Don’t Get Electrocuted! – Renovating our Kitchen, DIY Edition

Part of the things that needed to get done in renovating our kitchen was the wiring. Oh how I hated to hear that. We had an electrician come through the house just because we knew wanted to add some plugs to the kitchen and a few more in other spots. He was a friend of Nico’s father and he informed us that the wiring was not only original to the house, but also not the fireproof kind. So not only did the kitchen need new wiring, the entire house needs it too…. one project at a time. Its not dangerous, I’m told, just should be something on our short list to get done.

Unfortunately not only was he not only available until September and I’ve already gone 2 months without a kitchen by now, I’m having kitchen withdrawal; but also he wanted 25 euros a plug. This doesnt sound that bad but we needed at least 4 plugs in the kitchen and when you add in the rest of the house it really adds up. So it was suggested that Nico and my father in law would do it themselves. Scary but I agreed because my father-in-law and my husband know how to do some electrical stuff themselves! The FiL had done the wiring for an addition that they added on to the house upstairs. I also made Nico promise he wouldnt get electrocuted. Silly, yes, but I like my husband and I’d like him to stay around a bit longer.

So Nico and his dad went out for electrical supplies. They bought wiring , plugs houses, plugs and all sorts of interesting items.

It took Nico about 3 days off and on to get all the wiring done. The power was off and on and he only got shocked twice (me once!). Even though its not the prettiest to look at the new plugs are awesome and was really the easiest solution. He linked the new wires to the newer set of wiring that is outside drilled a hole in the wall and then tracked everything through the wire covers. I now have more plugs in my kitchen than I do in probably the whole house.

There are 3 under the sink – one for the stove and one for the hot water heater. In Italy they put mini and bigger hot water heaters in the places where you would need hot water, like the bathroom. There a plug beside the stove and the cappa or stove hood is also connected to that plug. Then there are 2 plugs near the floor. One for the fridge and a one extra for use!

Under the Sink

By the Stove fan/cappa

By the Stove Vent/Cappa

Excuse the Mess!

Even though it was stressful (he inverted the current a couple of times) and worrisome (like the first time he got electrocuted) I am very please with how the job turned out and impressed with Nico for doing a great job.

Did I mention he also built me a screen for the window? The kitchen only needs water now and the plumber should be coming by sometime in the coming week.

What projects do you have building up around your home? Hopefully you don’t have anything as intense as renovating an old kitchen with new wiring, but what part of the process are you able to do yourself? Did you do something you didn’t think you could do, like wiring or refacing cabinets? Share your tips in the comments!

08/30/2010

The Kitchen now has a drainage pipe! So I can technically use t by bringing in clean water from the bathroom. Yippee!

Balancing Act – How to be a Better Me

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

I’ve been struggling lately on finding balance. Not only for myself but balance for my everyday. Between wanting to write here, taking care of Isabella, being patient with accepting our new home, being a wife, I find it impossible to find balance in the day. I have a hundred and one ideas surrounding me everyday, things I want to do creatively, for me, for Isabella, a mountain of cleaning and organizing to do but I feel like I have no time to do it all. And in a way its true and not true. Time is my enemy mostly because I don’t always make the best of the time I have.

Isabella is my enemy, but in a way I choose. I chose to be home with her everyday, to interact with her, to play, to rock, to take care of her over doing anything else. Distraction is my enemy as I easily let myself get distracted by facebook, other blogs or other projects I am/should be working on.

I am also my greatest enemy. I need to find balance. To make a conscious effort to get done what I want. I need to be a better planner, organizer, wife and mother. I think I do well, but I know I could do better. I also need to a better me, to have the grace to accept what I cant change. To have the patience to allow for the things I want to be changed to be changed (including the changes I want for myself).

There is so many things I still want to accomplish. I changed paths to make this happen. But I did not change my mindsets. I still have my old habits, And even though I don’t believe in going to extremes, change even slowly, must take place. To start I thought about the things that I most want to get done (in no particular order).

1. Study Italian. I live here now, I must learn the language. This doesn’t have to be using a workbook, or Rosetta everyday as I am surrounded by people speaking it all the time. But I need to make an effort to do consciously do something.

2. Work on the nonprofit. I committed to being a member and I need to ensure part of my day gets dedicated to doing the work that needs to be done.

3. Move my body. Take a walk, exercise, stretch, yoga, pilates. I need to take better care of myself. One of my biggest fears in life now is to not be there for Isabella. Only I can make sure that I am doing what I can to be with her and Nico for as long as I can be.

4. Maintaining our home. Cleaning, sweeping, mopping, laundry – these things take a lot more time if I let them pile up. But if I maintain them daily it wont be so bad. I don’t need to mop everyday or even sweep everyday (we have tile floors in all of the house, with a crawling baby who eats everything). If I put things away as I get them or sweep when I can, or even ask Nico to do it while I watch Isabella, housework wont seem so overwhelming.

