Start as you mean to continue

Welcome to 2018!

Yesterday I vacuumed the carpet, swept the floors, cleaned my kitchen, and took out the recycling.

I did a little writing, and played a little Warcraft – but not too much.

I drank a little wine – again, not too much.

The husbeast is feeling a bit under the weather, so compassion and understanding were the themes for the night. We watched a movie and commented on the neighbour who insisted on blasting their bass at 2am.

In the cold light of the new year, things are pretty good. I have a clean home, and a sunny spot to write at the kitchen table. The cat and I are listening to music while a rather large bird noisily attempts to cuddle up to the back of our house. We’ve had a tasty, healthy breakfast, and some time to sit and veg with the internet.

There are socks on the needles, words to be typed, world quests to be done, and wine still to be sipped.

All in all, things are looking up.

Shelving: Taking it to the next level

There was no Foodie Friday last week. There will be no Foodie Friday this week. Why? Because we had last week off work and between a minor renovation and Hallowe’en, our eating habits have been atrocious.

That said, I have pictures to show!

Our home is a constant work-in-progress. I’m sure that if you ask most homeowners, they would agree that you’re never really finished attempting to find ways to find a place for the sheer amount of stuff that you tend to accumulate – without sacrificing the sense of personality in your home.

Our living room was a cluttered mess. I would suspect that unless one has a particularly handy spouse, most people these days make do with whatever furniture they have, and for us that mean a lot of items that take up a good chunk of the floor space in our living room. The footprint of things like a sofa, recliner, digital piano and television added up and eventually took over the area off our kitchen.

Being Canadian, we use metric. No, we are not Roughrider fans. That's a magnet from a relative's wedding.
Being Canadian, we use metric. No, we are not Roughrider fans. That’s a magnet from a relative’s wedding.

IKEA says to build up!  Think Scandinavian! Luckily for us, we have someone in the family who does. My parents used to have a business designing, building and installing Systems 32 modular furniture — the same essential system that IKEA uses. The Husbeast and I had tossed around some ideas for installing shelving in the living room, and Dad came on board as the project manager. Robin made measurements and drew up a plan, and the two men went off to IKEA with a shopping list for Billy book shelves.


Then we set about the task of putting together a bunch of IKEA cabinets.

The two middle shelving units were going to have to be suspended between two narrower, full units. To give stability to the structure, Dad took the two middle cabinets back to his shop and made some modifications.

The goal was to create a shallow box that would span the length of both cabinets and take the place of the kickplate. In addition to adding a stable anchor point when attaching it to the wall, it would also be a nice, finished edge that, frankly, didn’t look like we’d stuck a couple of floor cabinets on a wall.


Back at our place, we cleared room in the kitchen and assisted Dad in assembling the pieces — upside down. The top edge was going to be the one place where everything lined up.

The one wall that we could use for this build has a few…quirks. We had to compensate for a motion sensor, light switch, and a cold-air return. A Dremel is a very useful tool. In this case, it was used to widen the area around the cold-air return and sink the cover farther back into the wall. We needed the cabinets to be as flush with the wall as possible for that built-in effect.


Casing needs to be flush with the wall. Dremel Time!

Once the cabinets were bolted together, we slid it into the living room on towels and flipped it. This is not a hard task when there are three of you. You just need someone to keep track of where all the low-hanging lighting fixtures are placed.

Notice the cold-air return? We had to make another modification to the cabinet for it.

Ever notice how, when someone has to climb a step-stool, there’s a cat that needs to wave her tail right in the path of the person’s descent? Yeah, we noticed it too.

Finally, we dremelled out the areas for the motion sensor and the light switch. For the short term, they’ll be hidden behind books. Eventually we’ll finish those edges. The main thing is that they’re accessible and in working order.

Almost done…now that we’re flush to the wall, with access to electricals, we drilled into the studs from the aforementioned box that was attached to the bottom of the central shelving units. We knew we wouldn’t be able to bolt things in from the top of the bookcases, so this was an ideal anchor point. The piano fits perfectly underneath!


