Category Archives: Domestic

Week 6 – the coffee machine I forgot

photo(4)I’ve been very tardy about writing this post as I just couldn’t think of anything creative or home-improvementy that had happened in my life during the week concerned. Which was a slightly depressing thought in itself…

But hah! At some point I remembered that this coffee machine arrived bright and early one morning while I was in the shower (typical!) – it’s virtually new but was surplus to the requirements of the people who bought it, and generously they asked if it might find a new home here.

I was sceptical at first as I’m not a big coffee drinker, and M is devoted to his “holy ritual” (as it appears to an onlooker) of grinding the beans and going through the whole (messy) rigmarole with his espresso pot. It’s no great secret that I find the coffee it produces too strong and bitter – and yes, lots of different beans have been tried, but no, I will not adulterate my coffee with milk or sugar – and I’d ended up more or less giving up drinking any as a result. On top of that, we were both rather doubtful that the capsule technology this new machine uses could be a match for actual coffee beans.

The long and the short of it, though, is that it’s been a welcome addition to the household. I’ve started drinking coffee in the mornings again, and the volume, strength and flavour of the cupful it produces suits me just fine – I enjoy drinking it. And even M has taken to using it of an evening for the odd espresso after dinner – it’s less labour-intensive and quicker than the empty-grind-fill-wait routine with his “proper” coffee pot.

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Week 5 – duvet day

20130202-155035.jpgTo start with an apology, this is a fairly rubbish picture and the lighting was pretty dodgy, but I wanted to offer a brief glimpse of the new bedclothes I ordered this week from Amazon, having looked for ages and not been able to find any I liked anywhere local. No doubt many will recoil at the bright colours, but hey, people should know my taste by now…

The pictures on the wall were all cut out of calendars of medieval and pre-Raphaelite art, and they’ve been hanging there for as long as I can remember. They’re beginning to look a bit dog-eared in places by now, but I’m pretty loth to replace them until and unless I can find something I like as much.

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Week 4 – chucking-out time

20130127-155858.jpgNow that feels better – I cleared out this pile from my clothes drawers and cupboards recently and did a general audit of the things left inside. These rejects have in the meantime been bagged up and removed from the flat via the bin, recycling, charity, and one or two specific things to friends. And I’m left with three sackfuls of space for other, more useful things – yay!

Recently I’ve been relying on a small selection of clothes – regularly exchanged and washed, might I add! – and it’s partly because I’d either forgotten what else I had or it was buried at the bottom of a full drawer or cupboard. I’ve now rediscovered some “fresh” things but have taken a critical look at the rest. There are only so many odd old bits of clothes that you can reasonably keep for cleaning / painting / in case of weight loss or weight gain / in the hope that you might actually like them some day…

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Week 2 – taking stock and tackling nasties

Well, after the excitement of some new furniture and redistributing stuff in the first week of the year, week 2 was rather more sedate and more a case of small jobs (plus one big one which I didn’t do myself but will report nevertheless).

First things first, though: It had been bothering me for ages that a cupboard above the fridge that had been transformed from a junk hoarding place into a – in theory at least – practical storecupboard for spare tins, jars and packets of food had ended up really not very practical at all, given that I wasn’t actually tall enough to either see or reach the things right at the back. Fetching a stool to stand on every time I just wanted to check whether I had something seemed a waste of effort. To cut a long story short, I took all the stuff out, put my baking tins (which are rarely used) into the cupboard instead, where they have a LOT more room and now don’t fall out when I open the door (note to self: maybe this will make me more favourably disposed towards baking in future!), and in turn put the food storecupboard contents into the much more accessible cupboard that the baking tins came out of. Result!

This was also the week that saw me missing the Christmas tree, so what better to do than to go and plunder the post-Christmas sales (up to 70% off!) to buy more (yes, MORE!!) decorations for next year’s tree. I got a pack of eight medium-sized gorgeous orange baubles for about €1.80 plus various other bits of bling – nothing tacky, mind – that will also look rather nice in situ.

The achievement of the week – and now we get to the thing that I can’t really take any credit for – was getting the bathroom into rather better shape than it’s been in for some time, and hopefully sustainable shape, too. The mild, damp winter had led to some mould patches on the ceiling – especially above the shower and by the window – becoming more and more apparent and ominous. So, one day in this second week of the year, M donned his oldest clothes and set to work – carefully! – with rubber gloves, safety glasses, a spray canister of strongish bleach solution, and a scrubby sponge. An hour or two later, the ceiling was spotlessly white (and his clothes, in places, decorated with white spots).

