Thursday, September 28, 2017

My new dog is a robot vacuum

While we were gone, all our neighbours got new puppies.  So maybe I have dogs on the brain now but when I unpacked the robotic vacuum cleaner I bought after lugging our usual one up and down the stairs four too many times, I couldn't help but see the similarities.

I mean look at that.  Flat top, round body - you can totally see it, right?

Yeah, okay.  It's not so much a physical resemblance.

The first thing I did with the robot was to panic.  I couldn't figure out how to get the charging dock into a good location for both me and it, and to make an adjustment I had to pick up the robot for a minute, and it FREAKED OUT.  Its wheels were turning like mad and it was making all kinds of whirring, whimpery noises like a new puppy that is just desperate to hit the ground and start running.

I'm not used to appliances that have a mind of their own, so all this was a little alarming and I found myself talking to it to calm it down again.  I got it onto the dock and backed away slowly wondering whether
a/ I had made a terrible mistake and
b/ it was too late to take it back to the store for a refund.

After it was fully charged and ready to go, I had to carry it to the room I wanted it to deal with.  I set it down carefully to do its business, and pressed the button to indicate it could get going already, and off it obediently went, snuffling along the floor, its whiskers spinning around and around, drawing stuff into its path for a closer inspection.

How can you not immediately start calling a thing that does all that, Rex?

Since that first day, Rex has become part of the family.  And to prove it, he eats everything we put down in front of him.  I mean other dogs may be willing to lick a plate clean but they have nothing on Rex and our floors.  Some of his litter mates balk at a black floor, apparently, but Rex has no problem with our charcoal grey tiled hallways.  Sometimes I stay to watch him explore, and sometimes I go off for a while to do some other job and come back later to make sure he's still okay, only to be reassured by his single-minded hunt along a track that only he can see.

On the landings, Rex is amazing.  He gets very close to the tops of the stairs and then stops himself, correcting his path and carrying on like the ground always just drops away into nothingness and is nothing to worry about.

Upstairs though, Rex gets a little silly and sometimes hides under the bed when he finishes what he was doing.  The game is, I have to find him, then go under and lift him out because I still can't figure out how to get his remote control working.  He loves this but doesn't do it every time - I guess he doesn't want it to get Old before he does.

He can't do the actual stairs but those are still plain wood, and a Swiffer duster makes short work of them, so it's not really a hardship.  And he is so tiny!  Carrying him from floor to floor is nothing, and I can just let him roam free or close him into a room while I go off to do other things.

Probably Rex was not the best investment I ever made.  He was VERY expensive and he is not perfect.  For example:

He takes a long time to get through a room and his priorities are to cover all of it, not just the various parts that I can see have the most problems.  If I carry him over to a particularly bad mess and press a particular button on his back he is all over it, but generally he is more about process than product.  Rex is not the dog you want cleaning your floors when you find out guests are dropping by in ten minutes.  Basically, you have to be a proactive cleaner to be Rex's human, so I am having a big learning curve on that point.

He is bagless, which means that periodically I have to pull out part of his undercarriage and dump what's in it.  Probably I am doing this wrong but his leavings don't just fall into the garbage - I have to pull stuff out and that is both gross and messy.  (this is actually a good place to pretend I'm not using a dog analogy for this entire post... sorry about that.  ahem.)

He will only get into nooks and crannies that are larger than his body.  We've had to buy a little more new furniture for the house, and my choices are dictated by what will make Rex happy first, and what will look nice in the house second.

He doesn't do upholstery or the car.

On the other hand... we can always fill in the gaps with our  original vacuum. We would have wanted open-bottom furniture anyway, because of the infloor heat.

And you know what, the other options for lightweight vacuums - you know, the ones you can take up the stairs without having a heart attack from the strain? - they weren't so great for me either.  They may be as perfect for stairs as they are for upholstery but from the research I was doing before I bought him, it looks like the most working time you can get out of a cordless stick vacuum is 20 minutes - and even then, not on high power.  Sometimes it's as little as five minutes.  What can you clean in five minutes?  Then you have to find a place to charge it, which takes hours.  I don't know about you but even in this small house, it takes a lot longer than 20 minutes to vacuum everything, and if you only vacuum one room you will be tracking stuff into it from the others all day long.

So: we sort of live with a dog now.  He may never wake me up and save my life in a fire, but he'll keep me from drowning in dust, and that's pretty good in my book.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Everybody needs a kitchen chicken

Our new kitchen came with open shelves, which their designer, Andy, insisted were for decorative display and not for my baking gear (what a spoilsport.)  Here is how I 'decorated' one of them. 

