Pretty Pumpkins–31 Days to a Happier Home

I already did a post on the Farmers Market. It’s wonderful. It was especially pretty today. The air was crisp the sun was shining and the fruits and veggies just seemed to be extra vibrant today. However I hadn’t had any luck finding any winter squash yet. Including pumpkin. I’d seen some half pieces of some orange colored squash every now and then but nothing that got me too excited.

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It was depressing seeing recipe after recipe on all my favorite cooking blogs. So I was anxious to get my hands on some. We even bought some seeds knowing that we wouldn’t even be able to harvest until next year. But today I went early. And luckily one of the vendors we normally frequent had pumpkin and turban squash. Not only did she have some she had a lot! It was wonderful.

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I picked up the two pumpkins, four turban squash, three big peppers and some zucchini for about 25 euros. The pumpkin and the squash were obviously the more expensive parts of my purchase but I am looking forward to roasting the pumpkin for puree. Nico wants pie, I want bread!

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As for the turban squash, I’ve never cooked with it before so I will be scouring the internet for the best ways to cook up these little beauties. I’m hoping that my friend butternut squash might make the rounds eventually but even if it doesn’t the squashes I have found are sure to keep me busy.

Throughout the month of October I am sharing 31 things that I love about living in Italy and my home. What are your favorite uses for pumpkin and other winter squash? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Let’s Talk Trash–31 Days to a Happier Home

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Image Courtesy of chrissatchwell

Yep this post is all about trash. Food waste, paper debris and tin cans – it all has to go somewhere And here in our town they have the trash elimination system down to a science. And a calendar.

Mandatory recycling is the norm here. It was difficult to get used to at first but now, even if we were to ever live anywhere else I would implement this system in what ever home I lived in. Here’s how it works. Trash must be separated into five categories:

  • Umido – this is food items, eggs shells, orange peel. Any kind of food items that is biodegradable.
  • Secco – this is anything that isn’t recyclable. Dirty diapers (we have a lot of these) certain food containers
  • Carta – All paper trash
  • Plastica – all recyclable plastics
  • Vetro & Alumino – Glass and aluminum trash.

Our trash pick up occurs over several days as well.

Monday – Secco and Umido

Wednesday – Carta and Umido

Thursday – Plastica

Friday – Secco and Umido

Nothing on Tuesdays and the weekend. Which is great so long as you don’t forget to take your trash out at night. The commune even provides the trashcans that are needed to sort and separate the trash. There are also requirement as to the kind of bags that are required. Umido trash must be put in biodegradable bags. Plastic trash goes into clear bags and paper trash should be in some sort of paper bag or box. We use the paper bread bags or the diaper boxes and only do our paper trash every couple of weeks.

I think this system is great, we are doing out part to help the environment and it really puts into perspective just how much waste a household really creates. I wish we could do more for a diaper trash and maybe for our next child we will switch to cloth diapers but I think Isabella has been through enough adjustments in her little life for now.

Throughout October I am sharing something I love about living in Italy. Do you recycle? What tips and tricks do you use to make it easier? Please share in the comments.

Sea Salt–31 Days to a Happier Home

Sardinia is surrounded by the sea. So of course they have wonderful sea salt. They even make it near by. We drove past a sea salt refinery(?) and you could see the tarps spread out allowing the water to evaporate and leaving the salty crystals behind (I wish I had snapped a picture!)

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Photo by !paco!

The best part about the sea salt – the price. Its super cheap. A bag a fine or coarse sea salt ranges 19-30 cents. CENTS! Its fantastic.

And the flavor. The salt is the best tasting salt I’ve ever had. Its just saltier. I know not a great description. But its got that umami, cant really describe kind of taste. It enhances the food. Makes great pasta, would probably make even better margaritas (I wouldn’t know yet.)

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Good Salt is essential to great cooking and the salt here really does make a difference. And the price for the flavor just cant be beat.

Winding down towards the end! Throughout October I have shared 31 things I love about living in Italy. Is there a spice special to your region that you cant live without? Please share in the comments.