Having removed the surface evidence, we needed to tackle the source of the problem: a bad combination of moisture and poor ventilation. Now here I have a confession to make. In all the 13 years I’ve lived here, there’s been a suction ventilator (is there a technical term for these things?) built into the wall that has never worked, and no one had really thought to investigate its innards as its absence of function wasn’t really an issue until this winter. I’d taken the front cover off a couple of times, thinking there might be a switch inside, but there wasn’t and so I’d simply shrugged, closed it back up and forgotten it again. On this occasion, though, M decided that investigative open-heart surgery was probably needed, so he took off not just the front cover but also unscrewed the outer panel of its inner workings. And guess what: it wasn’t even wired up to the mains, hence the lack of functionality. So we deactivated the mains circuit in the bathroom temporarily while the loose wires were screwed into the right connectors, and now we have a very powerful ventilator that kicks in immediately when you switch the bathroom light on, and switches off with a time delay of 5-10 minutes after you turn the light off again. And it sucks. Which is what it’s supposed to do – you really notice that the steam disappears much more quickly after a shower. It isn’t exactly silent – which is why the people who were in the flat before me might have disconnected it – but compared to mould, I know what I’d rather put up with.

Big thanks to M for his sterling work. xx

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Week 1 – furniture exchange

My blog project for 2013 is going to be to document something creative or home-improvement-y for each week of the year. I’m not going to put myself under pressure with deadlines – last year showed that I don’t blog well under pressure – but I’ll try to get something up for each week in due course, even if it’s irregularly…

20130111-184753.jpg Part of the first weekend of 2013 was spent assembling this handsome chest of drawers, courtesy of IKEA (as if you hadn’t guessed). I’d had my eye on it for a while and decided it would make a good Christmas present for the flat, though it was only in the lull after Christmas and the New Year that it seemed a good point to actually get it. You hear endless jokes and horror stories about self-assembly furniture experiences, but I have to say I find putting this kind of thing together surprisingly therapeutic. OK, maybe not in the moment when you open the box and discover the three (!) numbered bags containing a total of what seem like hundreds of screws, rivets, nails and dowelling plugs; but if I’m left in peace to work away, I can usually get the thing assembled without a single hammered thumb, forgotten screw or disgruntled curse (M in fact commented on the latter in particular – I’m a terrible one for turning the air blue when a project doesn’t go to plan).

20130111-185003.jpgThe new bit of furniture has replaced the bookcase containing the cookery books, which has been a great deal less tidy of late than it looks in this picture, so it was rather good to get it out into the hall, where it’s next to the kitchen and not actually in anyone’s way. It in turn has replaced a rather tatty little pine chest of drawers that someone who shall remain nameless spilled a glass of red wine over a while back – the wood is untreated so of course a lovely dark red stain ensued, and it had looked pretty manky ever since – a bit of a disgrace, if truth be told… It has been demoted to the cellar, where it has already been earmarked for storing bits of bike.

The new chest of drawers doesn’t actually have a great deal in it yet – what happened when I cleared the old one was that a lot of the contents were either ready for the bin (including a broken umbrella, some insoles that had gone a bit horrible, a defunct torch and three partnerless gloves), could be stowed away in the cellar or was better stored in the kitchen or bathroom mainly cleaning stuff). Still, it’s nice to have that breathing space for storage, and I bet it’ll be full within a matter of months.

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The cupboard from the same range I bought a couple of years ago has become a real feature of the room, so it’s lovely to have something to balance it over on the other side. This earthy red seems to have become one of the dominant colours in the room, and the way it works with the white walls, parquet floor and the other furnishings is just lovely. Well, we think so, anyway! ;)

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Jean(s) Eyre

With apologies to Charlotte Brontë…

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. Or at least: not without changing clothes first, which I dutifully did.

My favourite jeans had finally given in that crucial place, having suffered from too rigid a restraint, and I was quietly despondent that drear November day. I set forth nonetheless, in a quest for a solution. I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature. Women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do.

I entered one shop, and on seeing a suitable pair, I tried them. Lo and behold, they fitted, quite perfectly, and I was left sensible that this was no usual situation for a woman of my kind.

Reader, I purchased them.

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“Aha!” and “D’oh!” in the kitchen

This is my trusty cooker – it must be well over fifteen years old by now, but it’s still going strong (touch wood…). And it’s looking better today than at any time since I moved in with it. The reason? I found out from M yesterday that you can take off the twiddly knobs to clean them and the front panel. In fact, he prised them off with a kitchen knife and put them to soak in soapy water overnight. A quick wipe and towel-dry this morning and they were ready to put back on – good as new!

To think that all those years I’d tried to give them the occasional scrub in situ with an old toothbrush, a task I hated and always avoided for as long as possible as it never removed all the grot and tended to spread it around a fair bit, too… I now feel a mixture of embarrassment and delight at having discovered this “new” labour-saving feature.

I’ll never claim to be a domestic goddess, but please, please tell me I’m not the only person to have been so ignorant for such a long time of a basic mechanism of a household appliance!

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