Friday, August 29, 2014

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A rustic Italian kitchen – work in progress

by Lisa Chiodo

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It’s a beautiful legacy being able to bring an old place back to life, and especially our wonderful rustic Italian kitchen. Last night we were listening to Asian music, it has such a haunting quality, as if speaking to our home in an ancient language. The house has not heard music like this before, or voices speaking anything other than the local dialect of the mountain people born and bred here. Certainly not had computers, a family of Australians or all the things we take for granted like a television (which we are still to get lol).

I  feel the spirit of the past owners most strongly in the kitchen, generations of the same family lived in this house for hundreds of years. I see them in all the small details, the rough cut wooden hooks to hold coats as you enter the kitchen. The curved bar in the courtyard used to scrape your boots, hooks and shelves and the old wooden latch above the original kitchen door used to stop it from opening. When visitors came we’d delight in getting them to try to open the door, they never worked it out. Our first day here with the key in hand and door unlocked we still couldn’t get into the house, luckily Sam’s logic works well with Italian logic and the door opened.

kitchen dbl 1

It’s easy to look around a renovation in progress and be overwhelmed with the dust, mess and rubble but it’s all worth it in the end. Our rustic Italian kitchen is progressing along, we still need to put in the old ceramic sink (we found at the “Ri Shop” for 20 euro). Currently we have no running hot water in the house, I do the dishes in a bowl with water heated either on the wood burning stove or electric jug. We need some shelves under our kitchen bench and some way to seal the rock floor. All jobs for the years to come, right now it’s winter and we’re hibernating with our haunting Chinese music playing in the background.

kitchen dbl 2

We had no idea how beautiful the ceiling would be without all those thick crusted layers of darkness. I really didn’t know anything about sandblasting the kitchen ceiling other than Claudio was coming to do it. The sand was billowing from the windows and coated the entire house is a fine powder. Being a total novice I didn’t think the sand would come up into the bedrooms from the kitchen…..big mistake. It was like we had a beach inside our house.

kitchen dbl 3

We have two stoves in the kitchen and the large open fireplace, the stove on the left is wood fired and heats up the house in winter. The other is gas which we use for cooking in the summer. The slatted racks overhead are used for storage and usually hold biscuits, cakes, cooking trays and things too long to fit in the drawers. The sink and cabinet will be replaced and we only have cold water running to the house (really bloody cold water, right now it’s about 4 degrees and I don’t even want to put my hands under it).

At one point we had a couch in the kitchen and a chicken as it wouldn’t fit through the doorway into the ‘rustic lounge‘. Answer to the problem, take the door out and widen the doorway, which opened the house up and lets the conversation and the warmth from the kitchen flow through. Doing this meant we had to take up the floorboards in the lounge (which were rotting) and replace them with rock. Now it seems like it’s always been this way, I love the way the rock floor flows through and each rock slab cut and placed by hand.

kitchen dbl 4

I’m slowly learning to cook (yes alright it was one of my New Years resolutions about two years ago!) and Sam does 99.9% of the cooking which means we all eat really well. He loves to cook and is happiest in the kitchen especially if guests are coming.  We have lots of old nails and hooks selectively left in the beams to hang pots. As you can see the ceiling is low on this floor and I can easily touch it, Claudio’s hair just skims the beams.

You can always find Sam in the kitchen, he searches Italy high and low for ingredients and for the local festival decided to make Lamingtons (an Aussie specialty) to represent Australia. All the ladies loved them and we had none left over. But it took us a lot of searching to find the right sugar, and other ingredients. Now we’re not looking we see them everywhere.

kitchen dbl 6

Putting in the floating shelves was lots of fun (Not) we got them all up and on the last one kept hitting rock wherever the drill touched. Big holes all over the wall and a few readjustments later we have shelves. These were made using sections from the old boards in the lounge room. The prime place in the kitchen is in front of the stove, I wash clothes in the afternoons knowing they’ll dry overnight by the fire. The higher up I can hang them the quicker they dry, and hanging them from spatulas works as well.

Black still comes to visit, he knows he will get a treat so is very determined to get up to his spot on the doorstep. He sits with his nose against the glass looking soulful and I think we are all feeding him without each other knowing. The biggest difference in the kitchen is the new door and window, they let in so much light and are crystal clear bringing the outside in. I love them, the richness of the timber, the beautiful way the windows open in two directions, and all the warmth they keep in, all handcrafted and fitted by our fantastic ‘window guy’

kitchen dbl 7

Of course the biggest thing to happen since arriving is our House Hunters International episode. Knowing we were on a deadline certainly got us going with the renovations. We found curtains, lamps, a throw for the couch, painting around the borders of the rooms, finishing the wall upstairs, and a big tidy up. Now if they only came back every month we’d get so much done!

