Thursday, January 31, 2013

I will confess ...

that the Russian did all the grunt work on this house.

But I did the painting! :) 

There were so many different kinds of dark wood that I hardly knew how to calm things down on a budget. A new staircase, for example, to replace the existing one that had three kinds of real wood plus an imitation landing, would have cost 16,000 dollars. 


200 to have a door painted white. 


A mental shift was clearly my only route to a beautiful home, so tying my hair up in pigtails (my do for six months straight) I donned a pair of Converse and jeans and drove down to the paint shop. 

This is hard-core painting, too. Sand everything by hand and wash. Apply three coats of paint, the first of which is so potent it makes you feel high... literally. (Those were happy days) I popped in Odhecaton's Monteverdi: Missa in illo tempore for hours and became a zen-ful painting machine, lying upside down at times to apply paint with tiny foam rollers.

The week before we moved in, the husband was carrying a cabinet downstairs with his equally muscular cousin, working their way down the newly white staircase with precision. 

The Painter: Are you being careful? Should I tape some cardboard around the banisters just in case?

The Muscles: Oh, no, we're fine! No problems here; no need to worry.

And since I tried to be a non-nagging variety of wife I didn't fret, and I now have an inch wide gash in the banister to remember it by. It is the white stone of the household, declaring to passers-by:

There is always need to worry.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

At the last minute, as the blueprints were being finalized, I asked if there was a western window in the cooking area of the kitchen. There wasn't. A quick shifting of overhead cupboards and this to-ceiling window was given a place.

Our Swiss builder felt that the window was out of synch with the rest of the house. "All the windows should line up perfectly from outside," he maintains. But ours are all different heights, and I like it that way. The Swiss mentality does not leave a lot of room for depth of field.

An afterthought, the window corner is the perfect place to stand, stare out at my neighbor's lovely home and let my mind roam. In our old place I was wont to spend time on the rooftop, hanging out our sky light:  

And I found saying good-bye to that little hideaway more difficult than I had thought. But the week after we moved in, daughter was brewing a cup of tea for herself, heating the water and selecting a bag, when I saw her pause and stare beyond the hedge. 

"This window is like your sky light, mom." 

And all is right with the world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The kitchen was originally part of the living room. With no window, no natural light and nothing dividing the two spaces, we felt too cramped as a family of six.

This is the table the owner used as a kitchen and dining room. Those big doors to your right ... the Russian removed them and began the addition.

He pounded an extra door through the brick wall for good measure (see below left) ... because we love sunsets and this is the western wall. 

And put in open walls instead of wood. Big floor to ceiling windows. And now we feel as if we actually live outdoors.

Through his extra door, he can see the fire roaring in the fireplace as he eats his breakfast and dinner.

Below right is the triple door that used to lead from the yard into the house.

We decided that white cabinets and black granite are a classic, no-fail style. Ikea handles and nobs warm it up, and taupe linen curtains offer privacy from the street.


And every morning I eat my breakfast here... looking out these grand windows. 

I'd almost forgotten. When we were in the throes of picking out our kitchen (and I was losing my mind), Kimberly at Life in a Little Red Farmhouse willingly sent pics of her adorable kitchen on my desperate request. I may not have a red farmhouse, but my red espresso machine I think would do her proud. :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Operachic wrote a vivid and very up-close article about our trip to Venice two weeks ago. She's an American journalist living in Milan, an ex-pat, and I love her very personal and creative way of approaching the world.

When we bought our house last March, we lacked the elation of a couple signing for their first home. I remember sitting in the notary's office thinking about the huge cut he was taking off the sale of our house, wondering why I hadn't decided to be a notary back in college. 

How could we turn a house that was too dark and too small for six into a comfortable home, and on a budget? Our expressions were mutually pinched as we signed our lives away that warm day.

Hours, days, months of work later, I sit in a home that I cannot believe is ours - one that truly does seem made just for us. 


became this:

  And this:

Became this:

The dark hallway:

Is now a chamber of light:

And tomorrow I will show you the kitchen!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beware of the dreaded closing ...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It was a business luncheon and I was surrounded by people more brilliant than I; kind but brilliant. 

The meal had come to an end and it was time to take our leave. The restaurant we were in was a "Slow Food" dive, a label for places serving local products prepared the local way. To boot, there are natives serving it up - possibly the best kept secret in this town. It was lovely, really.

The other people in our party were standing in the doorway, coats on and ready to step out into the pouring rain. I was last pulling mine from the hooks on the wood-paneled wall and felt an inner need to hurry. I struggled with my sleeves, tried to keep my gloves from falling onto the floor, but eyes across the room spied my stress and bustle, and came striding toward me in a calm and gentlemanly way.

He was the boss of the place; with greying hair and a stance that speaks to a handsome and playboy past, he took my coat from my hands and murmured in a most soothing voice:

"Signora, you are a beautiful woman (ah, sweet Italians). Don't hurry. You never have to rush. There will always be men enough for you."

And he held the door as I stepped out into the rain. 

Did you know that there will always be men enough for you? Women enough; people enough; warm hands enough; love enough - for you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I deposited my luggage and left the hotel to explore, having just one afternoon to myself before I was to meet my artist at the dark and lonely docks, which, I might add, was a deliciously creepy experience in and of itself.

On the north-west side of the canal, away from the more touristic Piazza San Marco, my feet tapped and clicked through the alleyways; I was on the hunt for a little local dive and my only criteria was a place with nobody like me - no tourists. I wanted to see and hear and be among Italians. 

But I was quick to learn that there are no Italians in Venice - there are Venetians! Who live in the "Republic of Venice"!

I observed as one after another they came, stood by the bar, and drank a glass of wine. Once a man roared out his frustrations with being a gondolier - "damn tourists"! A smile from the waiter as he filled my glass, a wink. I wasn't about to open my mouth and let anyone in on my identity. But as I finished my salad and stood to leave, this patriarch caught my eye and addressed me directly in his native tongue.

"Beautiful woman (bless his Italian soul), I am not Italian, just so you know. I am Venetian from the Republic of Venice! Do you understand? I've lived here all my life, born and raised and now old and grey. This is my country. Venice! The Republic of Venezia! Write that in your newspaper!"

I snapped his picture and he kissed me good-bye. And now I am writing it in my newspaper for all to read. Long live loyalty. Long live individuality and uniqueness. Long live Venezia!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I've been walking about for some time, crossing bridges and changing habitat. Life has changed, and with it the blog I abandoned last year for a lack of time. I've missed this little dig, sitting at my desk with an espresso - or tea - depending on the mood.

So I'm back. Gazing out my new office window, the one the Russian pounded out of a double brick wall just so I could have light to work. Last year was a year of watching his muscles grow, not that I'm complaining, and you'll hear all about that in pictures.

I was in Venice last week on business, and when I arrived at the train station and crested the great staircase at the entrance to the city, I stopped and absorbed the beauty. My friend and artist, who would join me later that day, had assured me that I should not take the water taxi but rather enjoy the city streets, hang a left and continue on the short distance to our hotel. I did that.

After hauling my heavy suitcase up and down four bridges it dawned on me that this was going to be the terrain for the next 3,000 house numbers. I stopped and inquired, "Am I close to the Hotel Giorgione?"

Si, she replied, only otto brrridges to the hotel.

Otto bridges ... damn my artist.

And that was how I arrived panting and sweating at the lovely Hotel Giorgione in ancient Venice; and that is how I have arrived panting and sweating in 2013 ... only otto bridges more.