There is still a little finishing work to do, including installing lighting, but we’re mostly done, for now. The addition of the shelves have reduced the clutter in our living room to an amazing degree. All my sheet music is in one place! Previously, I’d been storing a third in our kitchen shelving unit, a third in a Safeway carry-box, and a third tucked into the old TV stand. We have space to show off some of our nicer books, and an opportunity to display a few knick-knacks.

Final thoughts? We now have room to rearrange and organize many of the books on shelves elsewhere in the house. There is even a thought of eventually building another shelving unit in the Husbeast’s office. Our living room is now half-done, as we will be re-organizing furniture to take advantage of the fact that there is less “stuff” to deal with. The old TV has gone to electronics recycling, and its stand to Value Village. Eventually we will purchase a TV to install over the fireplace.

The takeaway? If you know how to hack and stabilize IKEA furniture, you can build some wonderful storage solutions. A custom shelving unit like this would likely cost upwards of a thousand dollars. We think we spent just over $300. We were lucky, though, that we had a professional cabinetmaker in the family who was willing to work for the low, low price of dinner and conversation. Your own mileage may vary.

And to think, this is only the start of our decluttering and organizing!


Foodie Friday: Sept. 27th to Oct. 1st

I am in grave danger of becoming one of those people who Instagrams all her meals. It’s mainly due to the fact that a picture makes it easy to remember what you’ve had and whether it was notable in some way. As a result, I have a few pictures saved back. I’m thinking of making it a semi-regular feature that I’m giving the hipster title Foodie Friday.  Seems appropriate!

You’ll just have to forgive the terrible late-day kitchen lighting and the obvious cell-phone camera pictures…

Read moreFoodie Friday: Sept. 27th to Oct. 1st

Sometimes it’s the simple things

Remember that whole pretending to be grown up thing I was talking about?  We’re making a pretty concerted effort to be more aware of what’s going on, and it’s really paying off.

This is what it looks like around here tonight.  We’re finding that with both of us working on our respective writing, we can actually find ways to do so together.  I’m blogging on the laptop while he enjoys writing in his notebook with his new fountain pen (a Lamy Safari, for those who are curious).  We’re both enjoying the music from the stereo and sipping our tea, and munching on biscuits.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that make you happy.

My co-worker Jean surprised me a couple of days ago.  His wife is a spinner, and quite awhile ago I had expressed an interest in knitting with handspun.  Before I knew it, she had sent along a gorgeous 2-ply of merino/silk.  I still haven’t knit anything with it, but I think it will likely become a shawl(ette).  I mentioned to him recently that since I started spinning last year, I need to start hoarding stashing accumulating more fibre.  I’m sure the husbeast would disagree with me, but nothing keeps you from spinning like the threat of running out.  Next thing I knew…Jean was handing me a large shopping bag full of wool.

You could have coloured me “flabbergasted”.  In addition to a book, there’s some beautiful burgundy Corriedale, some gorgeous blue silk/merino, and a huge 1 pound, 4 oz of what I suspect is processed fleece.  I’m not certain, though, but it sure looks like quite a bit to keep me spinning for awhile!

Even better?  Cassy is getting into felting, and sent along “soap in a coat”, some hand-made soap in a felted case that Jean swears lathers up really well *and* looks nice on the soap dish.  It smells lovely.

Oh yeah.  I owe someone some Christmas Cookies at very least.  Probably the ones that every claims are as addictive as crack…

(If you somehow manage to find my website, Cassy, please know that I am totally bewildered and hope to actually meet you in person sometime so I can let you know just how much I appreciate all you’ve done to encourage my wool addiction hobbies) 😀

Not your children…except that one…

It’s that time of year. We braved the mall yesterday, and did quite a bit of Christmas shopping. The adults aren’t quite so difficult to shop for once you start tweaking onto them.  It’s the kids.

