Lamp

Above our table, we had one of those 12 volt halogen cable systems. We converted it to LED lights, but then the transformer didn’t have enough load, and over time it got to be a bit of a mess with the lights constantly flickering. Of course, that won’t do — and I also noted that there were no systems like that on the market anymore. Everything is 230V these days, with LED spots — much more energy efficient.
So we wanted something new for our table. Not one of those rails (they’re efficient and versatile, but not nice to look at), so we thought we’d go to Ikea and see what they had there — purely as inspiration, mind you. We were thinking of a lamp that hangs over the table. We saw some things that perhaps would fit, but in the bathroom department, we saw a LED lamp that we both were instantly attracted to.

We came up with the idea to use some rough planks for the pallet that held the stones for our pond border and put three of those lights on the bottom. We thought we could use the system from the 12V cable system to suspend it from the ceiling. And that’s what we did!


Close-up of one of the lights


The plank with the three lights turned on


We managed to put the lights right in the middle of the usual spot for the table too! And it gives a lot of light, which is good if you’re working on a crafting project on the table!

New kitchen

Two weeks ago, when we had a week off from work, we decided to look around at kitchens. When we bought the house eight years ago, the kitchen was already kinda long in the teeth. We decided to keep it and to prioritise renovating the bathroom, which was in a far worse shape.
The end result is that we still have the same kitchen. It’s not getting any better, and so it’s time to look for something new. Also, the whole ground floor of the house is switched to one group on the switching board. With three computers running, the TV and the kitchen appliances, that’s a lot. And we had to come up with some ‘creative’ solutions to get power everywhere we wanted. That’s something I wanted to get fixed as well. We’d have to do something about the electricity for a new kitchen anyway, so we could have that done all in one go!
Just before that week, we got a folder from a large kitchen seller in Kleve, just across the border with Germany. Apparently, kitchens are a lot cheaper in Germany, so we decided to check it out. We also went to the Ikea to see what they had — friends of ours recommended their planning service to us. And we don’t want a very expensive kitchen anyway: the house is not of a calibre that you could put in a 10 thousand euro kitchen because it wouldn’t be in balance with the rest.

So, first to the Ikea. We saw some things that would go very well with the rest of our furniture, and it was in the price range that would be acceptable. Then to Kleve, where we wandered through three floors of exhibition kitchens. In Germany, kitchens are really big and are more of a general living space than a place to only cook in. Which is lovely, of course, but we don’t have that kind of house! So cooking islands and stuff like that is right out: we have just over 5 meters of wall, and that’s where it has to happen.

Also, the exhibition kitchens there did not have a price indication. That was a problem for me because of two reasons:
– I do not like asking after something and then, after hearing the sales pitch, concluding that something is out of the price range. Putting up a price indication saves everybody time;
– I really, really hate haggling, and that’s certainly a thing if you buy a kitchen. I do not mind people earning some money on the purchase: we all have to eat, after all. But when I hear stories of kitchens where the salesman knocks 25% off the price right off the bat, Iget that sinking feeling…

After that, we were tired and didn’t want to watch kitchens anymore. If you want, you can spend a whole week watching exhibition kitchens in various showrooms, but that’s not my hobby. And we knew that the Ikea kitchens give good value for money — and 25 years of warranty!
So we tried to make an appointment with one of their kitchen planners. This turned out to be more difficult than we thought: it’s not explained on the site, and when I called the helpline, they didn’t know what to do and didn’t call me back. It took two(!) interventions from their webcare team on Twitter to get an appointment…
On Thursday we went back to Ikea, picked up the coupon for the appointment and then paid for it. (It’s EUR 70 for two hours of support.) We also got a coupon for their lunch buffet, which was nice. After a quick lunch, we went back and met our planner. She took us through the process and gave very helpful advice. We then made a tour of the appliances, the various types of countertops and so on. Fun fact: Ikea has a piece of software up on their site which you can use to draw your kitchen and generate a shopping list. It’s a bit finnicky, but it works. The kitchen planner uses that precise component, and you get the login codes afterwards, so you can always go back and maybe change something.
After two hours, we had a kitchen that both fit with our style and was practical, for just over EUR 4000 (including the 10% discount we’ll get). We asked our planner to arrange for their assembly partner to contact us to make a quote for what it would cost to have the kitchen assembled.

That appointment was today. We discussed the details and some minor modifications were made to the plan. We will also get a decent compromise for the electricity wiring, which will split up the one circuit breaker group into multiple groups without having to re-wire the whole house.
I just received the quote, and it’s about the same as the kitchen. That’s an all-in price, including breaking out the old kitchen (and taking the mess away!) and all the other work. All it will take us is a few days cooking on electricity, which is something we do often anyway.

We need to chew on this for a bit, but I think we’ll do it.