Ah, Henny.  I spotted her at the Royal Winter Fair almost a year ago now, and I knew right away that
a/ she was coming home with me and
b/ she was going to live on a shelf in the kitchen to ensure I would be happy there.

How can you not be happy looking at a soft fuzzy chicken?  Plus: she coordinates perfectly with the rest of the decor.  She's like staging, but for people who are oblivious to decorative vases and hunt instead for cuddly stuffed animals, as opposed to the slightly scary taxidermy kind I mean.

Okay so, fast forward from date of Henny purchase.  Last month I was in HomeSense (discount department store for housewares, for those of you who don't have one) and I spotted a CERAMIC KITCHEN CHICKEN.

That's when I knew I was ahead of the curve and downright clever to pick up Henny when I did for this very important kitchen job.

The ceramic kitchen chicken was red with white polka dots.  Now, I love a good polka dot - they're up there with stripes, for me - and I would have bought that chicken without a second thought if I didn't already have Henny.  But as it was, I did take time for the second thought.  And that thought was,

What else does it do?

I picked it up and looked at it.   It was heavy, for a start.  There was no opening in the bottom except a little gap to let the clay cure properly.  There was no lid on the top to let you put cookies inside it.  It was mostly just heavy and decorative. 

And honestly, that's probably enough for a kitchen chicken.  If that kitchen is getting used at all, the chicken on the shelf is going to get at least a little greasy and the dust will stick to her and it will be all manner of ick, so it practically has to be a simple glazed clay piece that can be easily rinsed off.

But... my kitchen chicken does more.  She looks slightly downward at me with her head tilted inquisitively to one side, from her perch directly above the counter where I am dumping my stuff after coming in or putting it together to go out, as if to ask with concern how I'm doing.  She is just the right colours for the room, calming me down by not being too attention-getting.  And she is soft, so it's great that she's right there where I need her, if it's a bad day and I need a quick hug or something nice to touch.

(seriously, this is a not-uncommon knitter's thing, right? where you get so accustomed to textiles in your hand that it's a comfort to reach out and touch something soft?)

Try getting all that from a painted ceramic chicken.

Okay, I will admit this: a ceramic chicken can be right inside the kitchen with no fear of grease spatters.  Henny pretty much has to be stationed on Andy's shelf, which faces into the living room, far from the stove.

Since the red chicken with white polka dots, I've seen more ceramic chickens in shops here and there, and I expect I'll start seeing them inside people's houses soon too.

But Henny was a kitchen chicken first.  Ha!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The super exciting laundry room reveal

I know for a fact that all of you guys wanting to see a picture of something finished in our new house are hoping the laundry room comes first.  So this is for you!

Of COURSE I am kidding... who wants to see a laundry room?  Or even be in one?  Unless you've been using a rock and a stream to do your laundry and are totally enthralled with the joy of a modern machine.

Or, unless you knit and have a gorgeous new piece to wash and block.


Meh, probably none of us want to see this, but I'm pretty proud of how my ideas (and more significantly Ray's hard work) came out.  Plus it really is nearly done, unlike the rest of the house.

Let's start with the side that has plumbing:

As you can see, I was able to repurpose the old custom shelf from our previous, undersized kitchen which is now an oversized entry.  This was not easy - it was flush to the wall on the left side in the old kitchen and I had to figure out a place where it could have the same placement in the 'new' house, while still being flush to the ceiling, which ruled out my office. The ceilings are just too high, I'd be able to reach exactly nothing on it.  Finally I decided to risk getting the measurements right in the laundry room to install a single upper cabinet for the shelf to butt up next to, and still have space for a folding treadmill on the other side of said cabinet.

(We still don't have the treadmill.  For one thing, we are still exhausted enough just walking up and down stairs after two+ years in a condo.  For another, custom drapery is super expensive especially if you are choosing reproduction English prints on heavy linen fabrics.)

You are probably also noticing all the bright yellow detergent bottles.  They are not there for staging and this is just a few of the bottles in my possession.  Hey, don't judge me!  I can get this stuff only from Walmart now that my local shops have given it up for hipper Arm and Hammer offerings, and I live in fear of the day it is discontinued entirely because it's the only detergent other than Soak that I'm not allergic to.

And since you are 90% likely to be a knitter if you're reading this at all, I suspect you are also noticing I found a place to hang freshly washed handknit socks!!!