My Reason

5. Most importantly enjoy life. I don’t know what this life has in store for me past right now. Sure I can plan the next five minutes but that doesn’t mean that it is what I will do. I made choices so that I can have the life I wanted so why no relish in every moment. Even when there is no water in the kitchen, the house fills with gas cause of a shoddy gas plug and the power keeps cutting out cause the stove is an energy vampire for the little power regulator we have. None of that matters. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally, a beautiful girl whose smile can light the world and I live in the place I’ve always wanted to live. I have a lot to be thankful for. Life definitely has its ups and down but everyone of those downs bring a new challenge and a new discovery of what I am capable of becoming.

What do you do to balance your lives? Do you set goals, keep picture reminders of whats important? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Vacation in Italy, the easy way!

Want to vacation in Italy but cant spare the extra expense? Dont worry. Head over to Bleeding Espresso where Michelle is hosting Gita Italiana for the next two weeks. Gita Italiana is just another way of saying Italian vacation and the first stop is the island I call home Sardinia! The post features the area of Alghero which is where we flew into when we landed in Sardinia. As we waited for Nico’s father to come back with a new car seat for Isabella (since that was the only piece of luggage that was lost on our flight), Nico and I both realized something was different. It was the air, it was so clean and fresh. All of Sardinia is like that, and Alghero is a beautiful beach town that I would love to visit again someday. Even the old airport was beautiful. It is my goal to showcase more of this beautiful island and all that Italy has to offer. But for now, enjoy your vacation :).

*image courtesy of bleedingespresso

Finding a Path

Going through life we travel many different paths. For me this is especially true. When I was in 4th grade I wanted to be an archeologist. A favorite teacher brought me hieroglyphics stamps to play with and I loved creating messages or decoding the messages in the little book that came along with them. For a long time I really thought that was what I would do. Sure there were other ideas in between, a teacher, a night club jazz singer, a writer. But archeologist stuck around. I even declared history as my major once I went to college. But somewhere along the line that changed. I think it was because I had no desire to take any more American History that was required of me. Funny how one class can change a mindset. So I switched gears. I was going to be a lawyer. I changed my major to Legal Studies, since I thought that would help me fast track into law school. In a way it did and in a way it didnt. I enjoyed learning about the law, excelled at Constitutional studies, but still something was missing.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;


So I added on an additional major. This extended my college stay by another year, but I was in love with what I was learning. International Relations was such a fascinating field to me. I had visions of being an international lawyer, then one day a Supreme Court Justice. Or an ambassador. Or the next great democracy theorist. But still my path included law school. That road was bumpy indeed.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,


Getting into law school was challenging. Not that I didnt expect it to be. But the LSAT was the bane of my existence. I even took a prep course and it was just enough to help me get over the logic games, barely. I eventually did get into law school, not a great one but that was okay! My plan was to do well in my first year and then transfer. I had been working as a bartender, another path I enjoyed throughly and had I not gotten into law school, I honestly cant say for sure if I would still be doing that. I can say probably not, because I was stuck in the mindset that I went to college I must do something with my degree other than hang it on the wall. So I packed my bags, got some new all weather tires on my old car and went to Michigan.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.


Law school was a lot like college, only there were no tests or papers just one exam at the end of the semester that determined everything. I still had dreams of international relations, but I began to realize that law school was not meant for me. Why – to this day I am not sure. But I just did not see myself being a lawyer. And I certainly wasnt gonna spend 3 years and countless dollars to not be a lawyer. I decided grad school was a better option. So I returned home. I went back to waitressing and bartending. Even considered going into restaurant Management. I had done some of it before. It wasnt where my heart was but by now I felt like I had to do something other than chase classes. Instead I got into a paid internship program with the Cato Institute. It was a good reminder that no matter what I didnt have to give in just to get by. Working at Cato was intellectually stimulating. The people I was surrounded with were an amazing mix of people that I enjoyed being around. After Cato I was lucky to not return to waitressing and instead went to work at the National Democratic Institute. The job was initially part-time and I was a receptionist/go-to girl. In other words I answered phones and did the stuff no one else wanted to do (like sort old folders from 10-20 years ago). But the pay was good and it was my dream organization. Democracy, international – now if only I could get past answering phones and filing folders. While I was working at Cato and NDI, I was applying and reapplying to graduate programs. I took a graduate certificate course in conflict resolution in hopes it would bolster my qualifications. Eventually it did and I got accepted into a grad program near home town but out of the Washington DC area.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Meanwhile my twin sister had a baby and while my intellectual needs were being met, my heart was still restless. I watched my sister and my new nephew and I can only describe the feeling I had as jealousy. I told her outright, the night I stayed with her at the hospital that I wanted this for me too. She said it would come. At the time I felt it was something too far away. That summer I went and stayed with her to help with the baby, her home and basically I needed a summer to reflect. Grad School was going fine. I was doing well in my classes and most of the time I enjoyed them. But I struggled sometimes. To find the motivation to do the work, to write the papers, to go to class. One of my outlets was playing an online game with my sister. A time sink yes, but with her being 600 miles away when I started it was a nice way for us to spend time together. I continued to play in the summer, we were just able to really communicate and play together. One morning I decided to call in sick to work (another restaurant, just for the summer). Feeling lazy I signed onto the game and went to just fight things. Its what I enjoyed most in the game. And that is where I met my husband. He asked me to marry him that day too. Not that I said yes, but it definitely sparked our conversation and we could say it was love at first byte. Six months later I was flying to Italy. Three months after that he came home with me to America. We married a month later and 6 months after we were married we welcomed our beautiful girl into our family. Seven months after her birth we moved to Italy.

