21 September 2008

Starting from the Ground Up -Craftsman Style

o we bought a typical California Craftsman House here in San Diego and it has been an interesting education. Before landing here I really had no idea what a Craftsman House was and I most likely would have guessed that you were talking about a house built by a carpenter. I won't bore you with the details of what exactly a craftsman is, I'll leave you the wiki link above for that. What I will tell you is how this house and I are adjusting and or changing each other.

When I thought of wooden floors this is what would I think of:

But, this is what I got:
Plain light oak strips everywhere in no imaginative pattern. As you can tell from the photo I got some work done on them. The wood expert I hired did a great job of removing years of neglectful pet stains, water marks and other random stains. All that to have it stained to my whim of ebony meets red cherry. It turned out really well. As it happens one good person (the wood expert) knows another and before I knew it I had painters too.

Whilst here in the US it is very common for people to paint their own house I was very uncomfortable with the idea partly due to the fact that all the walls had been BADLY plastered or as they call it here "texturized." The texture was more akin to what you would find in a non-frost free refrigerator after a few years of neglect. So I had them try to undo all the "texture" which took a long time and was a dusty explosion of a mess (as you can see).
The photo below is the color I settled on for the living room (yellow) looking into the dinning room (red). The yellow is very cheery and reminds me of Italy. An interesting cultural footnote is that in Naples if your house is painted yellow then you've paid your dues to the mob so that you can be left alone or so they say.

As you can see I have rails on the walls for hanging paintings (at least that is what I think they are for). Would you trust these rails or just go ahead and use picture hanging nails?
In the photo below you see the entryway to the left is to the kitchen, which I had painted a more vibrant scarlet red and then to the right is the hallway to the bedrooms which is actually painted a sand color. As you can see the floors came out brilliantly (that is when there isn't dog hair on them).
Finally, the most essential room in my house: the kitchen. Here is where the cultural differences are great. First of all this is the first time in my life that I own or have a micowave. This is also the first time in over a decade that there is a non-human dishwasher in the kitchen. In Naples we could never find a rental that had one because they are very uncommon. Many Neapolitans would tell me that a machine could never do as good a job as a good hand washing (I beg to differ). The other difference here is that there is no clothes washer in the kitchen which in all candor is a convenient place for it.

What bothers me most about my new American kitchen? I don't have a scolapiatti in the cupboard. A scolapiatti is a dish drying rack that fits into the cupboard above the sink so that it is hidden away from sight. The water that comes from the dishes either pools in a pan that is the bottom of the cupboard or it just drains directly into the sink (your choice really). I have yet to see this great invention here. Instead I have this big rack on the countertop which drives me crazy when it drains onto the floor. How is it that the scolapiatti can't even be found here? (hint this is a million dollar idea for someone).
N.B. Speaking of kitchens and all things cooking - I have a new survey up on the site (hint hint all of you feed readers) and I would like to know if you want to hear more about food -click on the survey and let me know!

16 September 2008

Do the Children in the US a Favor

Take a look at this post on JetSetBaby -I hope it inspires you to do something before Sept. 26!

15 September 2008

Pretty Funny Sat Night Live

In case you haven't seen it:

10 September 2008

The View from my New Diggs

Holy Matilda, I've been busy! However, I must admit I've been able to keep up with some of my favorite blogs and everyone has been producing some great stuff. Big thank you to my friends and fans for sending me encouraging emails -I really appreciate it!

We finally did find a little house here in San Diego!! I've been hesitant on telling anyone about it because I didn't want to "jinx" it [like I did with Pinky the House]. Yes, I still have my Neapolitan superstition in tact, like they say,
'I don't believe in it -but it doesn't hurt to follow the rules of superstition.'
The house is very American. It came with kitchen cabinets, toilet seat, fans, air conditioning, low ceilings and no steel or wooden shutters (but it did come with plastic blinds). So I'm feeling a little exposed without those huge steel shutters. In Naples you'd be broken into in less time than it takes to boil pasta without shutters (or even with shutters). I also miss the privacy those heavy shutters give -plastic shutters just don't cut it. Speaking of which take a look at my front door (by the way -welcome to my house!):

Who makes doors with see through windows?! You can see right into my living room and dinning room and there is no foyer -NO FOYER! I've had to adjust my expectations when I was house hunting here and not very many houses have foyers. So my big question is where do people leave there muddy/dirty shoes or hang their coats, hats or check their appearance?

15 June 2008

Hard Crash

Don't you hate it when everything just takes a dive when you least expect it? My hard drive has taken a dip into the abyss of "not-doing-anything." Lucky for me I've got an unofficial inhouse Geek Squad. So after lots of consults it turns out I need a new hard drive. So I've been off line and it looks like it'll take a few more days and then I promise I'll repond to all of your wonderful emails and comments!
NB thanks Mr. 2ciaos!