One of the best things from the experience was seeing ourselves through another persons eyes. Our adventure was compared to ‘River Cottage’ the director fell in love with our story and couldn’t stop talking about our ‘rustic’ kitchen curtains. He gave us a much bigger picture to work with, ideas flew and a whole new mindset was  created right here in this little kitchen.

kitchen dbl 8

Our shelves are starting to fill, friends are coming for a meal and the jars hold fagioli beans from our own veggie garden. By the way we also have a growing bar for visitors with Grappa, Baileys (the cheap Italian version), red and white wine, a few home brewed liquors from Claudio, Sambuca, Marsala (for the cooking) and two of the wine bottles are always filled with fresh water from the fountain daily by Carina. Considering Sam doesn’t really drink we are doing well. The relationship to alcohol is totally different here, it’s highly unlikely to see anyone falling down drunk even on New Year.

Just recently Claudio and his family came to the house for lunch, they bought the food and we did the drinks, coffee and dessert. They shared with us a local specialty called Bagna Cauda a strange concoction which was just mind blowing!! Each of us had a special pot lit from below with a votive candle (these pots were wedding gifts so over twenty years old), and the mixture simmered away creating the most amazing aroma. It’s an incredibly relaxing meal, just chatting and dipping, Claudio tells us a meal like this usually goes on until around five o’clock and that’s exactly what happened. Our kitchen is filled with life again, cooking, love and family just as it should be.

Our vision to see the beauty through the dust and rubble continues and the house is slowly revealing her secrets. This home is full of character, and I like to think that we bring to life an era past, one that is slowly disappearing.

So many layers to this house and such a lot of history to uncover, I can’t wait to see how she develops over time along with us. I hope you enjoy the journey xx

Signature-00134 editand the gang x

Italian Inspiration

Italian Rustic: How to Bring Tuscan Charm into Your Home

Cucina Rustica: Simple, Irresistible Recipes in the Rustic Italian Style

100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

dare to dream

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trisha Thomas January 28, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Lisa — what an amazing job you guys are doing!! I love that you feel the spirits of the past owners. My Dad owns an old farmhouse in Maine and I’ve always loved thinking about the past owners. I love wandering through the huge barn and looking at the old wooden stalls and pieces of old farming equipment that are still there and thinking about all the life in that barn in the cold Maine winters. I love to wander through the little, grassy cemetery on the hill and look at all the stones and think about the lives, particularly of the women. So many of them died so young, and many in childbirth. Life must have been so tough and pure back then. It is great that you and Sam are absorbing the history of the house and using that in your renovations. Complimenti, siete bravissimi!!


2 Lisa Chiodo February 14, 2014 at 1:43 am

It’s amazing isn’t it Trisha when you really think about it, all the lives spent in these places. The part of them they seem to leave behind that reaches out to touch your soul. I also wander graveyards and never feel haunted but just so moved by the people and the stories they tell, especially children or babies. I always look for the babies, when we lost Aaron I would search the memorium pages in the newspapers.

I do feel those who lived in our house, some of the ancestors are still living and we have met them when we bought the house. Many of the people in the village know the family that lived here before ours, we are the first ‘outsiders’ to live here. I aim to preserve all possible of the stories and history from the borgata and especially No 15 xxx
Now you have me imagining Maine….and that old farmhouse, xx
sending love xx
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3 Dominic Hardingham January 21, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I really enjoyed reading your experience in Italy. The images you shared here are really beautiful. Kitchen renovation is a nice idea to improve the look of your kitchen. One of the easiest and cost-effective ways to renovate kitchen is to hire a professional kitchen renovation company.


4 Lisa Chiodo January 22, 2014 at 12:45 am

How funny Dominic I’m an Aussie and my Brother in Law has a kitchen business over in Coburg. I used to work in Nunawading when Bristol Paints were on the corner a long time ago. We did lots of renovations in Australia and the kitchens were a big selling point. Great to meet you, how did you come across my blog?? ciao lisa


5 Margaret | Destination Here&Now January 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Enjoying the journey? Loving it! And your last post too Lisa. Like you, playing post Christmas catchup. And hear this loud and clear – you are definitely not the only one struggling along :)) Part of the joyous rollercoaster hey. x
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6 Lisa Chiodo January 22, 2014 at 12:50 am

OH thank goodness you’re on my roller coaster then Margaret we can be up the front screaming our heads off. Catch up is my middle name lol xxx


