Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian by Phil Doran

From Italy With Love (Stuttering Summer)

Ready for an Italian getaway?  Check out these books about Italy as I continue to revive previous reviews on traveling and gardening this summer.  As a gardening bonus, I will show you how to create a mosaic art pole for your garden.  See how you can make your own fun and cheery art piece to brighten up your flower garden!  

The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian by Phil Doran. Phil Doran is a burned-out Hollywood writer for TV sitcoms who reluctantly agrees to move to Italy after his wife bought a 300-year-old farmhouse in a small town in Tuscany. Anyone who has ever done any renovations or repairs in their home knows what a headache it can be.  But throw in a different language and top it off with frustrating bureaucratic green, white, and red tape, and you have the makings of an amusing disaster.  Told with the witty style you would expect from a comedy writer, their venture in this little village will bring a smile on your face.  From the unexpected coldness of the neighbor, to the experience of driving in Italy, to the community efforts of harvesting olives, this book will transport you to the Italian countryside—if, reluctantly, only for a little while.  I truly enjoyed this fun and easy read.  Here's a taste of Phil's amusing writing style:

“Growing up in southern California, her blood had turned to orange juice, and she was physically incapable of surviving cold weather unless it was on a ski trip.”

Phil Doran, The Reluctant Tuscan (Penguin Group, USA Inc., 2005), 27.

Bonus Review:  

If a great, big helping of the warmth and beauty of Italy is what you crave, then don’t skip on the satisfying treat of Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes.  YesIt’s another book about another old farmhouse renovation, another new start in a foreign country. But its appeal is uniquely different.  Mayes serves generous descriptions of the splendor of Tuscany and blends it together with the pleasure of simply delicious Italian meals. If you've seen the movie first, you may be slightly disappointed. While the book and the movie are mostly similar in the renovations and the culinary feasts, the greatest difference is that her journey is not a quest to find herself; she was already further along that road in the book. Frances buys the home with her second husband and together they renovate the farmhouse while delving into a quiet, Italian existence. 

Now, on to the Mosaic Garden Pole

What a cheery addition to a shady garden!

4x4x72” Hollow square vinyl post        $16.98
Fence cap                                            $2.98
Sandpaper                                           $1.28
Plates                                                   $1 EA at the Dollar Store or  at thrift stores. 
GE Iron Grip Construction Adhesive   $7.98 (I used two)
Grout                                                   $9.97 (I borrowed my sister’s supply and used very little)
Grout Sealer                                        $14.47 (I borrowed my sister’s supply and used very little)
8-ft stained landscape timber              $3.97
Concrete                                              $3.15

Cut vinyl hollow fence post to desired height. (I enlisted my husband's help for sawing.)
Rough sand vinyl post so glue adheres.
Draw pattern.
Place fence post cap temporarily on post and outline it to show you where to leave room for it.  I  spray-painted my cap and did not glue my lid on, so that when the paint fades, I can easily take it off and touch it up.
Slip one plate in doubled-up grocery bags and smash with hammer.
Glue plate pieces onto pattern. Continue until pole is complete.
Grout. Let dry.
Seal grout. Let dry.
Dig hole for landscape timber. (Again, I enlisted my husband's muscles for the digging, sawing, and concrete portion--so he wouldn't feel left out. :)
Cut timber so the portion above ground is about 1/3-1/2 height of mosaic pole.
Cement timber in place. Let cure.
Slip mosaic pole over timber. 
 Take in for winter frost. 

Ready for the garden.

Jonathan and Drew approved.
More Info
This project took me much longer than I anticipated--five separate sessions totaling 20 hours.  I'm not a patient person, so this took some dedication.

I used a total of 14 plates:  2 purple, 2 green, 2 yellow, 2 red, 2 light blue, 2 dark blue, 1 orange, 1 teal. 

What I like most about this garden pole is that it brightens up a shady spot in my garden where not many flowers bloom.  In the end it was definitely worth the money and back pains from leaning over and gluing for endless hours on end.  :) 

Until next time, I wish you happy reading, happy traveling, happy gardening! 


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