Three years ago, I did some calculations on swapping out the 50W halogen spots in the extension for LED equivalents. We did buy a few types to try them out, but none of them were to our liking: either the light was too cold, or it had a sickly greenish hue which gave people a ghoulish complexion. So while we had three various lamps hanging around, we didn’t switch over completely.

But a few months back, we went to Het Groene Hert, an ecology store in the city centre that had recently been opened. There we saw a whole display of LED spots and we thought we could try one out and see what it was like — the ad copy on the box said something about a ‘natural colour’. And by coincidence, the person who runs the company that supplies these spots came by and we had a little chat about it. It ended with us taking one of the spots with us (with 3 2W Cree LEDs) to see how we’d like it.
We’ve had that one plugged in for a few months now, and we liked it. And since the halogen spots were failing one by one, I ordered 13 additional spots. Yes, it’s a rather large investment, but it’s worth it.
Yesterday the owner came by to drop the spots off. He also pointed out that he had replacements for the 12V halogen spots we have over the dining table — so we got an additional five spots of those too. Today I did a complete replacement — all halogen spots in the living have been replaced by LEDs.

The light is just a tad more ‘bluish’ and it seems like they’re a tad less bright than the halogens — but these are the best LED spots I’ve ever seen. Certainly good enough to get rid of the halogens and save EUR 20 per month in electricity!

Comparison photos under the cut

You can see some color difference (I didn’t do any sort of colour correction on these photos, of course) but it’s certainly within tolerances! I’m very pleased with the result, and especially with the savings.

More storage space

What with the ever-expanding array of hobbies we have, we need an ever-expanding storage space to put all the supplies. We have an old, rickety table between the couch and the kitchen, which doesn’t really add to the decor and the storage, so it was time to find something new. Last week, we walked through every furniture shop at the local ‘furniture boulevard’. There was one low chest of drawers that would fit and looked nice, but it was a whopping EUR 2500… So that’s something to think about.

And then ingiechan said that we should have checked out the wares of the Atrium, where we got our desk chairs from a few years back. They specialise in ‘ecological’ furniture, which means it’s a lot of solid wood. And that fits with the dining table, so it’s certainly an option we should look at.
So we browsed through the site separately, and at the same time we saw the q_box. It’s a stackable box, with optional drawers and even a wine rack. It’s made of the scrap wood that’s left when they make the big tables or chairs: lovely oiled solid wood (just like the dining table…).
The flexibility and the looks appealed to us, so we decided to check it out.

Within 20 minutes we had ordered 10 of the boxes, with an assortment of drawers, extra planks and a wine rack — it just fits us and our house.

With the new lens that ingiechan bought, it’s quite easy to zoom in on unsuspecting birds and take nice snaps of ’em. Today, we’ve set up the tripod near the back door, and I snapped some pics.

Equal to 7000 words
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Credit for the cropping and sharpening goes to ingiechan.

Ice lantern

One of the presents that I got for Sinterklaas was a star-shaped mold for an ‘ice lantern’. It’s a double-walled container that you fill up with water. Let that freeze (either in your freezer or outside if it’s cold enough) and take the hunk of ice out of the mold. Now you have a ‘lantern’ with space for a tealight candle. The ice slowly melts, the light shines through the ice. You can see the mold itself in this KlikTikFix photo.

We’ve been having quite mild weather, so yesterday was the only day that I could produce a reasonably-sized ice lantern. I put it on the edge of the pond and lit it when it got darker. The fleetingness of it appeals to me — and it looks pretty nice too!

Pictures

I can’t wait for it to start freezing again. If it gets consistently freezing again, I might do some experiments with different layers with watercolors in ’em, just to see how that would work out.

Cleaning up the house and getting more organised is like an adventure game with multiple quests that sometimes intersect. For instance, to get rid of the clutter, you need to get more storage space. But before you can do that, you need to clear your work area. In order to do that, you need to throw away stuff you don’t need anymore.
Parallel to that, you need to vacuum the whole house. But before you can do that, you have to get rid of the garbage bags first, which triggers another side-quest where you empty all the waste baskets in the whole house, just to get it over with.

It is crucial to know these chains of causality, to know what can be done in parallel and where the multiple streams cross through a single activity. Otherwise you risk running out of steam and/or time before a single ‘quest’ is finished, leaving you in an even bigger mess than before.

For us, the end result is more than 3 meters of extra shelving and a lot less clutter. And a much cleaner house.

With a cat in the house, there’s never a shortage of dust. But with the sweltering heat that we have had in the past week, we had enough trouble to keep the temperatures at home to manegable levels. And while our 2000W vacuum cleaner is pretty good, most of those Watts are converted into heated air that blows out of the back. Not a pleasant ingredient to add to the mix.
So last night, when we were ventilating like crazy and the temperature in house dropped to 21 degrees, I did a quick vaccum. Because even though my tolerance for dirt is the stuff of legend, it had been crossed four days ago.