Showing posts with label DIY home projects in Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DIY home projects in Greece. Show all posts

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ex Pat Life ~ A Mix of Madness and Mundane

'Life is either a daring adventure
or nothing at all.'
     -- Helen Keller

Okay, so I know I've been telling you that being an ex pat in Greece is one grand adventure. And in many ways living in the midst of Kalamata olive country in the southern Peloponnese is an adventure. It is most certainly a doorway to other travel adventures as well.

Yet, (I suspect many of our ex pat friends here would agree) in many ways day-to-day life could be more aptly described as being a mix of madness and mundane.

That seems a fitting way to begin a report on what's been happening at our home called, The Stone House on the Hill. While I often post updates on Facebook or Instagram, many of you who follow the blog, have asked, "What is happening at the house?' So looking back over the last six months, here's what we've been doing when not having grand adventures.

A Red Hot Welcome

Every other home on our street -- all four of them -- had some form of entry gate. Two black,one blue, one green. Except us.

Entry stairs at The Stone House on the Hill - before
We decided that such a gate at the top of the stairway leading from the road and our parking area to the house, would set off the entry.  Once decided, it took awhile to find a local 'metal man' who could build us one. Once we found him, his work load was such that he didn't get started on the project until January. (If I've not mentioned before, construction is booming in our area.)

I'd collected photos of the ornate types of gates we had in mind. He brought a catalog of more ideas. We agreed on a design, or so we thought.

What I thought we were getting and what we got

Somehow 'the ornate' part of the gate got left behind and we got a very mundane entry gate.
 . .that I will admit drove me a bit into a fit of madness (both anger and crazed) but then -- as with many things here -- it was time to put the madness aside and meet the challenge!

Finished gate with newly planted jasmine vine: Welcome!

The gate's builder said he'd left it plain because it would have detracted from the view. That does make sense. So we've framed the view with bright red and white paint and someday a jasmine vine will loop over its arbor.  I've come to love my little red gate.

On to the garden

I perhaps am smitten with my red gate because I had envisioned (at the same time we were talking about the ornate gate) having a small arbor built over our vegetable garden so that we can this year shade the plants from the cruel Mediterranean summer sun.

Arbor on Hydra Island

Last fall while exploring Hydra island with visiting houseguests of ours I'd spotted this charming tiny red arbor, pictured above. That was just what we needed.  Again, I showed the photo to the metal man who nodded his understanding. He took measurements.

All was good; o la kala, as we say here.

Our 'arbor'

I wasn't home when the construction began on this but arrived as the workmen were putting the finishing touches on 'the structure' that now dominates our side yard.  The Scout, being the taller of us, was tasked with painting it (we'd thought we were getting the small version so had told the builder we would paint it ourselves).

On the bright side, we don't worry about earthquakes any longer as this baby will hold the house up for sure.  We hope the bougainvillea will soon cover a good deal of it and a grape vine has been planted at the opposite end. . . I'll keep you posted on this one.

Yes, mundane tasks sometimes feel like sheer madness.

Do It Yourself  Madness

Not all the madness was caused by others. Sometimes we did it to ourselves by tackling a mundane task ourselves.  There was the stairway painting, for instance:

Our paint job of four years ago had faded and we were inspired by the bright white stairway in a hotel we'd stayed at last summer.  'Couldn't be that bad,' we told ourselves. 'A bit of sanding, a coat or two of paint.'  Let's just say it took several days to get the sanding and the painting to look like that we'd seen in the hotel. In the end we were pleased, but it did take a bit more talent than we'd expected it to require.

Once we had the stairs done, it was time to tackle the doors.  Stone houses built the time ours was, now 14 years ago, were decked out in pine. . .doors, windows, cupboards and cabinets.  While stone is easy to come by here, wood isn't.  The interior reminded us of the design of cabins built amidst, and from, pine forests in the Pacific Northwest.

The doors looked old. They looked dated.

And anyone can do a chalk paint wash, right?

We finally finished all six interior doors and their frames, but this is one of those projects that had us painting for days. . .it sounded so mundane but it became sheer madness.

Our most recent project was a joint effort - we helped do heavy lifting but turned the painting over to a professional.  We'd lived with the odd little closet/drawer/storage unit in the master bedroom -- another in natural pine -- for as long as we could stand it.  The top section was so high we never used it, so moved it to our storage room where it now stores the olive harvest equipment.

And as my father, a housepainter by profession, used to say, what a difference a coat of paint can make!  This project was sheer joy and it was madness that we didn't do it sooner!

Closet - before and after

So that ends our behind-the-scenes look at what's been happening at The Stone House on the Hill.  We've got painting projects coming up this spring but managed to squeeze in a bit of travel the last few weeks, including a luxurious long weekend in Athens. If you are planning a trip to Greece anytime soon, it would be a shame not to include Athens in your itinerary! I'll tell you a few reasons why next week.

