Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The little things that make up our Italian apartment

After being at home trying to get better, I started to think about all the things that make up our little apartment. There are some things I love, some things I could do without, and some things that are just quirky. Our apartment came fully furnished including sheets, pillows, towels (which we replaced), pots & pans, plates, bowls, cups, utensils, iron & ironing board, mop & bucket, broom, and left over SAIS books. I thought it was hilarious how eclectic everything was. Random serving bowls, two different cereal bowls, silver ware in all shapes, sizes and colors, 4 glass cups- all different (we only have one that has survived to date) There were no hot pads or dish towels and no oven pans (wha???) So to date, we have purchased (economically- mostly from the euro store-) 4 big plastic cups, a cake pan to bake with, two hot pads, some kitchen towels & drying rags, a whisk and a small cutting board. We were really happy that we were able to move into a furnished apartment and we have really learned what we can do without. Here are some of the highlights of the apartment.

Warning: This is super long -surprisingly- because our apartment is so very tiny. But I guess because I have waited to tell you about our place, I have lots of stories to go along with it too

I think our small entry way is kinda cool. I love the coat rack that appears to be an old headboard. I might even take this idea and use it in a future home. There were lots of books left behind by SAIS students, mainly Italy travel guides which we have flipped through. Tyson also found a book or two for class which meant we didn't have to purchase them! Always a plus. For the past couple of months our little rug was a catch all for snowy & muddy shoes.

Our little kitchen table. This is were Tyson and I share space at night while doing our language homeworks. Just imagine this space crowded with two laptops, papers & books. This table also acts as our home theater system. It's where we squish together on one side of the table to watch something on Hulu (Once Upon A Time, Person of Interest -before CBS they took it off line, Modern Family and a couple random shows.) One of the three chairs has been used a total of maybe 3 times. There's just no room for it in our kitchen so it just sits in between the stove and table, totally rejected.
Our drying rack. I am very embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what this was when I saw it. It wasn't used until our neighbors pointed out how cool it was. It's completely awesome and the whole drip- right- into -the- sink idea is genius.

Our little washer. Taryn has opened it twice now. Once, flooding our kitchen with water. I was lucky that the second time no water poured out. It's a really old machine so the water doesn't drain all the way out at the end of each cycle. So I scoop out the water each time because if I don't, it smells like moldy rags. The system and temperatures are unique to Italy so much so that the Landlord gave us a "How to Use It" paper. Tyson and I were so scared the first time we did laundry that we called over our SAIS neighbor who speaks Italian to tell us if we did it right.

In this picture I am standing on a little ledge that Taryn loves to sit on. A random step in our kitchen that leads to a window pictured below. There is only two feet between the sink and the refridgerator. Actually, our entire kitchen is only a few feet wide. It's a good thing Tyson and I don't have space issues otherwise this small kitchen would be bad news. From time to time we run into each other, mostly on purpose. I actually don't mind it at all. I can turn around from cooking at the stove and chop on my counter. I feel like I have a good amount of space to work with (except on Thanksgiving...I needed every inch I could get!)

This window is why Taryn learned the word "outside" (ahsie...ahsie) so fast. She climbs the little step and stands below the window with her arms up and she will stay there until I come and pick her up, place her on the wooden counter, and let her look out into our cement courtyard (filled with old bikes, tiles, tools etc...) She loves it and that window has been a great way to cool off our small kitchen after we've had something in the oven. One time I dripped butter in my oven while removing something I had baked. I had forgotten to clean it up when the oven was cold so the next time I turned the oven on, our apartment filled with smoke. I opened this window and my landlord who was fixing a washer upstairs saw all the smoke and ran down to our apartment, buzzed my apartment 3 long times (which woke up Taryn) and said,

Him"Lei cucinato?"
Me; "Si, si"
Him:" Ho visto fumo, penso FIRE!"
Me: "no, no" and I opened up the door enough for him to see for himself.
Him: "Va bene. Buongiorno!"

The above conversation makes me laugh every time. He tries so hard to speak slowly and simply in Italian for the SAIS students and only knows a few English words which doesn't bother me- I need the practice! He is a very nice, very old man. And he always smiles at Taryn.

My stove/ oven. The cover pops up to reveal 4 gas burners (LOVE!!!!) I have had electric in my past couple of apartments and HATED it! I love being able to control my flame visually. I grew up with gas stoves, cooked in Culinary with gas stoves, and I hope to continue to cook with gas in our future home (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our neighborhood will already have a gas line running through it!) The oven has no rack, just a broiler pan. We've had a big love/ hate relationship up until the past couple of months where I have finally been able to guesstimate temperatures and adjust accordingly. I also followed my SIL suggestion of adding aluminium foil crinkled up so as to prevent more burning. And it's worked for the most part. The heat isn't distributed throughout the oven evenly. The heat comes from an open flame at the base of the oven. There are no temperature markings on my knobs and whatever the pictures were on the oven knob are almost completely rubbed off.