The purpose of this long but short little history is that like the poem, our paths diverge and often we have many choices. Whenever choosing one path we leave behind what could have been but we cannot mourn its loss. For the path we do choose has wonderful things in store. Sometimes they can be sad. Hopefully much of it is happy. But no matter what the path we choose makes the difference.

How has your life changed, your paths diverged? Has life taken you on an unexpected direction?

*The Road not Taken by Robert Frost

Baci – so much more than a Hersey’s Kiss

When I am stressed like most women I reach for chocolate. Here in Italy there is a chocolate that I love! You can find them in the US sometimes (and often they are expensive) but here Baci are in abundance. Baci is what you could call Italy’s Hershey’s Kiss because in italian baci means kisses. The individual candies are called Bacio (meaning kiss) and oh are they unlike any kiss youve had before. Baci are dark chocolate on the outside, milk chocolate truffle on the inside and chopped hazelnuts throughout. On the top is a single hazelnut just to give you a bit more of a crunch.

Baci come in a silver foil wrapping and inside each one is a love note.  Each note has a love phrase in diferent languages; italian, english, german, french and other languages depending on the region.  The chocolate is smooth, it melts in your mouth in such a way that it is a flood of chocolate flavors. Baci are big enough to eat in several bites, but small enough to eat all at once, although they are honestly worth savoring. I picked up a big can of them a few weeks ago and I try to limit myself to just one a day, because eating more than one would lead to eating all of them! These are way better than a hershey’s kiss.

*image courtesy of Baci Perungia

Kitchen Adventures

We have been hard at work getting things set up around here. Finally in my opinion. We spent the first month of our move to Italy running around doing paperwork stuff. Well Nico did most of the running around. I sat at home eating baci running up and down the stairs to feed Isabella her meals, or give her a bath. Its not fun when you live in your home but you cant LIVE in your home. But we are making progress. We spent much of last week taking down the pieces of the old kitchen – they are in okay shape, honestly we couldve kept them but they are kinda old and likely we would’ve replaced them eventually. Kitchen hunting was … interesting. I’ve never bought a kitchen in the US or even replaced a kitchen in the US, but heres how it works in Italy. Normally when you move into a home there is no kitchen. So our situation is not unique. Italy has stores called Fai-da-te, or Do it your self. Sure America has similar stores but what is really nifty about these places is that you can buy a complete kitchen – stove, fridge, the works except for the rubinetteria (lol the faucets and stuff that go along with it). We spent a few weeks pouring over different circulars for Conforama and other Brico stores. We even went to Conforama and looked at the kitchens available and sat down with someone to get a price quote. We particularly liked this kitchen:

Our Potential Kitchen - but all in brown

But the space we have is small and we had a certain dollar amount we were willing to spend. The amount of kitchen they could offer us did not match up with what we wanted to spend (YIKES)! But there was so much to choose from. This is just a small sample.

So we were back at square one. Then Nico’s mother said that we should ask the person who made the wooden dining cabinet that she has. Now what you need to know about Nico’s mother is that she knows everyone. So we went and found a beautiful real wood kitchen and because we live in a small town where everyone knows everyone we were able to get the kitchen I wanted, the way I wanted for considerable less than the actual price.

Our New Kitchen - yet to be installed

But in order to have a kitchen we had to get the space ready. As I mentioned we took down the old kitchen pieces, spackled anywhere it needed to be spackled and cleaned the walls in order to paint.

Work in Progress...

Then we went to BricoSarda, another do-it-yourself store to pick up paint. I picked a nice sky blue shade. Now when we got paint I asked Nico if we needed rollers or any of the other stuff that is used for painting. Nico said Naah we have all that at home already”. Famous last words. We did in fact have 2 paint brushes. A big wide one and a little long one … They worked but I think it probably took three times as long as it should have to paint (and honestly used more paint than it probably needed to.) I told him when we paint the hallway, we are doing it my way lol. But it looks really nice

Blue Skys!

Theres still more work to do! I spent the better part of the morning yesterday cleaning the existing tile on the wall. And I only got one wall done. We also need to move the old kitchen pieces out of the kitchen space and hallway. To where, I have no idea what the plan is for them. For me they would be recycled. Then we also have to set up the pipes.. I think. I’m not sure what needs to be done for that but Nico insists that it is easy. But we are one step closer to finally having a kitchen. Now the wiring I’ve learned … well thats a separate monster… No one ever said old homes were easy.