7 Krista January 18, 2014 at 6:32 am

Dearest Lisa, I disappeared into your story this morning, feeling happy tears well up as I read of your feelings and experiences, your projects and progress, the happiness and love that is welling up all around you. XO I’m so happy for you. SO happy. :-) I’m back from my self-imposed hibernation and couldn’t wait to get caught up on your posts. :-) XO
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8 Lisa Chiodo January 20, 2014 at 6:18 am

I’m so happy that your hibernation did you well Krista, sounds much needed and I love your throw rug and chair. Who knew what you’d find under the house. We are slowly moving forward and finding our way… know what I mean xxx
sending love to you and your Bear xxx
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9 jann January 16, 2014 at 11:16 am

Lisa, the kitchen looks like a dream. I cannot believe how quickly you pulled it together. COMPLIMENTI!!!!
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10 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Grazie Jann it’s liveable and cosy with some work still to be done. xx
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11 Nichole January 16, 2014 at 2:44 am

zucchini flowers and castagne! I love it all! You are my inspiration…. and we also do a version of that “bagna cauda” during the winter too… with different meats and cheeses and wines… last time my friend brought the most amazing homemade cherry port… such a warm and relaxing social event! Hope to do it with you one day!!


12 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 11:45 pm

I’d never eaten a zucchini flower until we came here, they are delicious and one of my favorites. The castagne are everywhere here you’d love it. It would be great to try with meats and cheeses, I tried fondue once and loved it. We’ll have to find some bagna cauda pots so you can come visit Nichole xxxx
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13 france January 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm

hi lisa!

the kitchen looks great! now i’m regretting our demolishing our fireplace back in the day, but it really wasn’t practical. it jutted way out almost halfway into our kitchen. don’t you lose molto heat running up that huge chimney? and doesn’t the cold run down it once the fire dies down? are you using the old chimney? or did you demolish it and put in a more efficient one? curious….best wishes!


14 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Hi France i love your before and after photos, what a difference. We closed the chimney off with a board that can be taken down in the warmer weather. This keeps the heat in and as our little boy pointed out ‘How is Santa going to come down the chimney.?’
We don’t light the fire in the big fireplace now as we keep the stove going which is wood fired. The old chimney works fine and we’ll use it again when the weather is better for occasional things like visitors x
ciao love lisa xxx
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15 Lisa Wood January 15, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Oh its looks so lovely, and sounds so inviting – well done! Love the story about looking for the ingredients for the Lamingtons, that happened to me at Xmas time with the mixed Fruit for the Xmas Cake…do you think I could find any in the shops when I was looking, now there are heaps of the bags :)
Your kitchen looks so cosy, and I love how you are having people over to celebrate the hard work – yes it sounds so worth it all!! Would love to one day pop on in for a chat, a meal and a great class of wine :)
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16 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 11:56 pm

I’m totally sure that one day you will be in Italy Lisa, and when you are you’ll visit us. We laugh now every time we see puff pastry as he was also going to make sausage rolls. Now we see it everywhere. Just off to check out your post, always so much to do with this blogging, lucky you didn’t warn me way back I wouldn’t have believed you xxx
love to all the gang xxx
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17 Janine January 15, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Just love the idea of playing music the house has never heard…. You all look transformed by happiness. I am feeling ever so slightly green right now. ;-) With love, jxxx
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18 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 11:57 pm

I know it’s kind of magical hearing a completely different culture come to life here, especially the Asian music which is so haunting. Don’t feel green we’re not totally transformed yet, come for a visit xxx
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19 Sue Hepburn January 15, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Hello Lisa
Have been following your blog for a while, having done something similar a few years ago. Ironically we left it to take off on a contract in Australia and now Kuala Lumpur, but are heading back in the next few weeks to our heart spot in the Langhe. Our children can’t wait, they miss t terribly. Hope the winter is not too unkind to you, you are doing amazing things. Hopefully our paths will cross x


20 Lisa Chiodo January 18, 2014 at 12:15 am

Ciao Sue, I have a few friends in the Langhe, Richard and Allegra (
How old are your children, where are you from originally?
This winter has been mild so we are very lucky to get this warmer taste of Inverno. I’m sure once you get here our paths will cross, I’ve been meaning to meet up with some of our friends when the weather warms up xxx
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21 Sue Hepburn January 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

Hi Lisa
We are Brits originally, tho have been serial expats for the past few years. We have 4 homeschooled kids, Caitlin 13, xanthe 10, tallulah 8 and Hamish 7. I’m pretty sure they would love to meet yours, they have been packed and ready to leave for the past few weeks, lol. We love our life here in kl but nothing compares to Italy… Much love and hope to see you!