02 June 2008

House Dream #2

Nothing says love like getting a little something in the mail. My friend in Paris has just sent me a wonderful set of packages. Some of which are fueling my house dreaming. Did I mention we have offers in and so we are eagerly awaiting responses? Ahhhh, I hate the wait!

Anyway, I was thinking of how wonderful it would be to have sort of a retro 50's California kitchen. It isn't my usual taste but this couch definitely inspires me:

And cherry red too? I'm sold! Only problem is this is a french company and I don't even want to think about how much it would cost to cruise this little baby over! 

N.B. Merci mon ami!

01 June 2008

White American Cultural Understanding

There are some things that I have a hard time understanding about Americans and American culture. I wasn't born in the US and for a large part of my life I've lived abroad so there are certain things that still catch me off guard every now and then. For example why is it considered proper to eat with one hand on your lap? or why do people feel uncomfortable if I drink a glass of wine in the middle of the day? or why is every drink (except wine and beer) served with lots of ice?

Well, I found a very interesting and hilarious blog about white culture. For my foreign readers it is a must read. Here is a little sampling of the hilarity:

"It is strongly encouraged to bring a gift to these dinner parties...If you are able to bring a particularly rare dish from your culture, you will be the star of the party. To seal the deal, be sure to explain as much as you possibly can about the dish: history, availability, and the proper way to eat it. Every white person at the party will be taking notes and will be in your debt for introducing them to something new and authentic. If a white person says that have eaten the dish before, it is best to respond by saying "what you ate was a watered down version. They don't even sell this to white people, it's that intense. Even I had to show ID."

I'm still laughing at this! You must visit the site Stuff White People Like.

Psst... and if you've always wondered about t-shirts and its cultural importance click here.

What I'm loving about San Diego

The local grocery store, Whole Foods*, has Hawaiian style leis in stock! They don't have the varieties that you can get in Hawaii but the fact that they carry them is amazing. I love it! Can you tell I'm flower child at heart? 

*What a curious name don't you think? So if you want cheaper food do you go to Half Foods or Not all Foods?

24 May 2008

Where is the California "Pot o' Gold"?

And how do I get my hands on some of it? First of all -I'm real estate crazy right now. I spend hours a day studying the market and trying to figure out where to live. Let me give you a brief summary of what is on the market: 
  1. places in the city are either $1+ million USD (I've never seen so many of these outside of Monaco) for about 1,600 square feet (150 square meters)
  2. or a half million dollar crack houses that haven't been repaired or updated since the 60s -if you're lucky
  3. or you can go half an hour (up to 2 hours) away "the commute" to pay much more reasonable prices ($400,000 and up) for really nice brand new homes
I'm not fond of commutes and with fuel prices soaring this week I don't know how people can afford it. The photo above shows the 'cheap' stuff starting at $4.11, that was Monday. You know it is starting to get bad when a camera crew arrives at the local gas station. 

Well, that was Monday and today I nearly swerved off the road when I saw this: 

By the way you should know that it would be wise to take a large wallet of cash because if you pay by credit card they charge you an additional .10 cents a gallon. Most people here drive LARGE trucks and I don't know how much longer they can afford to. So, I'm more determined than ever to find a small ex-drug den in the city -I hear that the 60s style modern is coming back!

P.S. My new theory on the California Pot o' Gold is that most own stock in big oil companies -what do you think?

07 May 2008

House Dream #1

Ok, so I'm going to start dreaming and I'm taking you along for the Amero-Italo ride. When we get a house the first thing I'd like to do is to get organized and I mean EVERYTHING. I was surfing some Italian designer's sites and found this little altar to the ultra organized (or the ultimate junk drawers depending on how you look at it):

Isn't it sweet?! The numbers are all drawer pulls and how cool is the ladder? It kind of reminds me of the old card catalogs at the university library (am I dating myself here or what?!)

06 May 2008

Truck Driving Temecula

My latest and greatest drug has been looking up any and every property available in the San Diego area. I can't stop. I know there has to be something out there. But, I needed a break.

So this weekend I went out to visit a friend of mine in Temecula, California. It is like going from Napoli to Matera. They say that there are vineyards out there but to tell you the truth all I saw were big wheel trucks and some really new and beautiful houses. I was drooling and lusting at the brand new houses and the prices -THE PRICES! For half the money you would have to spend in San Diego you can get double the house in Temecula!

What would you do? Middle of California with a great house at a great price with an hour commute to work or central metropolitan area but paying a large portion of your paycheque?

02 May 2008

May Day? MayDay!

Ok, it is official I am in a housing funk. After having lost Pinky the House we've put in numerous offers on houses and nothing has panned out because at the last minute someone has come in and outbid us. They say the market is tanking but I'm not seeing it!

