BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A house tour #1 - Nikolai's space

My interest in doing a "house tour" has three roots:

1. My sister, Claire, is coming to Vancouver in early May for a work related conference.  We'll be heading over to visit her there, but she won't be able to visit us in Victoria. 

2. We live in a house that is noted in a walking tour of Victoria with the following entry: 1905 Westview, Edwardian Classical, now stuccoed; note wall dormer, elegant veranda, granite foundation.
Apparently the fact that it has a name, Westview, and a granite foundation indicates that it was an important house at one point in time.

3. The Offbeat Home webzine is about the only thing I look at on a daily basis.  If I never say "hi" to you on Facebook, then it's because I'm too busy reading about a hobbit home or tree house.  While I might not have a home that cool... at least I have a granite foundation.

Today's photos are going to feature Nikolai's room.  Nikolai's room is tiny... and when we arrived the whole room was all painted the same creamy-coffee colour as the rest of the house.  It is also a north facing room. In general the whole effect was rather cold, dark and dreary.
 The room is also lined with wainscoting and a chair rail (clearly it was a dining room in a previous life).  So Brad and I devoted two Friday nights to the task of painting the wainscoting white (yeah we're THAT cool).  I think the brightening effect is quite amazing.
Now you might be impressed by the collection of toys on the floor.  Perhaps I was lying to you about it being a small room?  Where is Nikolai's bed?  And the answer would be... not in his room!  We'll be putting a twin bed in there this summer.  It will occupy nearly all the space where the toys are currently sitting. 

So where is Nikolai's bed?  Well, I'll start with the explanation... when we first arrived we thought that it would be easier for Nikolai to adjust if he slept in our room.  He was also waking up a lot at night, and it was easier for us if he was in our room.  Then we used his room to store random boxes of stuff.  Then we painted his room. And well, he's still occupying a corner of our bedroom.  But our room is rather large, so you can see that he really does have his own space.
 Now for a kid friendly recipe...

Mexican Pie

Grease a 10" pie plate. 

Mix together 1 can of refried beans (or 2 cups of homemade refried beans), 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of water and 1.5 tsp of baking powder until smooth.  Spread it evenly in the pie plate to make the "crust" of the pie.

Saute your favourite toppings until lightly cooked and spread it out on top of the pie crust.  Layer on some thick salsa and cheese.

Bake at 375F (180C) for 30 min.  Top with sour cream and guacamole and serve.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Being a crafty soul

Now that Nikolai is in preschool for 10 hours a week, I have finally gotten the chance to edit my novel.  And my goodness it's a slog!  Unlike blogging... writing a book requires complete sentences. And good grammar. Flow is also important. Narrative. Dialogue. Descriptions.  I'm not sure I'll ever actually finish it!

However, I do have a firm deadline.  Nikolai's preschool will finish for the summer at the end of June.  And the time I have to work on the book will vanish.  I have also been working on the business side of writing. I have formed (a rather small) writers guild. I am reading books about the industry. I've drafted a query letter. I am figuring out whether I'm better off approaching a small Canadian publisher, or going with an agent who would get more traction at a bigger publisher. 

So this is what is filling my time... every spare second of it. I am working against a tight deadline, and most of my daily life is generally filled with the domestic!

Our other time-based deadline was around putting black out curtains and blinds into the big bedroom.  Originally we went with a vinyl roller blinds... but my eco-conscious side balked at the idea of using vinyl next to my sleeping son.  Besides, even the cheapest roller blinds were quite pricey because of our large expanse of windows.  As it turns out homemade curtains are the cheapest option.

But we have this weird piano window in the bedroom.

And curtains would have seemed rather silly... so I opted to make a roman blind for this window.  I found a few rather incomplete sets of instructions on the web, with most of them requiring specialized hardware.  I also found a complete set of instructions, but it entirely lacked photos.  So I'd like to provide a complete set of instructions... with photos.

How to make a Roman Blind 

1. Measure your window. Cut a 1" batten to fit across the top. (generally it is nested inside the window casing, but I wanted to show off the stained glass, so we hung it above the window casing).

2. Cut your fabric so that it measures 2" wider than the window and 6" longer than your window. Then cut the lining fabric to be the same size. (I guess lining the blind isn't required, but it's definitely more posh!)