This vanity reminds me of Beauty and the Beast. It's used to hold blankets and Taryn's baby bag but not much else. This is one of two mirrors we have and they are both almost always covered with Taryn's finger prints.

The wicker chair that has become Taryn's train. She tries to push it through the bedroom door into the kitchen. I really like this chair but only sit in it when we have visitors.

This chair has no bottom so you sink in when you sit. This is Taryn's favorite chair and it's where she brings all her animals, books and toys when she's reading or playing. She also bounces balls off the chair. It's like her own little corner (in her own little room- haha!)
Our amour. I love the mirror. The door creaks open and shut and can be kinda creepy at night. It has a very musty smell on the inside and sometimes we can't shut the door because the hangers inside are too wide. It's a very beautiful piece of furniture and matches our dresser. Taryn pokes her head inside whenever it's left cracked open and pulls out mommy's jewelry bag, daddy's travel bag etc...

Our bed. It is a good size and it doesn't hurt my back like our other one in AZ. The only problem? It's two twin mattresses pushed together. So if the pieces drift apart and I roll over at night, I hit the metal frame below. The frame is a lot larger than the mattresses (hello!) so we had to stuff pillows between the headboard and the mattresses so we would stop hitting our shins on the frame (and Taryn could stop hitting her head on it when she was crawling)

Oh the bathroom. I vaguely remember seeing the bathroom on our housing tour.
When we moved in we laughed at the tiny space they called the bathroom. We call it the forgotten room in our apartment. We feel as if they had completed the apartment and said, "oh wait....we forgot the bathroom...let's just throw one together, hanging over the courtyard, supported by 4 metal beams." The bathroom was a serious after thought. I stood in the shower and turned around to gauge the space. Tyson and I couldn't stop laughing. It's just a little corner with a curtain and water happens to come out. If you bend over in the shower you hit the sink with your bum, and if you bend the other way, you hit the toilet. I've learned to be very creative in order to shave my legs. The curtain always gets stuck to us and we often feel claustrophobic. We've never used the bidet because we're kinda scared of it.

I am an expert mold remover. I have never had to deal with mold growing up in California and living in Arizona for the past few years. But it is humid here and my eyes were opened to this gross thing called mold. I clean my bathroom, yes, but mold is a whole different ball game. I remember spending all of Taryn's nap time (almost 3 hours) scrubbing and cleaning because I was so scared of the mold. It became a regular routine to clean for mold and we've been able to keep it at bay which is awesome!
The drying rack, or one of Taryn's toys. She likes to walk under it while I'm putting clothes on it so that the wet clothes brush against her head. Her hair is always messy and sticking up in random places when I'm done. When we first arrived in the dead of summer, laundry took 12 hours to dry. It was great! But as soon as the temperature dropped, 12 hours turned into almost 72 hours. We learned to utilize our radiators, constantly rotating clothes, which made everything in our apartment muggy but at least we were able to have quickly dried, clean clothes. We have a clothes line in the courtyard downstairs that we've used for our bed spread and sheets but in the winter there is no point so we got creative with hanging and drying sheets inside.

I love these windows and how they are delicately covered with thin drapes. I wish we could leave them open more but they peer right into our neighbors (SAIS students) kitchen. I love that in the middle of the day I can open the windows and let the light shine through because no one is ever home in our building. During those hot summer nights, we left our windows open and we could hear the Italian conversations from the family across the courtyard from us. We were eaten alive by mosquitos (except Taryn- thankfully) but when you don't have air conditioning, it's the only way you can survive at night. Those summer nights reminded us of the night our air conditioner broke in Arizona during August and I was pregnant. We took freezing cold showers and then jumped into bed hoping that the cold water would have lasting effects.
I've gotten the hang of these radiators which is great because they are used all over the East coast too.

Our apartment has giving us many experiences, both good and bad. Living next to students can be really convenient and it can also mean late night parties. The girls in our building (Tyson is now the only boy) have been very nice and it's fun to run into faces you know as you walk up and down the stairs. We've done a lot of growing in this apartment. My Grandma Scott recently sent me a birthday card. She wrote,

"I have learned from many years of living abroad that - living abroad strengthens families and grows love" I believe that this quote from my Grandmother completely captures my feelings of this (almost) year we have spent in Italy.

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