So this terminally dirty beige "executive stay" place is starting to REALLY bug me. I hate how everything in here looks like it was purchased at a Poverty Barn (died to match of course) and all the fake plants and "tree" look like they fell off some Chinese Junk in Hong Kong Bay. It does have a kitchen (or let's call it what it really is a kitchenette -sounds so much more classy -don't you think?). I have neighbors too!

They are actual college students who attend/roll into school 3 days a week. The rest of the time they workout, go to "keggers," and skateboard around the halls. I don't mean to date myself but when the hell did university students get so damn rich?! Seriously, when I was attending university I couldn't afford squat and I had to work my ass off at work and class. Around here they're all rolling in NICE cars, eating out, shopping (at expensive stores) and getting cosmetic procedures done. WTF? Oh, and did I mention that a lot of them own their own condos (or their parents bought it for them). I believe there is a time for everything and if your that spoiled that early -where do you go from there? I actually heard a 19 year old tell her mom that Burberry purses were too ghetto for her but fine for her mom. I would have told her not to worry because she'd be getting a Burlap bag instead (see if that's ghetto enough for her).

08 April 2008

Have I been gone too long?

I can't believe it has been so long since I've last posted. Our lives has been changing so quickly I don't think I've had a moment to catch up to mine yet. Not only did we lose a loved member of our family but we also lost our Pinky the House. The deal went bad -really bad. In the end I guess it just wasn't meant to be. So I've been hitting the pavement again and not much has turned up -yet.
Here's a little photo from the area I'm looking for a house. Let's call it an urban jungle and someone took a lot of time and imagination to carve out so many animals on this hillside!

04 March 2008


I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.*

My father-in-law has just passed and I will be traveling for the funeral so please excuse this brief pause of silence.

*Thich Nhat Hanh, The Plum Village Chanting Book

02 March 2008

Must see in Napoli

Can you believe I spent $3.75 on a bottle of tomato sauce from Naples? The same passata rustica that I would buy for .70 Euro for in Naples. What's worse is that I found myself sniffing the bottle -not to see if it went bad but to smell the wonderful smell of a real sunshine tomato. I miss the tomatoes badly. I bought some here and was very disappointed. I've been frequenting the farmers market too -yes, I'm that weird lady sniffing every batch of tomatoes and none compare.

So, I was thinking about the other things that I miss from Naples and the surrounding area. Things that an ordinary tourist might not see and so I've compiled a little list for you from an insiders perspective.
  1. For the best marble statues the Museo Cappella Sansevero. Here you'll find the famous veiled Christ. You must walk slowly counter clockwise and you can see the veil appear to move (as in breathing) --spooky. It is a small space with lots of great marble works and in the basement is a special surprise. The neighborhood it is in really neat and well worth an entire day. You'll find goldsmiths, important churches, a really great printer (who makes paper and journals), creches, pizzeries, antique stores and just normal life in the big city.
  2. Capodimonte Museum and Park (the park is free and wonderfully kept). In the museum there is a very fine collection of Italian Art (centuries worth up to present day) and also a Warhol of Vesuvius that is pretty far out. Oh, and the pizzeria across the street is really good and a fair price.
  3. The best chocolate in Italy Dolce Idea
  4. For the best shoes and leather goods at ROCK BOTTOM prices -the Poggioreale Market on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Real Italian stuff with the brand names.
  5. The best flowers are at the Capodichino Airport (well a block away toward the cemetery). You can buy 30 large stems of Stargazer Lilies for 10-15 Euro. Orchids -they practically give them away.
  6. Most romantic spot for dinner -the cave restaurant in Posillipo. Imagine a Batman like cave that has been totally carved out by hand. The way the central dinning area is illuminated by candle light is soo wonderful. Did I mention they have a really good wine selection?
  7. Relaxing at the thermal spas on the island of Ischia. The best one is up for debate and I won't go into that (unless you really want me to). Just being on the island is really nice.
Ok, that's all for now... Little Man is awake...

27 February 2008

More Pics of Pinky the House

So we are now done with the professional inspection of the house. Old Pinky has some problems but hopefully they can be fixed before the close of escrow. Who knew that buying a house would be so complicated in the land of instant everything?
I'm really loving how the owner has decorated because it shows such boldness -now I'm not saying I'll keep all of the decor but I appreciate it.

Let's take for example the bathroom. Normally I wouldn't approve of a room painted black (unless your a photographer), but in this case it really sets off the 80's fab wallpaper. Bold choice that really sets off the room well.

I find it amazing that the owner needle pointed a toilet cover that perfectly recreates the wallpaper. The time and talent to do that is beyond my skill and time allowance. And what would Pinky the House be without a pink toilet?

