Saturday, 5 April 2014

Toy storage

It's April, and although it's not quite feeling like spring here yet, I'm starting to feel the urge to do some spring cleaning.  I decided to start with the biggest pigsty problem area in the house - Cal's bedroom. That boy is a packrat. 

We're quickly moving out of the toy stage, and I've managed to convince the boys to get rid of a lot of stuff that they've outgrown. But there are some toys that they're really resistant to giving up. Like the trains, for example. I don't know why, because they never really played with them. 

When you live in an old house and have few closets, finding extra storage space is a high priority if you want to hang on to anything. I had these drawers sitting around in Matthew's room after a Pinterest fail. They were supposed to be mounted on the wall for storing Matthew's 10,000 trophies that he's received over the years, but when I got them done I was disappointed in them and they sat in a corner of his room for a year. So this project really killed two birds with one stone in the useless clutter category.

I picked up some small wheels down at the hardware store. The plywood on the bottom of the drawers was too thin to screw them directly into, so I cut some spacers out of a 1x2 that I had sitting around in the basement to attach to the bottom of the drawer. This also added a little bit of height so that the front of the drawer doesn't catch on the carpet when you pull it in and out.

It was a quick and easy project - it only took about 20 minutes of actual working time to cut the wood, set up the glue, and after it dried screw in the wheels. And the final product was most satisfying.

We now have lots of room to tuck away toys that aren't played with into a space that was sitting empty and unused. I call that a win!

Not as big a win as getting them out of my house would be, but a win all the same.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

And continuing on the theme of the worst boyfriend you've ever had......

.... I'm back to brag *just a little* about my nephew who just signed with the Dallas Stars! The boy whose diapers I once changed is headed for the NHL.

Alex has worked hard for a lot of years to make it happen, and we're absolutely thrilled for him.

EDIT: I realized after I posted that I should make it clear that the title is an extension of my last post, and does not refer to Alex's many charms. ;)

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Quirks and Quarks, Davidson edition

.......and after a month long dead space, I'm back. Like the worst boyfriend you've ever had, I'm distant and inconsistent and only show up when something exciting is going down.

It's just that some things are so darn easy to post about. Especially things that don't involve any work on my part, like Alan appearing on Quirks and Quarks talking about alternatives to antibiotics. A topic that just happens to be near and dear to my heart, too.

A couple of weeks ago Jim Lebans interviewed Alan for today's show. I stopped by to take a picture for Matthew (sorry for its crappiness, I only had my iPad with me), and while I missed the actual interview, Jim was nice enough to pull his mike back out and ham it up for me.

This broadcast is hot on the heels of Matthew's DNTO episode about biggest regrets that aired back in November. Who'd a thunk that more than one of us would ever be on the radio? Or even one of us? Certainly not me.

Anyway, I'll warn you that the broadcast might just scare the bejeezus out of you. Actually, it should scare the bejeezus out of you, and hopefully will lead you to contact your MP and push for increased funding for basic medical research. The drug companies just aren't doing this research because there's not enough profit in it. They want to make the drugs that you have to take every day, like blood pressure and diabetes medications, or the ones you want to take every day, like Viagara, and not ones that will have short term use and be highly regulated to protect against the development of antibiotic resistance.

And stepping off my soapbox, if you want to skip the scary shit and just hear Alan, his part starts at around 19 minutes (link).

Happy listening.

Now go wash your hands!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

My dreams of a treadmill desk

I've been spending far too much time sitting on my butt lately. I sit in my office all day at work and I've been spending 2-3 hours each evening working on grants or papers. On the couch. Usually with a glass of wine in hand. Relaxing, but not so great for my health or my waistline.

Anyway, in light of the lower back and sciatic nerve pain that plague me when I sit too much (I'm getting so old), and a number of recent studies that show how bad it is to sit around all day, I decided I need a treadmill desk to use at home (not for work - I don't want to be the weirdo).

I searched around for a reasonably priced desk that I could use with the treadmill I have, but there was nothing under about $700. And I'm not willing to shell out that kind of cash for something that I freely admit may be a flash-in-the-pan for me. So I decided to cobble together my own DIY version using stuff I had around the house.

Two pine boards, a game of Perfection, and a box of Mecchano later and I had a decent mock-up. My elbows are at a perfect 90° angle with my hands on the keyboard. It's actually fairly comfortable to work on. I can easily walk at 2.5 miles per hour and still type. 3 mph is too fast and I start to make a lot of mistakes, but in an evening I can easily get in 4-5 miles while I'm working. Not too bad!

