Tag Archives: home improvements

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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New workspace

Apologies for the overly HDR-ed picture, but… tadaaaa! I’ve been muttering for some time about converting an area of the landing into an extra workspace, and now it’s done (well, apart from a bit more accessorizing, that is).

I’ve had the sofa there for some time and really, really didn’t want to have to move it significantly or – heaven forbid – get rid of it from that corner, as it’s a wonderful place to read in full daylight. But the way it was arranged meant I was always sat opposite a blank white wall when I was there, and that wasn’t all that inspiring. Now that I’ve rearranged its constituent elements, including the main cushions to lean against, I can stretch out at either end and either look out of the window or have daylight coming from behind, which is fantastic if I’m working on correcting a load of things by hand, or simply reading. I’m convinced it’s the best window in the flat for light, as it’s more or less north-facing and you only get the feeling of a few direct rays shining in at sunrise – the rest of the time it’s very “easy” light, plus the area seems to stay cooler than the southern side of the flat in summer (hence my original office space downstairs not being such a great place to work when it’s hot).

The desk is very simple indeed, but I was very much guided and restricted by what would fit in the space: there is a cupboard door just off the right hand side of the picture which certainly meant the desk couldn’t be too long. However, I definitely wanted as much surface area as possible, as I’m often simultaneously using my laptop as well as several piles of papers and/or a couple of open books for a lot of the things I do. It also definitely had to be real wood rather than some plastic or MDF monstrosity, and it was essential that it provided some storage for stationery and a few craft supplies. In fact, this desk has four drawers down the left hand side, which is great as the slope of the ceiling means you can’t sit at that end anyway.

I only ordered the desk last Wednesday evening, so I was amazed when it arrived on Friday morning as the estimated delivery date wasn’t until at least the 29th, and I hadn’t got around to tracking it online. What a bonus, I thought, and set about putting it together late Friday afternoon. This was a bit of a challenge given that although the box contained (as it turned out) all the necessary pieces of wood, runners for the drawers and pull-out keyboard surface, plus a heavy bag of bits of dowelling, screws and other metal fasteners I wouldn’t know the name of, it had NO INSTRUCTIONS!! In the end, though, the only thing I didn’t realize before tackling it is was that the fronts of the drawers needed to have their dowelling pegs glued in. This became apparent only when pulling one of them open resulted in the front coming off in my hands, but at least I was able to put my hands on the wood glue within a matter of minutes and this minor setback was fairly quickly forgotten (except for the glue I got in my hair, but never mind – true craftsmanship leaves its mark ;-)).

I didn’t want a vast desk chair because, although it might be comfortable, it would again take up too much space. I have a lovely old dressing table stool that belonged to my grandmother which I want to restore – it’s just a question of redoing the webbing that supports the removable cushion, so an easy DIY task. For the moment, though, I have discovered that it was possible to unscrew the back from a funny old red chair on wheels I had, and that’s turned out to be the perfect height and pretty comfortable, too.  It fits tidily under the desk when not in use. Maybe I’ll find a different place in the flat for Grandma’s dressing table stool at a later date.

So far I’ve got as far as putting up a couple of pictures to get away from that blank wall feeling – Paul Klee’s Revolution des Viaductes, and a modern photo-on-canvas picture of some glass bottles in just the same shades I have elsewhere in this alcove – lots of orange, green, blue, pink. Other than that, I’ll probably bring up a plant from downstairs and maybe a simple ornament or two, but the plan is to keep it simple and uncluttered (famous last words, I know…).

And it’s here that I sit typing this blog post. The window is wide open and I can smell the herbs outside on the roof terrace. I was going to say that there is barely a sound to be heard as the window looks out onto the rooftops above an enclosed courtyard that is not a thoroughfare. However, the cathedral (located 200m from here) has just started up its Whitsun evensong bells. Hey ho! But I wouldn’t be without them for the world…

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Kitchen Stories

Things have been happening in the flat of late. It is increasingly the case that two of us are in the kitchen, either cooking together or one of us keeping the other “cook” company. It’s an absolutely tiny kitchen, as any of you who have visited will know, so a few things needed to happen to make it seem a bit more spacious and inviting.

M had been saying for some time that more could be done with the wall space in terms of hanging things up, but I’d been a bit resistant. Not sure why, but I think I was worried it would start looking like a garden shed with all sorts of tools hanging on the wall. However, a careful look at the IKEA catalogue followed by a visit to the store had me convinced that this could indeed be the way forward.

Lots of dry goods have been put into transparent jars, which means they can be easily recognized and are – hopefully – safe from the likes of flour moths, which have been caught lurking around the kitchen in recent months. One just has to be careful not to confuse the breadcrumb jar with the couscous jar – I’m not much of a one for labelling things.

The kitchen now has a system of rails on which things can be hung – the first things we hung up were a spice rack, and a load of hooks for suspending kitchen implements like ladles, sieves, baking accoutrements and the like. The spice rack looks particularly good, I think, but there is also space above the sink for hanging a shelf for washing-up bits and bobs, and kitchen towel.

Herbs and spices used to be in a cupboard that was a bit hard to navigate, meaning there was much effing and blinding whenever anything was being cooked and – inevitably – stuff fell off the one shelf onto the work surface or couldn’t be pulled out because it was behind something else. Now a lot of things are on this rack, in particular those spices used in Indian cooking, and a listing will follow for the spice nerds among you.

Top shelf (l-r): sesame seeds, hot paprika / chilli powder, juniper berries, ground cumin, ground allspice.

Middle shelf (l-r): coriander seeds, brown mustard seeds, green coriander pods, cumin seeds, fenugreek.

Bottom shelf (l-r): garam masala, black peppercorns, nutmeg, turmeric, sweet paprika.

The herbs and other spices have remained in the cupboard mentioned previously, but there is now more space in there and so they don’t fall about the place quite so much. And the local Turkish / international supermarket always has these wonderful-looking bunches of fresh chillies, hence the prominent presence of these in various stages of drying (so far they have dried REALLY well and can, if wished, be ground and put in a jar as chilli spice).

Another big improvement in terms of space is the pot shelf that is now above the door. Various sizes of saucepan can be stored here, and they even look rather nice so long as they are free of stains or smears on the outside. Plus the hanging system that is the same as that for the rails you can see in the other pictures means that I can hang my tea rack off the same shelf, saving yet more space on the work surface – yay!

These are not brilliant photos, and almost all of them have had to be taken at some odd angle to get in the stuff I wanted to include (another disadvantage of a small kitchen: you can’t take pictures of it without a wide angle lens, and even then…).

One of the other things M persuaded me to do was to hang up more of my photos in the kitchen. I’m really pleased with the one of Indian corn you can see in the first shot, which is a print I made, framed and hung up yesterday. I also hung a print of a pumpkin, which you can’t see here (but it was this shot, just so that you get an idea). The set of three pictures of strawberries, wheat and parsley is also a composition made out of my photos.

So, finally the kitchen is an eminently habitable place and there is plenty of space to do stuff, be it slavish chopping / stirring activities, pouring the cook a glass of wine or standing around reviewing the day while dinner cooks.

Life is very good indeed right now!

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