasty pot of mussels and a few glasses of the local wine.

Tomorrow I'll be back with pictures from Venice (the few we managed to take before our camera ran out of battery - school boy error!)