Because I don’t care about the AAP–31 Days to a Happier Home

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children two years and under avoid ALL television what-so-ever. I think the AAP forgets that sometimes mommas need a break and sometimes watching tv, together isnt necessarily a bad thing. Zombie children bad, tired, frazzled parents worse.

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So we let Isabella watch tv from time to time. Not all day, although when I was sick we did have a movie day. But Isabella is no zombie. She moves and plays, stops paying attention. Although she does have her favorites. Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure is one. She meows at the mouse (she things he’s a cat) she helps the fairies lift the fog, cheers for the goose when he lands, and helps the electric guitar music fairy conduct music. In a word, it’s adorable.

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She also watches a show that I watched when I was a teenager. And she loves it. And I love that she loves it. In America the show has been off the air for probably 10 years but in Italy they decided to re-air recently.

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Sailor Moon. I loved, loved this show. I couldn’t wait to show it to Isabella when she got older. Little did I know I wouldn’t have long to wait. She dances when the theme music starts. She cheers when she transforms. I have a small collection of Sailor Moon items (I did mention I loved the show right?) and she smiles at the dolls. It warms my heart, makes me smile to share this with her.

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And its because we are in Italy that I get to do so.

Throughout the month of October I am sharing something I love about living in Italy. Have you shared something from your childhood with someone you love? Please share in the comments.

Sun & Moon–31 Days to a Happier Home

I was going to upload some fantastic photos but the camera has decided to die and not in a just replace the batteries kind of way. Building this on what I have on the card – great pics of Isabella always save the day!

Our home has two long hallways. The one that is closest to the outside of the home has huge arching windows – five I think plus a glass doorway. In Sardinian it is called sa lolla – which means, well Nico says it means the place where you put plants… He’s such a great translator. In reality it is like a sun porch. We have several tall plants that his grandmother grew from a single stalk.

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Nico put his desk there also – the space is pretty big. The kitchen is at the end oh the hall too. For now the walls are white and there are old faded curtains that have pink roses and green leaves. But I want to pant it a lighter blue than the kitchen and put in crisp white curtains. And Nico wants to paint a sun at the end opposite of the kitchen. There’s some patching that needs to be done We did some patching today, and I hope we can start on it next weekend.

Mirror to the Sun Hall we have what we call the Moon Hallway. This hallway is darker because there aren’t any windows in it – just the main doorway. The Moon hall leads to the unused (by us) dining room and original kitchen. For the moon hall we haven’t really decided what color we would like to pain it.

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But Nico does want to put a Moon at the end of the hall – probably the end that leads to the dining room. I also call this hallway the ‘Waiting Room’ because it holds all the unused chairs from current and past dining sets. There are a set of tan leather chairs (that I wish I could fit into the living room, although they may end up in our bedroom), a set of white and dark wood chairs, brown plaid wood chairs and many, many pictures of Jesus. Oh and Del Piero. Well not really, just his shirt.

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The Sun Hallway is typical of Sardinian homes and I love that we have a mirror moon hallway to compliment it. Its just one more thing that makes this house interesting.

Throughout October I have been sharing things I love about my home and Italy. Does your home have any unique features? Please share in the comments.

Patience–31 Days to a Happier Home

Okay not something I necessarily love but something I need instead. Something that living here is teaching me as much as I want to fight the lesson. Patience. It’s so easy to say you just have to be patient. To wait just a little bit and the rewards will be worth it. But its so hard.

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I don’t want to wait for the house to be fixed up. I want it done now.

I don’t want to have to look for craft supplies. I want to go to Michaels and find them now.

I don’t want to wait til next year when we can grow edible pumpkins. I want to make pumpkin pie now.

I could probably keep going, but I wont. Its counter productive. Plus looking for online resources for craft supplies is sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating. Working on the house, when I get to do it, isn’t that bad. I have a great kitchen. Painting the sun hallway, finding new curtains, setting up a room for Isabella – all these things are worth doing right and not rushing into.

