24 December 2013

Rose hip tea

Some weeks ago I posted about the crop of rosehips on our two rose bushes. A friend encouraged me to harvest them and make tea. After surfing the internet, I found that I needed to wait until the first frost before picking them in order to maximise the taste as well as the vitamin C content. So after a few days of frost, I set off with my garden shears and collected a bowl of rosehips. I then proceeded to dry them, first in the oven, then on the radiator, before cutting and crushing them into pieces. The tea looks lovely and tastes delicious but at a ratio of 40 rosehips to 3/4 cup of dried tea I am not sure if this is the cottage industry for me!

Above: rosehips on the bush a few weeks before they were picked
Above: freshly picked full rosehips before they went into the oven to dry (8 hours)
Above: halved rosehips after drying
Above: rosehips after cutting and crushing (=rosehip tea)


Christmas visitors

My sister, brother in law and two nephews are coming to spend a few weeks with us! The trip has been planned for a few months but was disrupted this week when my brother in law's father had an emergency quadruple bypass! Yesterday, after they were assured that all would be well, they managed to board the plane in Brisbane. As I write this post, they are spending 7 hours in the Singapore airport waiting to board their flight to Europe. Meanwhile, Stu and I are in transit to Milano Malpensa where we will stay overnight. We want to be ready to catch them when they drag their tired bodies off the plane after a 40 hour journey. I have all fingers and toes crossed that our plumbing will hold out...


When the builder arrived for his first day's work, he noticed our stand-alone pellet fire on the terrazza and asked if we wanted to sell it. This pellet fire is near new as it was only used for one winter but now that we have the central heating pellet fire we no longer have a need for it. So we told him we did plan to sell it. Interestingly, he offered work in exchange for it. We listed the finishing of the fireplace, the lifting of the doorway to the terrazza (which we always hit our heads on) and the floating of the cement floors in the two "new" rooms in preparation for flooring. He agreed. With all of his skills and equipment already here doing jobs that would take us days, this was a perfect solution for both of us.

23 December 2013


Our cantina (cellar)...storage and workshop...clutter!


Just when we thought it was safe

We had assumed that the dirty work was over. All the builder had to do was lay the new flooring in the dining room and put the new wooden treads on the staircase. Assumption incorrect. The new flooring in the lounge room had ballooned up over the last week so, when the builder arrived two days ago, his first job was to ease the pressure by cutting the flooring along all the walls. We then had a gap between the flooring and the stone walls which was certainly better than a ballooning floor but a bit "brutto" to look at and clean. The builder suggested filling this gap with soft foam then running silicone of the same colour as the flooring along the top of the foam. This solution would allow the flooring to expand into the foam and make it easy to clean the edges but would also allow us to remove the silicone if we find that there is a further ballooning problem in the future. The builder then started to put the new wooden treads on the staircase. First, he jackhammered out the stones in the surrounding wall (=more rubble) in order to lay the landing on both the wall and the staircase steel. As with all tasks here, this proved to be challenging with the landing not being entirely square and the two bedrooms that come off the landing at different levels. Yesterday he laid the new flooring in the dining room, thankfully considering process improvements discovered from recent experience!

Above: the lounge room in disarray for the builder to cut the edges. There is now a whole new layer of dust over everything!

Above: the dining room again has rubble everywhere as a result of the fitting of the landing on the staircase

Above: the landing on the staircase in the process of being fitted


21 December 2013

Stairway to heaven

The builder had to wait for the cement slab to dry out before he could finish laying the flooring. He also had to wait for the stair treads to be hardened (kiln-fired) before he could finish the stairs. This meant he had a week's break from trundling up our little valley. Before he left, he gave me a tin of rust inhibitor paint and suggested that I paint the staircase steel before the treads arrive. He had chosen the colour, which he announced to be "anthracite". This week I got started on this most tedious of jobs (do you know how many angles a staircase railing and bannister has!?) and have finally finished it.

Above: the staircase with the temporary treads that the builder made for us out of spare scaffolding planks

Above: the staircase from the dining room

Above: the staircase from the landing


20 December 2013


Between our own demolition works and the builders', our rubble pile has expanded into quite a little mountainous eyesore. However, this is valuable stuff! It will be the base for our new circular driveway and fill for the many potholes in the driveway.

Above: the pile from the hill behind the house

Above: the pile from the lounge room door


19 December 2013


After 3 months, we finally have a fixed phone line into the house. Last time we lived here, we had no trouble getting a connection as there was already an existing line. Getting connected this time has been a major challenge. At some point in the last 3 years, the existing line had been compromised. Stu traced the problem to 3 telegraph poles up the hill behind our house where the line had broken under the weight of fallen bamboo and trees in the forest. We had to wait for Telecom Italia to clear the forest and string a new line. The technicians who did this work also installed a lightning rod to ensure that future storms don't compromise our communication. Now we can talk on our phone...but we are still waiting for internet via ADSL to be activated...

Above: the Telecom Italia contractor who came to fix the phone line



Our building works have taken until the end if this week to complete. I have finally started decorating for Christmas...