22 Sue Hepburn January 21, 2014 at 11:02 am

Ps might have to pick your brains about sandblasters! Your house looks very similar to some of ours….


23 Lisa Chiodo January 22, 2014 at 12:46 am

Our Neighbor Claudio did our sandblasting and the results were incredible, the wood looks like it can breathe and we love the way it lightened up the house.


24 Lisa Chiodo January 22, 2014 at 12:48 am

Sounds great and a meet up is on the cards with some of the expats around our area so keep in touch (either here or I”m on fb way too much lol). Carina and Luca would love to meet your kids, what a big change from KL to Italia. See you when you get here, ciao ciao .lisa


25 Janice January 15, 2014 at 8:16 am

And, Sam is in SHORTS? Lol! Hope you get your windows soon, good thing we have been having mild weather, but your kitchen is coming along and clearly you guys are enjoying your new Italian life! Keep up the good work!


26 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 6:57 am

Oh Sam is always in either shorts or a short sleeved shirt… I hate him he doesn’t feel the cold at all. The windows and doors are in and the house is warm but I love to sit right on the heater. I’m glad this winter is mild to get us accustomed to the chill xxx
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27 Ingrid January 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm

You sound completely happy – despite all the challenges that have crossed your path over the last few months! Well done – I’m completely homesick for my home and renovation. My architect is keeping the wheels turning in my absence thankfully though! Hoping I’ll be back end of March.

Keep up the great work all of you!!

Tanti baci!!
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28 Lisa Chiodo January 18, 2014 at 12:22 am

Mostly happy Ingrid, thank goodness you have such a wonderful architect. Look forward to hearing you’re back xxx
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29 Ryrie Wild January 15, 2014 at 11:18 am

Great to see how far you have come! I love your style of writing Lisa, straight from the heart. I can’t wait to hear the next stage of your journey.


30 Lisa Chiodo January 18, 2014 at 12:31 am

That’s so nice to hear Ryrie, I try to share as much as I can, xxx
sending love xx
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31 Corrina Tough January 15, 2014 at 8:29 am

Lisa, I am constantly in awe of what you guys are doing! I love your heading of your blog- “Dare to dream” I hope that means one day my dream of owning and renovating in France will happen! They say the heart of a home is it’s kitchen and I like that it’s the heart that you have started with- for without a heart there is no life- so you have performed open heart surgery and the results are a stronger and more beautiful body! So love the stone floor- it looks ancient and is in keeping with the rest- you would never know otherwise and it will last for centuries instead of decades like the timber- you have made your mark. You all look so beautiful and happy! and tired!! Its a big job- but the rewards are great. Whenever I get a bit overwhelmed by something a saying I learned at uni always helps me…… The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! Enjoy it all and can’t wait to hear the next installment xx Corrina


32 Lisa Chiodo January 20, 2014 at 6:16 am

Ciao Corrina, so happy to hear you love Dare to Dream….keep your dream alive and in your heart always. Funnily ‘matters of the heart’ are foremost in my family. My father, and brother both passed away with heart problems at young age. I love that thought of a stronger and more beautiful body as I head into this new year.

I like to think future generations will walk over these rocks, and yes that elephant can only go down a bit at a time LOL xxx
much love lisa x
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33 Robyn January 15, 2014 at 8:17 am

I really enjoy reading about your home and family and love the photos – thanks also for the update on Black, I often wonder if he is still around.
Fingers crossed for hot water soon!


34 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 7:00 am

Black is well Robyn and we see him most days, he is off the chain if the neighbors are home and he heads here. He’s such a dear dog and we love him to bits. It will be weird now to have hot water in the kitchen, oh and Sam broke the shower so we have to pull the entire thing out and will most likely get rid of the small bath and bidet as well. For now it’s very fast showers in this tiny bath standing up and the kids get to have a
love lisa
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35 Richard Noble January 15, 2014 at 7:50 am

Wow, it’s looking (and sounding) so good now. I can’t believe how quickly you’re progressing with it all, although I’m sure it doesn’t feel so fast to you! I think we’ll have to invite ourselves up again to try out some of that grappa :-)


36 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 6:52 am

Ahhh well I think you might be a bit distracted now……can not wait to meet Beatrice and give all our love to Allegra …..get sleep when you can lol xxx
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37 Sarah Hudson January 15, 2014 at 7:02 am

As always I love reading about your life and am living my dream vicariously through you. Floating shelves are the best but to have them in such an old house and full of jars with produce from your own garden is really special. I love the way you are slowly being folded into the community like egg whites into a meringue! Your house is beautiful and with your love of life and generosity it is becoming the most beautiful home. Thanks so much for sharing! xx


38 Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2014 at 6:55 am

Sarah I feel all warm and fluffy…..folded in like egg whites how fabulous!!
So much has happened so quickly since we arrived, and at last our house is feeling like a home. I love sharing with you xxx love lisa
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39 cindy January 15, 2014 at 6:28 am

Nice post! I could feel the warmth of eating the bagna cauda in your kitchen with friends! We don’t really do anything like that here. Love it, and keep enjoying yourselves in between all the renovations!