That's the exciting bit.  I sourced the rails from IKEA - they're meant to be installed in a kitchen with their backs to the wall and their rods laden with hooks for hanging ladles and spatulas, but I wanted them installed face-down for my socks, and the odd linen hand towel.  Dryers are not kind to linen.  Once I explained what I was after Ray figured out how to install two together with the seam barely showing, for maximum drying space, and the result is pretty fabulous, I think.  Not least since we didn't have the relevant conversation until AFTER he installed the shelf.  It would have been a much, much easier job if I'd realized how close he was to installation while he was still giving it a fresh coat of paint.

Want to step a little further back?

From here you can see that I managed to squeeze in a clear horizontal surface for dropping off a laundry basket, a nice sink (if you don't count the paint stuff I can't scrape off the stainless steel bowl now - all tips welcome), a trendy faucet, some lower behind-door storage, and two shiny new top loader machines.  More on those another day but for now: SO MUCH LOVE. 

What do you think of the paint colour on the walls?  Now that I'm using the sink a lot I can see I need some sort of backsplash, but in the meantime I have to tell you - the walls are my second favourite part of this room.  It's Farrow and Ball's 'Elephant's Breath', which looks grey most of the time but warm lavender for the rest of it.  It brings out a warm grey in the otherwise stoney beige tile floor, and feels downright calming under the LED spotlights Ray installed.

These walls were always Elephant's Breath but this room shares a double door entry with another room that was originally painted Clunch - the green-based beige we painted most of the rest of the house.  And when I saw the two side by side - you can't help it, they are so linked - I just felt angry.  I don't mean about the paint job or whatever, but just as a visceral reaction to the colour, which was odd because I absolutely love it everywhere else!  The light is just different in this part of the house I guess.  Trish came over and confirmed that the Clunch had to go so we asked nicely and now the whole area is painted purpley grey.  Ahhhhhhhh.

And finally: a closeup of the vintage 1940s kitchen knobs I found at the St. Lawrence antique market a while back, in use again after being reclaimed from somebody else's house.

I installed these myself - it was super easy to to thanks to their original doors having been the same depth as the new IKEA ones.

Okay, let's look at the other side of the room, which now that I think of it, also has plumbing.

This is the magical  HVAC system that keeps our house comfortable, plus the water supply.  I thought I would never want to look at this, and planned to hang a drape in front of it originally, but now - I kind of feel like it's art.  There are so many cables and copper pipes and shutoff valves, all fit so tightly and neatly together to ensure I got my wish for the other side of the room to stay clear for the dryer to vent directly outside with no bends in the exhaust pipe.  I know it was a lot of work and took tons of planning by our awesome HVAC team.  That's a water tank on the left with ventilation/heat recovery unit on top, and an on-demand water heater on the wall, and all the other bits and bobs are for the in-floor heat throughout the house.  There's also a drain for the in-floor heat system's drip drip drip of condensation; a fetching blue bucket; and sump pump underneath the table.

The table is not only perfect to keep me from tripping over those floor bits, while improving the functionality of the room - it's just plain important to us.  It was built by injured WWI veterans and owned by Pete's grandparents, who used it as an extra work surface in the summer kitchen on their farm.  Gramma knew Pete liked it and marked one drawer 'FOR PETER' in blue ink, which I think is extra special because he is one of I think 1,532 grandchildren?  Okay, maybe only about a dozen.  Or somewhere in between but it is definitely a lot of kids.

The biggest reason Pete liked it is because the family used to write notes for each other in pencil on the enamel top, then wash them off later with a wet cloth, like it was a blackboard.  I only recently got him to accept that there isn't enough enamel left on top now to make the cleanup part possible, let alone 'easy'.  It was a sad day but the table is still gorgeous and useful and we both love having it.  

I especially love having it in the laundry room because I get to go on using it every day.  When we first got it we were in a big apartment and it was our hall table, where all the mail and library books accumulated.  When we moved to the house it was our kitchen table until we put in a new kitchen.  After that there wasn't space for it there, so it became a desk in a bedroom.  At the condo, it was a kitchen table again.  But it's just a little too low to sit under comfortably so I am really happy we were able to make sure there was space for it in here.  I've already used it a lot for painting small wall shelves and later on it will be fantastic for setting out blocking mats and drying handknit scarves and shawls.

There's just the one small problem...

It really needs a different kind of drawer pull.  The antique market ones work well but they look a lot like eyes, and they keep creeping us out.

(You're welcome, and good luck keeping them out of your nightmares tonight!!)

Monday, September 25, 2017

The awful truth about the new house

I won't open with the awful part because Bleh.  This is the good part: our new house is basically the old house, but improved - instead of sleeping in them like we used to, we now cook, eat, and watch TV in the old bedrooms, and we sleep in a tree fort that's been built on top.  Guess which thing is my favourite?

