My Cupboards are Bare

the highs and lows of my kitchen efficiency…

I went grocery shopping for the first time in at least 3 weeks last night, so they are, actually, not bare. They weren’t exactly bare prior to the grocery shop either, because I can’t help but buy canned goods when they’re on for a good price (thanks Dad). I preplanned my meals for the next two weeks, though, so I avoided the temptation of buying a huge amount of random things in hopes of them coming together in some mystic ball of glory.

Last time I went grocery shopping I got, amongst other things, bread flour, an ENORMOUS round of brie and two sweet potatoes. I had plans for baguette with brie that disregarded that I am a person who lives alone and maybe shouldn’t have cheese sandwiches for all meals for three days.

They were delicious though.

baguettes
I definitely should have put something under the bread, though… Binging with Babish, if you too desire a fancy sandwich

On Sunday I peered into my fridge, hungry – condiments and pickled things, half a giant brick of brie and some very very sad celery.

My freezer – frozen veggies and fruit… and two tupperwares full of chicken bones (thanks Dad!). I put a pot of bones and water on to simmer, and added some celery.

I rummaged through my cupboards – chickpeas… chickpeas… canned soup… tuna… sad shallots… chickpeas… and two sweet potatoes starting to sprout.

I am aware that I described a decently stocked cupboard (didn’t even list it all – it’s called dramatic effect). I just didn’t want any of it. stomps foot. I also didn’t want to grocery shop, order in or go pick up takeout. Stomach, thou’r’t a fickle beast. I ate crackers and cheese and agreed that I should go grocery shopping on Monday.

On Monday, I… did not go grocery shopping. I did not want to. stomps foot. I am transforming into a recluse, going into public places is not the fun.

If preplans two weeks of breakfast, lunch and dinner is my Dr. Jekyll… my Mr. Hyde is googling “Sweet potato + chicken stock?”, rejecting all the recipes that I actually have all the ingredients for and then subbing things out that are sort of the same ish, but not.

Mr. Hyde butchered spicy thai peanut sweet potato soup…

Nice homemade chicken stock… salvaged shallots… celery… promising. Peanut butter and gochujang sauce. Bam. So maybe it turned out more Korean? It might also be very likely that it doesn’t fit any cuisine style outside of Mr. Hyde’s. It has been actually quite tasty, no complaints.

Dr. Jekyll is back in control again, though – I’ve got soup and salads and slow cooker beef and quiche and salmon planned, and have pre-prepped most of the vegetables for storage purposes. It’s gonna be niiiice.

Hopefully in two ish weeks, Mr. Hyde has an idea for a tuna chickpea combo. Maybe hold the peanut butter.

Working From Home

musings 9 months into working from home

I chose this March to finally paint my house. Or rather, I decided to paint the kitchen and living room. I spent a chunk of February scraping the popcorn off the ceiling(the spackly kind, not the tasty exploded corn), and was really nearing coming to a decision about what paint colour I would go with. Anything was better than the ketchup mustard and zombie skin combo my house’s previous owner decided to paint the place. Nothing says “Let’s Eat” like a kitchen the sickly green-beige of a Scooby Do villain.

If I had to do the popcorn again (and I do… in three other rooms)… I would do it SO very differently. Don’t trust that it can be vacuumed up! don’t do it!

A critical thing to note is that in order to paint my kitchen and living room, I had to move all of the things from there to the two bedrooms… so when the world started talking about lockdowns and working from home, I found myself frantically racing to finish painting so that I could set up a (LARGE) desktop computer somewhere other than in my bed or in the bathroom, the only two spaces in my house that weren’t stuffed with furniture or covered in drop cloths.

Gollum, as portrayed by Doodle, in the zombie-beige kitchen. The lighting doesn’t do it justice.

Covid got me to pick a damn colour (purple!) because it seemed very likely that the paint store would close at any moment.

Covid also gave me free labour in the form of a sibling laid off and living with me through the spring lockdown. Thank goodness, because she was able to progress the priming and painting while I was at my office during the day. By the time it was official that I HAD to go home, I had the ability to lay out my living room and include a desk area.

Why yes, I don’t have a real desk…

The first few months working from home were full of the constant overwhelming anxiety of the whole world going to hell in a handbasket, compulsively refreshing online news outlets, paranoia that I wasn’t being productive enough and would, at any moment, get fired, finding yet more dust from taking the popcorn off the ceiling, and melting in my un-airconditioned house in the summer.

Now that I’ve mostly acclimatized to the hell-in-a-handbasket element, and we all have rules to follow to keep each other safe, working from home has grown on me.

I can listen to my music without headphones, and no one can sneak up on me.

The coffee is MUCH nicer, though on the down side, I am paying more for coffee and cream than I was when I was only drinking the free stuff available at my office.

Pajamas/sweatpants/yoga pants. While I did try out camp “dress for work so you’ll do work”, I quickly decided it wasn’t for me. I really like being able to sit cross-legged in my office chair.

