Saturday, June 21, 2014

Garden Planning 101

We've had a cold, wet spring, but today is the first day of summer and the sky is blue and the birds are singing and I'm day dreaming of my new garden.  I've wanted a garden my entire life.  My parents are big gardeners and we always spent hours & hours in the backyard digging, mowing and planting.  All that natural exploration is what inspired me to study biology and then become an entomologist.  Mom & Dad have no one to blame but themselves!

Moving in late July/early August does not give me a lot of time to get my garden going before fall, but hopefully with a well thought out game plan I can make a big impact and be ready to hit the ground running next spring.

The first thing I'd like to do is cut down on the mowing by cutting down on the amount of lawn. I'd like to turn the front yard into a rock garden to highlight a beautiful Japanese maple that's already there. Also in the front are some gorgeous industrial poured concrete planters. I want to give them year round beauty by filling them with lavender plants and ornamental grasses. You're going to have to walk by a bustling ecosystem of bees and birds to get to my front door!

I also plan to create a large perennial garden underneath the balcony and right outside of the kitchen in the backyard. It will line the path to the lower portion of the yard and it's home to a dog house Olney is inheriting from generations of Fabri's family's dogs. I have to study the amount of light it gets, but it's on the East side of the house and should get plenty of morning sun. I'm thinking a backdrop of hydrangea bushes with hostas, coreopsis and yarrow. This might also be a good place for herbs both in pots and in the ground. Currently I have basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage growing on the balcony, but I really could use some dill, parsley, cilantro and mint to keep me a happy cook.

Another problem I'd like to tackle through gardening is the amount of mosquitoes. Remember years ago when you could play outside in the backyard all day and not worry about mosquitoes? That was before the terrible day-biting tiger mosquito made its way into our gardens. Well they're here too and they're horrible! I plan to clean up some of the wilder places in the yard to cut down on any standing water that could provide breeding habitat to those little blood suckers. Also we're putting screens in all the windows and doors. This is not a standard feature here in Europe. Planting geraniums and lemon grass in window boxes might keep the mosquitoes at bay as well. Ceiling fans in the bedrooms and outdoor dining area should keep any infiltrators from biting. Being a know-it-all American entomologist, I'd like to try to educate my new neighbors and maybe work with the town hall to create a PSA for all of Savigliano. Eliminate standing water! Bacillus thuringiensis for life!

Of course this garden is going to be mostly for Giulio to play and run around in, so I've been thinking of some great spaces for him as well. A sand box is a must and I'm debating a natural looking space or something more confined (see below). Esthetically I prefer the natural look, but in practice I'd like to be able to easily cover the sandbox to keep out rain and animals. Though I will be relying on Olney to keep my yard free & clear of all felines. I'm sure a play set is in our future and I'm super jealous of this one my cousins David & Jen built for their little ones Emma & Jonathan.
Gaspo Piccola sabbionaia FELIX con copertura scorrevole - Con protezione UV
The roof lowers down to cover the sandbox when not in use.
Next year I'll be planting a vegetable garden.  I think that will be a great activity to share with Giulio and I'm thinking a pole bean teepee might just be a necessity.  He already loves picking sweet peas with me and helping me process them in the kitchen. We'll also plant sweet corn, zucchini, pumpkins, tomatoes and sunflowers.

Another project that will be left to next year is a back deck.  It will be right off the patio in front of the kitchen.  It's placement will mitigate the steepest part of the hill that slopes down from the house.  That way we'll lose the most difficult part of the yard to mow and have plenty of room to barbecue and entertain!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

We have floors!

My contractor told me that in a month the house will be move in ready! That's exciting but on the other hand, we need to hustle to choose paint colors and lighting fixtures. Also we need to maybe buy a vanity for the master bathroom! 

This past week they put in the floors on the main level and tiled the master bathroom. Here's a look at the house now:

View as you come in the front door!
New floor, open floor plan and modernized fireplace.

View from the kitchen with new floors and new doorway
Master Bathroom. This will be the shower. There will be a mosaic and glass shelves on that back wall there.

We can't wait until it's all done! Don't forget, the 3 guest bedrooms are ready for visitors as soon as we move in (projected date: beginning of August).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Work is Progressing

Thankfully the work is progressing at our house! We've opened up several walls and tomorrow they're going to stop destroying and start building. Yippee!!

The garage is becoming half laundry room and half basement!

New view from the front door. Look at all those new pipes!

This is the view from the kitchen. Now you can see right into the living room!
Our kitchen, flooring, doors, and bathrooms have all been ordered. Now we have to start looking for lights, ceiling fans and paint colors. It's so exciting!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

March Trip to Florida

 We spent a lovely birthday week in Orlando in March! Dad rented a nice house on the water and we all stayed there together celebrating Laura's 30th, Dad's 60th and Giulio's second birthdays! That's a lot of cake!!

We went to the beach.

That's Giulio calling like a seagull to the left and us playing in the waves below. I very wisely didn't put Giulio is his swimsuit for that trip thinking it would be too cold to play in the water...


The guys did some fishing and some kayaking. 

We ate a lot of seafood and saw a Nationals' preseason baseball game.

And for Giulio's birthday we went to Disney World!!

Oh, and did I mention that dolphins and manatees swam by our dock every day?

Space Coast Stadium

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Mottsteins are Moving!

Some of you have already heard, but we're moving this summer!! We looked for houses around Saluzzo for almost 2 years and didn't find anything that we liked at all, so we decided to change towns (which is a really big deal here in Italy) and we're moving back to Savigliano. We're very lucky to be able to take over and renovate Fabri's parents' house; the house he and his sisters grew up in; the house where we lived for 2 months after we were married; this house:

We'll be doing a little work inside. Opening up the main floor to reflect a more modern floor plan, changing the doors and a complete overhaul of the kitchen and bathrooms, well 1 kitchen and 4 bathrooms. That's right, it's a BIG house with more than one kitchen and more than 4 bathrooms. That means more places for me to dust! It also means lots of space for house guests!! My parents have already booked their travel, have you started looking?

Here are a few before pictures and I'll post more photos as the work continues.

Fireplace in main living area
Living/Dining Room

Master Bath

Kids' Bathroom


I'm most excited to have a yard for the Olney pup and the kiddo to play in and for me to garden in. I'm also really, really happy to have guest rooms again. Lastly, it will be great to simply have more space so that I don't have to tiptoe in the kitchen when Giulio's asleep because the kitchen and his bedroom are connected here in Saluzzo.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Our Holly Jolly Holidays

Hanukkah in the US
Christmas Eve
Stockings hung by the mountain of toys we already own...

Christmas morning

Sledding with Daddy on the Epiphany

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pictures from Home Nov/Dec 2013

Watching football

Backyard Birds at the Nature Center

Aunt Laura's House

Girl Cousins!!!

Date Night

Making cupcakes with Gramma!