You’d think that the kids would be easy to shop for…when I was their age, I wanted half the Sears catalogue…and that included stuff that *wasn’t* in the toy section.  What you have to realize is that nowadays, you’re not just buying for the kids, you’re also buying around any kind of parental triggers.

I’m not picking on any one kid or any one set of parents.  We have 3 biologically-related and 2 honourary kidlets to buy for.  Some of those kids are young enough to fall in the “buy a plushie” category.  Others are more challenging.  You don’t know what they’re into, and what’s popular amongst their peer groups, and what their parents do and don’t want them to emulate.  I’m finding out that Star Wars is OK, but the Pink Aisles at Toys R Us are a dangerous place to be caught.

What I’d like to suggest?  When that Christmas list gets made, cc a copy of it to the Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles.  Sure, it should get sent to Santa, but in the meantime, make sure the rest of us have a copy.  Annotate, if you must.  If something isn’t agreeable to you and your philosophy on child-rearing, please let us know.  That way we’ll know that the soccer ball and pink princess Barbie aren’t cool, but Cabbage Patch Kids and croquet have made the short-list.  That way, the rest of us (the Aunties and Uncles and Grandparents) can talk amongst ourselves as to who will get what for whom.  Particularly since some of us get to see our littler family members maybe once or twice a year and don’t necessarily get to be privy to their likes, dislikes, and personality quirks.

Then there’s Robin.  Who sees Nerf on sale at the local toy Mecca and picks it up for his own nefarious purposes…usually involving chasing the cat around the house.  If one is unable to figure out what to get him for a Yule gift, Nerf, Lego, and such are great stocking stuffers (I’m the easy one to shop for.  If it can be spun or knit, I’m usually happy).

Pretending to be grown up

Welcome to my home:

This is what I came home to last Sunday.  We had spent most of the weekend cleaning, and Robin had decided to finish the job while I was at work.  He also cooked dinner (stir-fry), and we cleaned up afterwards.

The kitchen is still in pretty good shape.  We’re trying to keep it clean so that we can eventually put up the tree.

It all falls under that “pretending to be grown up” category that we’re working on, I guess.  The one where the cat’s box gets cleaned regularly, and you don’t get too drunk at the office Xmas party – which, by the way, was a lot of fun.  Usually they try to split up the departments to try to get us to “mingle”, but I think they’ve learned that we’ll behave nicer amongst our own friends.  Peer policing for the win!  I mean, really…it’s one thing to make an arse of yourself in front of some random dude…but if you do it in front of friends, it’s for keeps.

Belated happy Turkey Day for my friends in the US.  Here’s hoping you can roll yourselves out of bed today after the feast the night before.  Thank you also for kicking off the shopping season.  Now I can go Xmas shopping without feeling too much like a keener.  Unfortunately, it also means everyone else feels the same way.  The even better bit is that we will also start getting the *good* Xmas movies on TV and Ondemand.  I’m looking forward to “Scrooged”.  “Four Christmases” just doesn’t stack up, I’m afraid.   Sure, I could just buy the good stuff on DVD, but I’m a bit of a traditionalist 😉

Speaking of such, I think the husbeast wants to get some greasy food and brave the malls.  If you believe in such things, pray for our survival…

Sarah Jane and the Socks of Awesome

This was almost a weekend worthy of being buried in the bottom of a pit and being forgotten.  There’s just something about trying to find a venue with a supposed entrance on an unlit back road in the middle of the night, or being trapped in a car while trying to find an exit from a mall, or trying to get to the washroom at the back of the busy food court of the aforementioned mall to make you take a pretty jaundiced view of humanity and wonder when the ecological cleansing is going to start.  There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, even when it’s just another oncoming train.

Our weekend, as you may guess, wasn’t shaping up to be much to report, until I looked at a couple of bright spots:

1. We got through it together.  In a world where couples fall apart over who puts the toilet seat down (or doesn’t), we managed to get through some pretty stressful crap.