Functional breaks – when I need a few minutes to think on a problem or just be not-facing-a-screen, I can fold laundry, check on my plants, play with the dog, do downward dog, or any number of other things that aren’t limited to things-that-are-appropriate-at-work.

I miss being able to swing by my coworkers’ desks to catch up, but I mean… look at my new office buddy!

The couch directly beside my work area.

Where necessary – lunch naps.

Also where necessary, but less healthy… going back to work after taking the dog out at 5pm.

What was your biggest adjustment to working from home? What’s your desk setup?

Taking Care of Business!

It’s… about butts…

I assumed everyone was getting this advertising, but apparently it was just me. I blame it on having watched this video. It’s hilarious, and also made me want a better toilet experience. The advertising worked, and I’m the proud owner/installer of a bidet! My business has never before been so fresh and clean outside of shower-hours.

Thankfully the video had already made me interested in the possibility. While I’m definitely susceptible to marketing, I am also extraordinarily resistant to spending money. So the ads for Tushy made me really want to buy a bidet, but my wallet made me research and decide that I didn’t need that bidet, when I could get one that wasn’t shipped across borders, was slightly cheaper, and was more easily returned if there was something wrong with it.

I purchased the BioBidet Dual Nozzles with Self-Clean (and what a sexy name that is). It isn’t quite as aesthetic as the Tushy (which seems to be the only brand of bidet that is aggressively pursuing customers in North America), but it was as easy to set up, and quite a bit cheaper.

Installation

I had a solid metal pipe connector, so I had to buy a second woven metal hose to replace this guy

I watched a lot of videos of random non-plumbers in my review process to confirm that this was, in fact, something I could install myself. I watched A LOT of videos that got everything connected, turned the water on, and found that their bathroom was flooding. Not a one of them, on the first go-around, used the silicone tape that comes included in the packaging.

While I definitely can sit on my high horse, having already known about silicone tape (it seals the joint you’re screwing together, letting you avoid leaks), I do really believe the average non-plumber could install this bidet, or anything equivalent. Just… use the tape.

Of course, when I installed mine, I slowly turned the water back on, holding my breath, and breathing a sigh of relief when the joints all held. Not a drop of water in sight.

Until water started pouring from the inside of the bidet itself. I want to firmly state that this was a MANUFACTURER error, and not an INSTALLER error. My joints were excellent.

~2 weeks later, I got a replacement (and still, due to COVID, have the broken unit in my house to return), and repeated all the steps, with Silicone Tape.

That’s a precautionary towel, and some leak-free connections

Thankfully the second round worked, and I now have the option of spraying water at my derriere from the toilet.

Victory

Review

There is… no good way to talk about bidets with people. That’s why I’m telling the internet, since it feels more natural to the flow of conversation than randomly during a work meeting.

It’s nice. I like it a lot. Five Stars. I bet the ones with the air dryer and the heated water would be even nicer. New longterm goals in my house include adding an outlet next to my toilet.

I do recommend the model I bought, despite the fact that the first one was broken. One of the videos I watched had something similar happen to the more expensive Tushy model, I think it’s just part of buying things – sometimes you get a bad egg, and there’s a bunch of water pressure running through it. There are tons of different brands and models, at a pretty broad price range, even before you get into the really fancy Japanese toilets. Some things to consider:

  • dual nozzles vs single nozzle – I switch between bum and… front cleaning, and I like that. Both are good. You could probably make the single nozzles accomplish what you want, and some of them can be moved.
  • this type of bidet doesn’t require you to have an electrical outlet right next to your toilet… which is not a thing that we typically have in North America. The other type looks very nice, though I’d assume slightly more complex to install.
  • Aesthetically, it blends pretty well.
  • this project would probably be beginner-intermediate (see below for more detail on that)
  • Young kids – I feel like you wouldn’t want to install it on a toilet your young kids use/have access to? On the one hand, their butts are tiny, and I don’t think they could comfortably use the bidet. And on the other hand, the knobs are at small child height, and when a bum isn’t in the way of the stream, turning it on shoots a fountain of water out of your toilet and into your bathroom. I’m not a small child, and that is tempting to me.
  • Your bum does get wet – I have taken to having a wash-towel handy to dry things out (and avoid using extra toilet paper for drying), and am coming up with a system for a theoretical future in which other people come to my house and want to use the bidet. Which I will try my best to not creepily point out when they come in.
  • don’t go straight to the highest level.

Brass Tacks

Price – my model was about $90 CAD. There were others that were cheaper, and others that were quite a bit more pricy. The extra hose also varies in price, but you should be able to pick one up from a hardware store for under $20.

Skill level – Beginner-intermediate – this is a project that requires you to have at minimum an adjustable wrench and pliers (or two adjustable wrenches or two sets of pliers), because it’s likely that none of the moving parts in your toilet plumbing have been moved for a long time. That’s the intermediate element, because I do realize that lots of people don’t own their own tools. Lots of people also didn’t get an actual adult-sized tool kit of their own for their 8th birthday. Working with plumbing is definitely very intimidating, but the majority of the people I watched on youtube doing this install were beginners, and they all got it done. Watch some videos, follow the instructions carefully, and you can 100% install a bidet.