Safe travels to you and yours and thanks always for the time you spend with us. Use the comments or send us an email to let us know what you've been up to ~

Linking with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Stone House on the Hill ~ Living in a ‘DIY’ World

DIY – abbreviation for ‘Do It Yourself’
            -- Webster’s Dictionary

DIY or Do It Yourself projects are the focus of some of my favorite blogs, television shows, FB posts and publications.  Always inspiring, they provide step-by-step directions to living in a colorful, clever world that you’ve designed, painted, built, sewn, or otherwise created by yourself.

The Scout completes the clothes line
Long before it became the catch-phrase for creativity, Do It Yourself, was a way of life in the rural area of Greece where we make our part-time expat home. And it continues to be the way repairs and projects are completed even now in our part of the Greek Peloponnese.

To be honest, it has tested the skills and abilities of these two city-slickers from suburban America, each of whom are more comfortable and confident at a computer keyboard than brandishing a hammer or screwdriver.

PicMonkey Collage
Dozens of parts and directions in Greek
In the States, we have been known to pay a wee bit extra to get items assembled before delivery or to hire a handyman to make repairs or changes. While we still hire help for many of the projects we’ve undertaken in Greece there is a remarkable (for us anyway!) number of things we’ve accomplished by DIY. 

By the way, ‘It’s Greek to me” is favorite phrase we use when directions for the DIY are written in Greek. Thank goodness for illustrations: we’ve often resorted to matching parts and screw sizes to the drawings and then guess at what we are to do with them. 

IMG_0215 [716250]
The Stone House on the Hill - the Mani, Greek Peloponnese

Slowly, slowly, or siga, siga as they say in Greek we’ve strung a clothesline, assembled coat racks, and constructed book and storage shelves. Each completed project bolstered – a wee bit --our DIY self confidence!  Just enough that by last fall we were dreaming up things we could DIY at our Stone House on the Hill:

PicMonkey Collage
Chalk painting the chest of drawers - DIY project

Our first project – such a tiny step for most DIY folks but a giant leap for us -- required finding a paint store in Kalamata (our big city an hour north), then explaining we wanted to purchase craft ‘chalk’ paint, wax to finish the project and the tools to apply both.  (Keep in mind neither of us had ever ‘done’ chalk painting but I’d been insistent  we do it – after reading those darn inspirational DIY home decorating blogs. . .) 
“You know, you create your own hell.”  --Warren 'Dean' Starr 
While we still had the painting bug --  and upon discovering they make a paint for bathroom grout, we tackled our guest bathroom.  A dark-colored gray grout had apparently been popular (because it didn’t show the dirt) when our 10-year-old house was built. From ceiling to floor it was used, making the room look, well. . ., dirty.

PicMonkey Collage
Painting the grout white - a DIY of tortuous, tedious measure

If we each painted, we reasoned, we could probably change that room in a day. Once started we couldn’t change our minds either. So with teeny-tiny brushes and cloths to wipe the excess, we set forth. What. A. Joke. Hours and hours, days later, our DIY was done.  Happy with the end result, but vowing never to do that again!  

“Life is trying things to see if they work.”
— Ray Bradbury
So how much stone did we order anyway?

Having spent a week of gloriously beautiful fall weather indoors on that tedious project we headed outside for the next.  We had a vision for our garden area, so we set to work.  You might say that we had rocks in our heads, both literally and figuratively, on this one!

PicMonkey Collage
First step, hauling the stone down the steps
We ordered brown gravel which we would use to create new garden cover at the front of the house, to the side, and in parts of the upper garden.  Darn, those Pinterest photos of Mediterranean gardens!! First task, hauling the gravel from the bags in our parking area, down the stairs and to the gardens. (If you are wondering, we used plastic pails and made hundreds of trips up and down those stairs – a better workout than going to the gym!)

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge
-- Robert Fulghum

PicMonkey Collage
The 'before' garden DIY project photos
We added a new Greek word: kopiastiki, to our vocabulary. It means ‘backbreaking’.  Finally, we accomplished what we had set out to do:

Garden in front of The Stone House on the Hill

From the front of the house down into the grove. . .

Olive grove terrace garden - The Stone House on the Hill 

  To the side garden. . .

Our vegetable garden - The Stone House on the Hill 

And in the upper garden. . .

PicMonkey Collage
We added a winding pathway through the upper garden

“If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte 

Before we returned this spring we told ourselves  that this stay we’d get out and do some hiking on those wonderful old trails that still link the villages scattered about our hillsides. We’d go to the beach – something we have yet to do. We ordered books that we’ve been wanting to read. But then I saw a cute little strawberry planter on FB that you could make from a laundry basket. . .it just required a few supplies.  Then a video came across for making concrete plant stands and stools which could be so cute . . .

So what will we be up to this spring at our Stone House on the Hill? Not sure yet.  But we do hope you’ll be with us again next week as we settle into life in Greece. And if you are in the neighborhood in real life, stop by. There’s always time for a visit!  As always, thanks for the time you spend with us at TravelnWrite ~ Safe travels to you and yours.

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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