I am worried that all of the looking down at the monitor will make my neck and/or back sore, so I need to figure a way to elevate the laptop and build a small shelf at elbow height to hold a keyboard. That's on the agenda this weekend.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

The boys are getting a little old for Valentine's Day celebrations. Matthew flat out refuses to take Valentines to school. Cal wasn't interested in writing out Valentines to every kid in his class, but he did want to take a snack for the class party tomorrow. So I decided to take care of both issues in one fell swoop.

I had these little zip-top Valentine bags in the house and decided to whip up some pink popcorn to fill them. Valentine and snack all in one!

Remember Lucky Elephant popcorn? I haven't had that stuff since I was a kid, but the pink candy coating is so Valentiney. And luckily there are dozens of recipes online that mimic it. Here's the consensus I came up with.

Pink Candy Corn
1 cup popcorn kernels, popped
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup half & half
1 Tbsp white corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
pink or red food colouring

Mix sugar, half & half, corn syrup and salt in a pot and heat on medium stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup measures 235°C on a candy thermometer. Remove from hear, stir in vanilla and food colouring, pour over popcorn and mix well (on my first batch I found that a lot of the syrup ran through to the bottom of the bowl and made the popcorn at the bottom very sticky). When the candy coating starts to cool and the popcorn begins to separate, spread it on parchment lined cookie sheets and allow to cool for about half an hour.

It was a breeze to make, and the kids thought it was so delicious that they immediately snarfled down half of it. I was forced to make second batch.

Cal managed to stay focused long enough to package most of the popcorn and get them tagged with "From Callum" stickers.

They're all lined up and ready to go. It's a good thing they're leaving the house, because that stuff is seriously addictive!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The front hallway floor

Way back in early December when we were away in Mexico the magical tile fairy payed a visit to our house, and our front hallway, which had been unfinished cement for the past 18 months, was finally tiled. Couldn't ask for a better Christmas present than that!

I'm so happy that we took Cal with us when we picked out the tile as he was the one who chose it. I was leaning towards a much more muted mosaic, but he was extremely vocal about his choice. And he was right. It's very striking when you walk in, and gives the dramatic effect I was looking for. 

We went with a single strip of black tile to delineate the inlay. This strip is the same width as the edge of the vent cover on the floor. There was no way to work around the air return, so we decided to work with it as best we could.

The marble mosaic inlay is centered in the inner vestibule, with a 12" strip of Carrara marble tile bordering it around the edge. The rest of the floor is 12x24 Carrara marble tile grouted in pale grey. No scrubbing white grout lines for me!

It's amazing how clean and bright the hallway looks now. It's like the grey concrete on the floor previously sucked up all of the light in the hallway. This is the only "before" shot that I can find, but it's a miraculous change. And it's so nice to be able to mop the floor and get it actually clean again.

There's still lots to do to finish up. I'd like to install some wainscoting, the air return vent cover needs a good scrubbing and a coat of fresh paint, and we need to get some stuff up on the painfully bare walls. Now that we have the floor finished I actually have some incentive to tackle the rest of it!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Weekend in review

I know, I know, this should be titled "Last six weeks in review" because I've been too lazy to update my blog. Even a New Year's resolution wasn't enough to get me off my butt.

But my sister's demanding motivating phone call this morning was!

Work has been busy, hockey schedules crazy, I rejoined the gym to fight the extra 5-10 pounds that seem to creep on when I stop working out, and I've been spending so much time writing manuscripts and grants that the thought of writing for pleasure kind of makes me want to throw up. Just a little, but it's enough of a barrier that inertia reigns.

Anyway, back to the weekend review. I had lots of work to do, so I enlisted Matthew to help me out with some experiments. He wasn't exactly thrilled as he didn't want to play a role in the slaughter of innocents in the name of science.

Even if they are only pesky little fruit flies.

He cheered up and felt a little less guilty after I explained that the work could help find a cure for lung infections in kids with Cystic Fibrosis. Then he thought it was kind of cool, although still rather tedious, to be counting how many dead flies there were in at least a hundred little vials.

Not your average 10 year old kid's Saturday and Sunday morning chore! The big question is, when he grows up to be a scientist, is it nature? Or nurture?

But the really big news of the weekend???

My baby boy turned 8! It seems like just yesterday I was holding this in my arms

He had that worried look on his face for his first year of life, and now he's a fearless, rambunctious giant of a boy with long, gangly arms and legs. And since he's all about hockey, his request, of course, was for a hockey cake. So I just whipped one up.

He was thrilled with it, and so was I. Mostly because it was so much easier then other cakes I've made for them (i.e. Minecraft and Hockey Jersey). I can't believe I spent four hours modeling Minecraft characters for his cake last year. I must have been temporarily insane.

Or maybe just willing to do anything for my boy. How could you say no to this cute little face?

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