2. Sometimes the simplest sock pattern can make you uncommonly happy.  It helps if the yarn is a bit of a surprise as well.  Let’s admit it…you can wind and re-wind the ball a dozen times and still not know what it’s going to be like until its actually knit.

3. Babies are the antidote of many of the world’s ills.

This is what I’ve taken to calling The Sock of Awesome (aka Awesomesocks).  As you can see, I finished sock #1 and have moved on to sock #2.  I’m actually a bit farther along than this now; I’m about to turn the heel.  Probably with the same orangey Socks that Rock.  I just really liked the still-life of sock, sock-in-progress, and menu from Eat!Eat! It’s hard not to love the way these socks are turning out.  The pattern is Hermione’s Everyday Sock by Erica Lueder, and the texture somehow suits the marled fabric that comes from the Crazy Zauberball yarn (colourway: frische Fische).  It’s enough to make me want to squee.

I wish I had a picture of the aforementioned baby.  Eventually I will snag a couple of the pictures off of the Husbeast’s cell phone.  We are, once again, made honourary Auntie and Uncle to a darling little munchkin.  This time it’s a little girl by the name of Sarah Jane who was so headstrong that she wanted to come into the world a little early.  After spending a week in the Natal ICU, she’s home and seems to be doing well.  Her Mum and Dad invited us over on Saturday and let us get to know her.  She’s absolutely adorable, and I was so happy to see her before she starts the inevitable huge growth spurt that will have her fitting into the sweaters I knit for her.

(Oh…and as a totally unrelated aside, I’m really floored at the amount of downloads of this past week’s podcast.  Wowzers.  I’m sure it’s not the kind of draw that more established podcasts pull, but I’m pretty easy to impress when it comes to this sort of thing.  A big thanks!)

Bully for You

I inadvertantly wore purple today.

I honestly hadn’t remembered that today was earmarked to wear purple in order to raise anti-gay bullying awareness.  All I know is that I went looking for a snuggly shirt to wear this morning, saw the light purple hoodie on the floor and said “Score!  I win!”  It was only afterwards at work that I realized that something was going on.  Probably when my supervisor remarked that he hadn’t realized what day it was either, but boy wasn’t it great that he’d had the urge to wear a purple shirt.

Maybe it was a subconscious thing.  Picking up on the vibe.

Kids are stupid gits.  It’s a good thing that babies are cute and women generally have that whole “Biological Imperative” thing happening, because if the terrible twos weren’t warning enough, the teen years would probably convince most parents to give it up & take up ant farms or cat herding.

Read moreBully for You

Retail Therapy

Had to get the car registered today (nothing like waiting til the last moment), so I also took the opportunity to get some other errands done.  By the time I came home I had a bunch of clothes that I picked up on sale, cat foods of various flavours and densities (yes, densities), baking ingredients and a new small sketchbook.

I bought a moleskine.  It’s  not too big, and not too small.  It will fit in my purse, or my carry-around-bag, or even my back pocket without being TOO small.  I bought it for writing and sketching and just plain Doing Stuff.

I don’t know where the fear of blank pages came from.  Maybe it’s a childhood of zealous environmentalists telling our generation that wasting paper is bad.  Maybe my Dad made some weird sound when I scribbled all over his good matte board.  I don’t know.  As a result, I always felt weird starting a new project.  I have no problems ripping out multiple inches of knitting, but wasting drawing paper scares the living shit out of me.

So in addition to the moleskine, I also picked up a book that takes a look inside the take-along sketchbooks of various artists.  I’m looking forward to digging into it.  It’s always nice to remember that no artist does perfect work all the time, or sometimes even anything that looks vaguely recognizable.

Finally, a picture.  It’s warmed up considerably outside, but I thought I’d share this.  It was around 7AM outside the workplace on one of the frosty/foggy days we had recently.  Hell, we’ll probably get more, knowing our weather.  It’s been a winter of fog.  I’m wondering whether the Dementors are breeding.

Jack Frost Wuz Hear