22 February 2008

Pinky the House

Well our bid has been accepted!! We are very happy but now we do the anxious wait for the inspection, appraisal, the aligning of the planets etc. Thank you to all our well wishers and to whet your appetite a little more... and no that isn't a pink filter it is truly pink from top to bottom.

Some of Life's Truisms

This is my response to an article that ran in the NY Times titled, "Parent Shock: Children Are Not D├ęcor."

N.B. Sorry that this is a repeat post from my JetSetBaby blog but I thought this subject deserves some attention.

17 February 2008

Eureka?! We hit the pink gold!

We've found a house... I think. We are waiting to see if our bid is accepted. This will be our first house and it has a very rosy outlook as you can tell from the photo. The first time I saw it I thought it was some sort of accidental pink filter -but it isn't. I know a fellow blogger CasaPinka would love this.  I cannot wait to have a home and this one is a cutie.  Keep your fingers crossed for us!

05 February 2008

It's a World of Nutella

One of my favorite spreads as a child was Nutella. In honor of World Nutella day I will give you my preferred way of eating it -are you ready for the recipe?? 3 handfuls of fresh fragrant ripe strawberries
and 1 large spoon for the Nutella. Grab the strawberry by the hair and smear a spoon full of room temperature Nutella goodness and enjoy!! There is not a fondue that is bettter or tastier than this mixture. Check out other great drool-worthy recipes from the great Ms. Adventures and Bleeding Espresso.

On a more serious side note: BIG THANKS to my mother-in-law today for taking such good care of my little dog while we're looking for a home. Turns out that my little dog has a pretty bad stone in her bladder and is scheduled for surgery on Thursday -all this while taking care of my father-in-law who just had a heart attack. Pretty special woman wouldn't you say?

04 February 2008

The Hunt and the Headstone...

k, I have a confession to make: I've been hard at work trying to find a house in southern California. This is one tough and expensive market. In fact I've made an offer on a house and the counter offer came in at $100,000 MORE than asking! I want to know who has this kind of money?! What fantastic paying jobs do these people have??

I'm looking for a small old house with character that needs some love. I'm finding that that is a tall order around here especially with all the house flippers around here. You can't toss a cat around here without hitting a house that has "GRANITE COUNTER TOPS AND STAINLESS STEEL APPLIANCES." What is the attraction of this combination and why is it that EVERY kitchen that has been redone is redone this way? In my opinion it says nothing of the quality of the stone nor of the appliances.

On a side note: aren't gravestones made of granite?

28 January 2008

The story of stuff

This video is just a teaser of a great little 20 minute film called the Story of Stuff. It is a really well put together film on where stuff is from and where it goes -my only critique of it is that it doesn't show you the pack rats in the equation. To view the whole film click on the link below:

27 January 2008

Rocking the vote in America

I can never keep up with all the political banter that goes on either here or in Europe because it just seems like such a bandwagon soap opera -you just can never tell who is trustworthy and everything seems to change on a daily basis anyway.

My friend Glo has just sent me this great website called Glass Booth. Check out the quiz and you might be surprised with whom your priorities align. It is also a great place to educate yourself on the election process -go on you know it is good for you!

It's all Big in the US of A

So here I am in my new life in the US and I'm still in shell shock. I keep thinking I'll wake up and be back in Italy with the smell of trash burning. My reality hit me today. I'm "home" with a sick baby and I'm watching the travel channel and it is Rick Steve in Rome. This guy makes my skin crawl and the fact that he was in Rome (my Rome not his) eating and walking through some of my favorite places made me homesick. I can't believe I just wrote that. It is funny to me because when you live in Italy you are always the stanieri (foreigner).

Anyway, I am going through a lot of culture shock here. Here is my top ten list of things I find overwhelming:
  1. Grocery stores -I can't believe how much variety of everything there is here. I seriously get anxious because of all the information being thrown at you coupled with the fact that the aisles have gotten smaller. Just look at the photo I took of JUST the yogurt.
  2. The cars -they are HUGE! I don't know how people can afford to feed those gas tanks.
  3. Too much food -there are so many restaurants and menu selections but, if you really look closely a lot of it is just crap -fattening crap. I swear they pump calories in the air over here and there isn't a lot of walking done around here.
  4. Too much television -I can't even count how many television channels there are
  5. The clothing stores -they all sell the same thing but at different prices.
So that is the stranieri's view of the States these days. By the way -do you think I should rename this blog or just change address?? Leave me a comment -I'd love to hear from you!

02 January 2008

Buon Anno 2008 -Napoli style!

Naples fireworks are the bomb -sometimes literally. My friend Sarah sent me this from her penthouse apartment. Happy New Year everyone, may this be the year you have happiness, peace and lots of love!
[n.b. Thanks for sharing the love Sarah -baci!]