40 Lisa Chiodo January 16, 2014 at 8:09 am

It’s delicious Cindy you’ll just have to come here to try it xxx
ciao love lisa x
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41 Sharon January 15, 2014 at 6:10 am

Lisa I think that it is great what you and your family have achieved. You all appear to have a great appreciation for life and for living that life. A great experience for you all as a family. Keep up the blogs, I am sure that there are many of us who enjoy reading your journey and following you on Facebook


42 Lisa Chiodo January 16, 2014 at 7:54 am

Thanks Sharon, the best thing for me is seeing our kids just be kids again, and hearing Luca start to use a few words in Italian. I don’t feel that same pressure for him to keep up with his peers here, because he doesn’t speak the language it seems like the teachers are seeing Luca rather than his autism. I just want them to be happy and see some of the big wide world.

ciao ciao xxxx lisa
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43 Val Smith January 15, 2014 at 5:16 am

Lisa I just love reading your illuminating blogs. I feel as though I am there with you. They are always so beautifully descriptive. I like Sam, would just love to get in that kitchen and cook up a storm. There is nothing better than the old wood fired stove. I used to love to go to my friends in the country just to be able to cook on their old wood fired number. Somehow the food always tastes better. Everything is really taking shape now and I cant wait to see how it all ends. Of course there will never really be an end. I see you and Sam like Fred. If you don’t have a project you are lost. So guys keep up the good work.


44 Lisa Chiodo January 16, 2014 at 7:50 am

Hey Val it’s crazy wonderful here, I still remember the Aga at stonecourt but had no appreciation of cooking back then (plenty for eating though especially that chocolate dessert Mike used to make). I think Fred would have liked it here making things he was a master craftsman, our project is small in scale but big in heart xx
Big love to you and give Matt a kiss from me !!!
PS when are you going to start a blog xx
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45 Evelyn January 15, 2014 at 5:06 am

We watched Under the Tuscan Sun on the weekend. I thought about you when the
girl was renovating her house. You both have been very busy and done a wonderful
job! I love reading about your escapades .
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46 Lisa Chiodo January 16, 2014 at 7:45 am

Oh Evelyn I love that movie even though Sam and I joke that if we ever met Francis Mayes we’d wring her neck. I love the scene when the boiling water comes up through the toilet!
She is totally inspiring x
Although I wouldn’t mind a team of Polish workers either lol
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47 Wynne January 15, 2014 at 5:02 am

I so can’t wait to see the finished product! I love the kitchen…and the hanging clothes…and the fireplace…and the water warmed by electric “tea pot.” All so wonderful! Keep posting tons of photos…love seeing them…and all of you! xo


48 Lisa Chiodo January 16, 2014 at 7:43 am

Well you’ll just have to come back for another visit Wynne, come in the warmer weather x It’s coming together and feeling comfortable now. I’m toasty and warm so very happy. How are things settling in for you, if you have a landline we could give you a ring. xxxx
PS Luca’s dragon is here in our lounge keeping watch over us all x
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49 Katherine Gill January 15, 2014 at 4:59 am

I love reading about your adventure in Italy. Pictures are great. A lot of progress since i started “following” you ( not like a stalker). The very rustic life style you are leading now probably brings your family closer than ever. Such wonderful experience. Wish you luck and strenght to continue your wonderful journey.
One of my favorite futures in your house is the huge open fireplace. I just love it!


50 Lisa Chiodo January 16, 2014 at 7:40 am

I didn’t notice how much we’d done until I looked back at the old photos Katherine. Glad to know you’re not a stalker LOL, not needing so much ‘stuff ‘ gives us time to do other things together as a family. The big fireplace chimney is sealed at the moment to keep in the warmth and then when the weather improves we’ll open it up and start using it again. My husband wants to get a big pot for the polenta suspended with an original pole. Funnily enough when we first arrived some of the locals told us we should rip out the fireplace and the rock flooring. xx
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