3. Fold and press a 1" hem into your fabric along both sides and the bottom of the blind, then fold and press a 1.5 " hem into your lining fabric.  Pin the wrong sides together and top stitch.  The top of the blind should remain un-stitched.
4. Based on the length of the blind, and how large you want your pleats to be, figure out how many doweling "rods" you will want.  In my case I used 3 rods, and spaced them 6 " apart.  Use 1/4" doweling for the rods and cut them to the width of your fabric.
5. Mark the location of your doweling pockets on the blind (I had 3 pockets, each 6" apart). Cut strips of a scrap fabric to run along the width of your blind, and 1" wide (to for the pocket). Sew the doweling pockets on to the blind at the marked locations.
 6. Hand stitch (ugh!) rings on the doweling pockets for the eye cord to run through. (I used 4 rings to cover the width of my 54" curtain). The rings need to be stitched in a row on each doweling pocket. (My curtain had 4 rings on each pocket, and 3 pockets, for a total of 12 rings.  Obviously it wasn't too hard to hand stitch!)
7. Wrap the top of the curtain around the batten, and use staples or upholstery tacks to secure the fabric in place.
8. Attach a screw eye to the batten in line with each of the rows of rings.

9. Tie some eye cord to the bottom ring in each row. Run the cord up through the rings in that row and through the screw eye on the batten.  The decide which side you want to have your cord pull on.  Run the eye cords through the remaining screw eyes, so that all of the eye cords meet at the side where your cord pull is going to be.  You could attach a separate cord pull, but I just braided the lengths of my eye cord to make the cord pull.
10. Hang the blind in place by screwing it into the window frame.  This is most neatly done if you can work underneath the roman blind.  I tacked my fabric onto the back side of the batten, so I was able to lift the blind out of the way in order to attach it to the window casing.

11. Attach a cleat to the window frame.  You should be able to keep your blind open, simply from the tension of the cord on the cleat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The miscellaneous deluge befalls us

Our stuff arrived today!!!  And it brings with it a host of feelings.  As I look at the posessions that comprised our life in Ireland, how could I not be filled to the brim with heartsickness for the life we left behind?  I am also overwhelmed with trying to figure out where to stash it all.  Our house lacks a front hall closet or a pantry, and I cannot imagine fitting all of the clothes in our small bedroom closet. 

We are so often caught up in our new life in Victoria that I don't have much time to pause and reflect. This afternoon we swam under the tidal wave of memories. Barely able to keep our heads above water as we pondered what to do with our excess umbrellas, shopping bags, shoes and towels.  But it is also a celebration of the things we have been waiting for: my bike, sneakers (trainers), clothes, toys, cookbooks and memories.

Now... I must get back to work!  In the photos Nikolai is wearing seasonally inspired bunny ears!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Now my feet won't touch the ground

We have been very busy playing around in our large backyard.  When it became apparent that spring was around the corner, we eagerly started digging in the vegetable patch. It took us two weeks of back breaking labour to dig up all the grass and haul it away.  Luckily we have a friend with a tiller, so actually turning in the soil only required us to prepare a rather delicious lunch!

So far we've planted out lettuces, peas and radish.  But Brad has been planning ahead and we have loads of tomatoes and herbs sprouting indoors.
Anyways, today's blog is actually about the swing... and it is my first How To Make It blog.  This was mainly driven by the surprising lack of good information on the Internet about how to make a swing.  Now I know that a swing is a pretty straight forward affair, but the advice we found on the web regarding how to tie the knots was just... well... useless at best... and down right negligent at worst!  So here is how we designed our swing.

Wooden swing base
Brad created the base out of a piece of 1"x 6" cedar.  Then he added the little bottom runners to add some style (we saw them in other designs, but we don't think that they serve a purpose).  To water seal the swing, we painted it with 3 layers of outdoor varnish.

Hanging from a tree branch
When choosing a rope, it is important to consider the fact that it will be exposed to the elements, so it's a good idea to get something with UV protection.  Naturally it's also important to choose a good strong tree branch from which to hang your swing.  It's equally important to tie the swing to the branch in a manner that won't choke off the growth of the branch.  We did this by using a sliding knot.
1. We tied a bowline knot on one end of the rope.
2. We then looped the rope around the tree and threaded the unknotted end through the eyelet of the bowline to form a running bowline.
3. We then repeated the process with a second rope so that the swing would be hung between the two ropes.

A good animation of the running bowline can be viewed here.

Attaching the swing base
As former climbers, the figure 8 climbing knot seemed like a logical choice for attaching the swing base.  It is a static knot that would allow us to easily make adjustments as we worked at getting the swing to be level.  To ensure that the swing would be stable enough for our three year old, we went with a total of four anchor points. 
1. We tied a figure 8 on the line that came down from the tree branch.
2. We tied a simple overhand knot as it went into the base.
3. We then tied a corresponding knot as the rope came back up through the base.
4. Then we finished the attachment by following back through the figure 8 knot.

An animation of the figure 8 knot can be viewed here.

Now all that is needed is a sunny day and a three year old boy!

And for anyone still wondering whether we've received our shipment from Ireland... we haven't.  But it did arrive in Vancouver today!  Now it's only one ferry ride away!  Given the current rate of travel, I expect to be unpacking my running shoes sometime in May.  My friend, Steffi, used the same shipping company on her recent move to Australia.  You can find out what she thinks about the quality of service here!