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As for the pumpkin. We did get a nice carving pumpkin and the climate is a bit warmer than the eastern US, maybe (hopefully) it will show up in a bit…I hope. In any event I saw some nice winter squash one early morning at the market. They didn’t have any last time we went but it was towards to the end of the market day – it could’ve been snatched up. I’ll have to be quicker next time.

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I can change. I can try be more patient. It’s not easy, but over time as we make the changes this house so needs, I can make the changes I need for me as well.

Throughout October I am sharing 31 things I love about my home and living in Italy. What do you do when you get impatient? How do confront the things you cannot change? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Kitchen Installation – Hurray!

It took some time but I can officially say the kitchen is finally finished. Well sort of. Of course we are still in the process of getting all the tools that are needed to make a kitchen run smoothly. Like a vegetable peeler. A whisk. A baking sheet, pie pans and cake pans.  We were lucky that not only had the few stove top pans I brought from America had arrived but also that Nico’s mother had purchased a complete pot set for each of her kids some time ago. She’s a smart lady – always thinking ahead.

But running water was the absolute last must-have thing we needed for the kitchen. And it is a beautiful thing. You would never think someone would be so happy to wash the dishes. I cooked a couple of times in the kitchen without running water, bringing buckets of hot water from the bathroom down the hall. It’s just awkward.

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I already told you about the wiring but I have yet to discuss the installation of the kitchen. It took just under two days to be completed. When we ordered the kitchen all we had to do was say when we were ready for them to bring it by. Once we got everything cleaned up (no small feat as the space hadn’t been used in probably at least ten years), Nico gave them a call and told them to come out when they were able.

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He was told that their installer was on vacation but they said that he might be able to come out anyways. So we waited for them to call. A couple of days later early in the morning the door bell rang. The kitchen had arrived!

So with no notice but still happy it was here I watched them unload cabinetry, the stove, the cook top, the fridge, everything including the kitchen sink into the living room. Well the cabinetry sat in the Sun hallway.

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Two men showed up to install the kitchen. The main installer and one assistant. The assistant didn’t do much except help hold up some of the upper cabinets and drink water. They worked for much of the morning making all sorts of loud drilling noises and banging. Wasn’t so great for Isabella’s naptime.

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They took a break for lunch. In Italy most work stops around 1:00-1:30pm. And I’m not just talking about things like construction. I’m talking about everything. All the stores, grocery, the pharmacy, everything shuts down between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00pm. It’s so people can get home to have lunch with their families and it is this family-minded mindset that was one of the reasons we choose to return here.

After lunch the main installer came back alone to do a bit more work. What he didn’t have though was countertop. So after he did what he could it was decided that we would come by the workshop and pick out a countertop for the kitchen. It was displayed with a matching brown countertop at the store but I didn’t really like that too much. Thankfully he had a beautiful marblely-looking piece of laminate counter that I really liked. There was just one problem.

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Normally when you buy a kitchen in Italy you get a linear construction – everything goes along one wall. We certainly could have gone that route but I didn’t like the idea of it at all. So instead we fabricated a sort of ‘L’ shape. But going with that linear mindset he had one piece that was kind of a glossy finish and one piece that was kind of a matte finish. The glossy one was big enough to go where the sink and stove were. I liked them both so we got a smaller piece of the matte put on what I affectionately call my “prep” counter.

IMG_2197He came back the next morning and finished the installation. And I love it. We didn’t have running water (at the time) but we had a 90% functioning kitchen. Gas cook top, electric oven a perfect size fridge.

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I picked a pretty blue rug for the floor and there are other things I really want to do but over all its so nice to finally have a done kitchen.

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I’d like to get some hanging baskets and a little movable counter to put in the empty space I have between the two work areas. Something with baskets or drawers in it for things like potatoes. And maybe a spice rack. There’s so many things I can do to make this space work to its fullest!

What kitchen items can you not live without? Please share your kitchen tips and tools in the comments.

