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August 2, 2013

Friday in Monferrato--Morning in Vercelli

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For a change of pace, today we headed north to the small city of Vercelli, as I'd heard it had an interesting old centro. Vercelli is in the rice producing region, and as we got closer the landscape turned flat, with rice fields stretching off from the road. We maneuvered through the outskirts, and found parking off viale Garibaldi, a street with a tree-shaded pedestrian strip down the middle. We walked over to the Basilica di St. Andrea, a lovely church with elements of Romanesque and Gothic.

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As we were slowly walking around, we were greeted by a priest who had been quietly sitting in a pew. He began pointing out parts of the interior, and before we knew it he was unlocking doors, telling us the history of the building, of Vercelli, and the amazing wood carvings, inlaid marble, paintings,and rooms in the Basilica. He had no English, but Larry was pretty much able to keep up with most of the Italian and French. This was such a treat, to be shown around by someone with so much passion and warmth.

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From the Basilica, we walked over to the 16th century Cathedral. There was a funeral taking place inside, so we didn't go in. We continued our walk further into the centro, where we found a lively market taking place. This part of Vercelli is quite old, with some interesting and quite elgant architecture. There are a few small museums in the city, but we were happy to just sit with a coffee. We spent some time relaxing, watching Vercelli go about its business.

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For lunch, we took a chance on Ristorante Vecchia Brenta, on via Morsone. An old-fashioned looking place decorated in pink and green.The other diners ranged from large family groups to business people to little old ladies. Amusingly, donkey was on the menu several times. We began with a plate of mixed salumi, which included a few very dark, rich slices of salami that may have been from one of those little guys. We then had an excellent vegetable risotto for two, with artichoke and asparagus. This, plus two glasses of good wine, and coffee, was 42 euros.

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Back "home" we spent some time beginning to pack up and then just lazed around with some wine and books. Threw together sauteed zucchini, tomatoes and pasta for dinner from the little market under the porticos in Cocconato.

August 5, 2013

Style Cure--The Junk Room

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Last Summer I started a month-long "assignment" sponsored by the site Apartment Therapy. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ Although I did not religiously do every assignment, it did spur me to take on some household organization and decluttering; and initiated our bathroom re-dos."Hey, let's see if we can strip the ugly wallpaper...whoops, we seem to be renovating three bathrooms ourselves."

Yeah, things can get out of hand.

In any case, this summer's cure is to focus on one room. In our case, the Office/Guest Room/Junk Room. Everyone has a Junk Room, right? Right? Please don't tell me if you don't. Or at least a closet or two. You know, the place that you put the stuff in that you don't have any other place for, or the room where you stick something ugly because it's the least seen room?

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Our junk room is also the guest room and my office. When Evan was home his computer was also in there. It took me months to convince Larry to try to sell the ugly desk. It's now listed, and I swear, I could have had a baby in that amount of time. Hopefully it'll be gone soon.Our first Style Cure assignments were to try to identify our own styles,and find visual cues to what appeals. Do I have a style, besides "see what sorta kinda looks OK there?"

Over the weekend I also weeded out three boxes of unwanted books. That might seem like a lot, but we probably have thousands of books distributed on shelves around the house. Out went the dated first aid manuals, middle-school series of dubious literary worth, travel guides from the 80's and 90's, pulp paperbacks. Still need to get Larry to go through those bits on the almost-empty bookcase.

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It's a nice large room, with a lot of natural light. Three of the wonderful windows are set in a little rectangular bay. Warm old fir floor that works with the battered desk and bookcases. I'd like to keep to a pale palette with some wood accents, which works with the rest of the house.

Any ideas out there in internet-land?

My goals:
1. Declutter
2. Better organize in a more attractive way the necessary evils of printers, computers, office supplies.
4. Paint walls, or at least patch and blend the dings in the 125 year old horsehair plaster.
5. Replace 25-year old blinds. Perhaps do away with the 80's valences.
6. Visual appeal-
Perhaps replace the baby changing table/dresser that is functioning as our linen closet. Go down to one bookcase? Maybe paint it/them white? They're "cherry" particle-board. Spraypaint? Larry will have a fit.
Hide ugly filing cabinet somehow, or at least clean it up and get the crap off it.
Replace bedspread/pillow shams
Wall decorations--pictures, maybe a wall of good photos

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