Well, why choose.  But it is pretty amazing to lie on the daybed in my office and look out at the upper canopy of these trees.

Seriously, that is the view.  In winter, that tree will be green with some snow on top of each bough.  I love this SO MUCH.  And the view isn't so bad from the sofa in our bedroom either.

When I finally got the bumpout into our master bedroom design I was imagining a very generous addition to the footprint of our house even though I only got it for this one small space instead of all the way across the front of the building.  It turns out it's just a little less than three feet out, which is not quite enough depth for a sofa to tuck right inside, and I have ended up with 19 precious inches to share between drapery clearance and walking space between the sofa and the bed.

And this, my friends, is why we have opted for new drapes that barely clear the top of the sofa, so the sofa can push right up to the wall. Also shorter drapes are just so much less expensive.  Bonus!

On the upside, the bed makes a fantastic elevated ottoman for sore feet at the end of a long day hauling boxes up and down stairs.  Sooooo many boxes.

It's three years now since we started seriously planning this project and finding our temporary home downtown.  The house is still not completely finished - at the moment, the work has moved to the back yard (fences and a deck) while we wait for our special-order porch columns and newel posts to arrive (minimum four weeks from order date, AIIIEEEEE.) 

Three years is more than enough time to dream up a lot of mental pictures of how it would be when we finally moved home.  And amazingly, not one of them involved unpacking!

I mean how could I leave that out?  OBviously things weren't just going to magically fly north on their own and settle onto shelves like Disney princesses or enchanted teapots.  But now that I'm watching all that stuff lie around listlessly waiting for me to put them on shelves myself, I am beginning to wonder - seriously, I have been asking other people this question because the answer I get from me is not at all satisfactory - whether my life will ever again be anything but packing unpacking vacuuming.

As I recall, there was some notion of packing so perfectly at the condo end that I would just pick up a box, unload its contents into its precisely planned final home, and send the box off for recycling.  And also, of taking as long as I might need to do said perfect packing.

Unfortunately the condo end costs rather a lot more every month than the typical storage locker, and will continue costing us until we have it emptied/cleaned/listed/rented... so the packing has been rather rushed and still isn't done.  As a result, a lot of what is coming to the house is odd and alone and has no obvious place to go, even if it has a clear(ish) claim to remaining in our possession.

Which brings us to the awful truth.

The other day, I was surveying the kitchen and I turned to a friend.

Honestly, I said.  Look at this kitchen.  It's massive and has tons of cabinets and yet it's nowhere near big enough for me to put everything away.

FRIEND: Maybe you have too much stuff.

ME:  What?  Of course I don't have too much stuff.

FRIEND:  Oh come on.  You have seven sets of dishes.

ME: Erm

FRIEND: [crickets]

ME: Well yes, but the good dishes aren't even in the kitchen, and the two everyday sets are very neatly organized, and the Christmas set is obviously very important and the Easter set is only four place settings.  And the last two are old and going into the attic for nostalgic purposes so they don't even count.

What I didn't mention was that the two everyday sets each have twelve place settings.  But you know what, I have gone through all twelve bowls from the off-white set SO many times, plus at least four from the black plaid set, all in the same dishwasher load?  And then have to dip into the four FiestaWare plates Jan gave me which I don't count as a set because it's four bowls and four sandwich plates.  And never mind that dishes break and I needed to buy enough so that in five years when I am just beginning to be able to face going dish shopping again, I will still have at least eight place settings and can put it off a good while longer.

Still, my unhelpful friend has a point.  Probably I don't need seven sets of dishes, especially if I'm going to store my sweaters and scarves in the kitchen and also, keep a kitchen chicken.

(not the live kind of kitchen chicken, or even the once-alive kind.  but more on that later.)

I probably don't need as many suitcases as I've accumulated, considering how much I hate flying, or all the books I've been keeping, or all the fabric that I now don't need for windows or slipcovers because I factored new furniture and custom made drapes into the renovation budget, even though all that fabric is so incredibly pretty. 

I don't need them, but I also don't want to have to choose what goes.  And now that the house is mostly done and this is the most space I will ever have to live in for the rest of my life, I will have to anyway.


Well at least I should be able to manage to hang onto all the yarn!


Still: we are home, and there are a lot of good looking trees outside.  So that's something, right?

And I'm not waiting around any more to get back to writing a new Hug every weekday either.  This is it, me coming back!  just don't hold your breath for knitting pictures just yet, because I haven't picked up needles in about five weeks except to move them into or out of yet another box. 

Hope you've done better on that front than I have - and have you?