Above: the side door with a pine bough wreath, ribbon and christmas balls

Above: the lounge room with a glass vase of christmas balls and lights

Above: the dining room with glass vases of christmas balls and lights

Above: the kitchen with a pine bough wreath, ribbon and christmas balls

Above: our crib on the ledge in the lounge room

Above: our midget Santa on his way


13 December 2013

Flooring...oops, another pipe!?

The more we looked at the beautiful job that the builder has done on the inside of the house, the more worried we became that we wouldn't do justice to it when we laid the flooring. The downstairs rooms have stone walls (no smooth plaster) which posed a challenge in terms of edging the flooring. The builder offered to lay the flooring for us at a reasonable cost so we have taken him up on it. And this has proved to be a good decision. First, he cut a groove all along the stone wall, into which he inserted the flooring, allowing half a centimetre for expansion in summer. This is something we definitely wouldn't have thought of or been able to do. Once the lounge room was finished, he moved on to the dining room. And that's where things got a little difficult. Most of you will know that we have been constantly challenged by our pipes. Pipes carry everything into and out of the house including water, gas, electricity, heating, sewerage. When we purchased the house in 2009 the pipes and cement slab had already been laid and no schematic was available. So we have been "discovering" our pipes ever since. This week the builder discovered another one by jackhammering through it. Suddenly, a fountain of hot steamy water flowed into the dining room. The builder gaped at me silently before thrusting his trowel into the hole to stem the flow. I yelled at Stu to turn the water off. Stu ran around the back of the house and turned everything off, including the well pump, the radiator pumps, the caldaia, etc. There followed a phone call to our long suffering plumber who came quickly to view the problem, then promptly went to lunch (well, this IS Italy after all...). He returned after lunch to fix it but the builder's day had been ruined by the wet floor which put a stop to his flooring activities. He will return this week to finish the job.

Above: the dust created in the lounge by cutting the groove along the base of the stone walls (note: the kitchen bench is reflected in the glass of the door through which this photo was taken!)

Above: the flooring cutting workshop

Above: the beginning of the floor in the lounge room

Above: the floor in the lounge room finished (background) and our plumber fixing the pipe in the dining room


12 December 2013

More fiddling on the roof

While we have been in Switzerland this week, the builder resumed work on the roof. When we arrived home, we found that he had finished the re-setting of tiles on the first roof completely. Over the next two days he worked on the second roof, installing the corrugated fibro sheeting, re-setting the tiles and building the wooden surround under the eaves. I have been delivering their coffee to them on the roof...

Above: installing the corrugated sheeting before re-setting the tiles

Above: cutting the corrugated sheeting

Above: the new wood surround under the eaves


Fiddlers on the roof

The builder moved onto the roof project a couple of weeks ago. He only stayed on it for a day before the snow arrived. There are two aspects to this project. One roof needs the tiles to be re-set as they have slipped under the weight of snow in recent winters. The other roof needs a corrugated fibro sheeting to be installed under the tiles, the tiles to be re-set and a wooden surround to be built under the eaves. The builders started on the re-setting of tiles first. They installed a steel bar just above the guttering, then tied the guttering to this bar. They also cleaned the guttering of its heavy load of dirt, moss and and leaves. This has been causing waterfalls at particular points around the house when it rains. Then they placed each tile on a z-shaped hook that spaces them properly and ensures that they will never slip again. Our roof will now behave like a northern European roof like those in countries with heavy snowfall such as Germany or Switzerland. It also looks beautifully Italian.

Above: our roof before the re-setting of tiles
Above: the hook
Above: Sandro attaching the steel bar to the roof and tying the guttering to it
Above: Sandro and Cosimo on the roof hooking tiles in 2 degree temperatures which fell to minus 1 degree before they finished for the day

Above: the steel bar, hooks and tiles in place


11 December 2013

Frosty spider

Yesterday we walked into our local street market to stock up on fruit, veges, cheeses and smallgoods. On the bridge across the river we found this little spiders web covered in frost...a true work of art...


07 December 2013

My second favourite city

We travelled back from Switzerland via Milano and Torino. Torino is my second favourite city in the world. It is historical, classy, elegant and very regal. The sun was setting as we were walking through the city and we were treated to another spectacular sunset.



My favourite city

We left the builder with keys and free run of the house this week while we took off on a long-planned and all-important trip to Zurich. In order to change registration of the car from Switzerland to Italy, we needed to have ownership papers verified by the Strassenverkehrsamt and the Italian Consulate in Zurich. We left home at 6am on a crisp and clear day that afforded us great views of the alps. We arrived in Zurich at noon (although the trip should take 4 hours, we hadn't counted on the peak hour traffic around Milano!) After parking the car in Zurich city, we checked into our hotel, grabbed our papers and headed straight over to do our business. By 3pm we were finished and free to head down memory lane. We had lived in Zurich for 3 wonderful years and the city is without doubt my favourite city in the world. It is at its most beautiful at Christmas when its streets are filled with markets, music and food. And just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we were treated to a pink sunset reflected off the old town and an evening illuminated by Christmas lights in the Bahnhofstrasse.