Sebadas – 31 Days to a Happier Home

I am very surprised I haven’t written about sebadas yet in my 31 Days. Truly. This desert was something that once I had I wanted again and again. And there’s NO chocolate in it. It has an ingredient you really wouldn’t quite expect.

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A flaky pastry fried to golden perfection. Topped with honey – I prefer mille fiori (one thousand flowers). And stuffed with Pecorino Sardo. Yep cheese. Pecorino Sardo is a delicate mild cheese, nothing like its Romano cousin. Paired with lemon zest, sebadas take on a light open flavor that is enhanced with the honey. Can you tell I am in love?

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I’ve made these a couple times. Once in the states when we were able to track down some pecorino sardo at a Whole Foods. They were good but you could tell the cheese wasn’t as fresh as it could be. We made them again more recently. Living here now in Sardinia, we don’t need to make them homemade –they are so easy to find. But Nico’s mother requested them so I spent the morning making some to take up for lunch.

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They were delicious.

31 days is almost over! Throughout all of October I have been sharing something I love about life here in Italy and my home. Do you have a local desert or food item that you just love? Please share, describe or provide a recipe in the comments. Also a very happy birthday to my hubby, I love you :*

The Farmer’s Market–31 Days to a Happier Home

These days everyone is shopping at the Farmer’s Market. And why not? The selection of produce is magnificent and normally the produce you find there is the best kind of organic you can get.

These pictures are from this past summer – you can see fresh cherries, grapes, tomatoes, fresh green beans and snails… The red potato there is called here Patata Americano – American Potato, although I had never seen it in America. These are sweet like sweet potatoes but the flesh is white.

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Fresh Sardinian honey, plums, pears, peaches and beautiful golden colored squash blossoms. There is just too much to describe it all.

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But not only is there produce but also cheese, fresh fish, home goods, everything!

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There are baby clothes, candy, lamps of all sorts with varying glass shades.

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You can find pretty much anything you are looking for at the farmers market. I picked up a beautiful white tablecloth today. It has pretty pink flowers and pretty brown trim. The market is every Thursday from 8am-12pm and it shuts down a 4-block radius around a small square. The best part about the farmers market is its location.

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This picture is from outside the gate to my home, the market is that close. I take Isabella in her stroller in the morning and we go and pick up some produce for the week or whatever we might find. Last week I got her slipper socks, this week I picked up some pastry cutters. I love finding things at our market

All through October I have been sharing something that I love about my home. Do you have a farmer’s market near you that you visit often? What treasures have you been able to find. Please share in the comments.

Get out and Move!–31 Days to a Happier Home

When I lived in Northern Virginia I drove everywhere. The grocery store was a few miles away, I took a shuttle to the metro. I did walk to work from my metro stop, but that small mile was about it. When the weather was nice we would take Isabella for a walk around the neighborhood, but it was a small neighborhood. The one thing I remember being excited about most when we decided to move to Italy was not having to drive anymore.

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I loved driving, I did. But sometimes you just don’t feel like driving anymore. Yes occasionally I miss it but in this town you just don’t need to.

The Farmer’s Market – right outside my door. You can see the stalls from the gate to our house.

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The grocery store? There are three right around the corner, two on the same block.

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Pizzeria? Two within 5 minutes of each other. Same for gelato, the pharmacy, flowers, pastry, almost any kind of store you could want to find I’m sure is within walking distance. I am still discovering just what each new place contains. In the past two days we have gone into the market that is known for reselling old food but has great deals on nonfood items, two agricultural shops (found pumpkin seeds!) the new store that just opened down the street that sells Halloween decorations, gift wrap and sex toys and the fabric store where I didn’t find felt but I did find a suitable replacement.

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The best part is we walked everywhere. And if we did want to go to a bigger store the bus system in Capoterra is one of the best public transit systems I have seen and I’ve seen a few. Metro in DC could learn a few lessons.

Throughout October I am sharing what I love about my life in Italy. Do you try to use alternative means of transportation? Ride a bike and walk to work or the store? Please share your journeys in the comments.