Environmental impact – On the one hand, the model I purchased came from in-country, and on the other hand I can guarantee it was manufactured elsewhere. the Biobidet also came with everything wrapped in little plastic bags, which I was NOT a fan of. One thing I did really like about the Tushy brand is that all of their packaging is recycled paper.

Links?! NO! I am not 100% on board with a specific brand, and different things are available in different countries/areas. At the end of the day I didn’t buy the highest rated system, nor did I buy the most internet-advertised. It came down to finding something that had good reviews that was available to me.

Bi-do-et, or Bi-don’t? TMI?

The Window into my new Obsession

When I moved into my newly purchased home a few years ago, my realtors gave me a moving-in present. It was a beautiful kind of canoe-shaped slate grey concrete pot full of artfully arranged succulents. It was actually from my old landlord’s new plant store!

I looked down at the beautiful little leafy things, and thought, “Poor bastards.”

Then I thought, “Maybe when they die, I’ll use this pot to keep fruit on the counter.”

It is a very pretty pot, very my aesthetic. And a similar colour of grey as my ‘green thumb’. I have purchased an assortment of plants over the years to no avail. I turned a wavy fern into a crispy-wavy fern. I caused a tiny cactus to explode into green goo. My lucky bamboo was not so lucky.

The only thing that has survived my care long-term is african violets.

Seriously… just stick a leaf in some dirt and wait… a lot of months. Voila, fuzzy leafs!

That was, however, before I moved into a house with a full sun south-facing window. To my utter astonishment, the pot of succulents not only survived, but thrived to the point that I needed to split a bunch of them and repot sections.

It was very satisfying.

Next, I got an indestructible vine cutting from a friend, who assured me it would take whatever light or water I chose to provide it with.

From there my collection has grown…

Angel leaf begonia

And then covid happened, and my hobby became a larger part of my house… and grew some more…

Some of these plants, it turns out, actually needed less than 100% light, so a move from the south-and-west-window corner was required

And… well…

It’s not a problem if no one is getting hurt by it. Right?!

Hello World (v3.0)

3 years gone, but we’re just going to keep swimming

Hey all, it’s been a while (years) since I’ve posted, but I’ve decided that new year new post seems like a plan. Especially since there’s no way to start the new year off with a half-assed attempt at going to the gym. Instead of buying a year of gym membership, of which I’ll use between 3 and 5 days in January, I figured I’d stay home. For once, it’s actually better for my health.

Why did I stop writing? Eeeh… nothing terrible. Life. Living alone = having to do all your own cooking and cleaning, and then there’s the draw of the couch and the tv and scrolling endlessly through social media… we’ve all lost hours to that particular Lotus blossom, right?

I seriously considered starting off on an entirely new blog, because there are a few people I know in person who started following this one near the end of my consistent writing schedule. We’re instead going to pretend that there is no one from my off-line-life checking in on this, because self-consciousness slows my roll.

While we’re pretending years didn’t go by between blog posts, I’ll still give a brief update.

Gwynn’s love of mud – eternal

The dog is dogging along. He has loved the pandemic, as it allows him to nap on the couch beside my desk while I put in my working hours. He’s 11! This makes people’s “… months?” response to his age just get better and better. He’s slowed down a bit, but he’s still enjoying his long walks and hikes, as well as some fun agility lessons.

The family is good now, though we went through a very rough stretch. My mom is down a kidney, my sister is up a kidney. One of the other health scares proved insurmountable, while the other few did not.

As mentioned in one of my most recent posts, I did move out of the city, and am loving it. I’m curled up between mountain and waves (well… “mountain”), with trails galore and an outdoor activity for every season. Since moving north, I bought a house, took up curling (the most rural-Ontarian winter social), and discovered that my green thumb wasn’t black, it was just severely challenged by living in the twilight of old-growth trees and woodlands. Living in a 15 year old suburb means that my back yard is South-facing and Full Sun. Yes, the lovely people working at the annual gardening club fundraiser sale were very excited. Indoor plants are also delighted with the lighting.

Covid – my sister got temporarily laid off at the first shutdown, and moved up to my place for a few months. This was great, as living alone during the most isolated part of covid would have been a lot more challenging. It was also great because I had chosen early march to start painting my house, and having a second person there to help with it meant that painting got finished in time for me to set up an at home work station. My work switched to being fully from home, and while some people have gone back into the office, I have not yet. With round two in full swing, I think it’ll be another month or two before I do start working in-office part of the time, but we’ll see!

Directly beside my home-office chair

What’s the new game plan, Stan?

Short stories will definitely recommence. I’ll find some new writing prompts, reconnect with some old ones and get back in the habit. Drag myself from my giant funk of apathy and do the things I enjoy doing.

House and DIY and Crafts – Having my own place means I’ve actually gotten to do some things like switching out lights and doing my own garden beds. I’m planning to do more of this, and you might see some posts documenting things I’ve done around the house. Also sewing – I’ve recently taken up sewing (along with everyone else, I’ve been making masks, but am also trying to expand into clothing and things).

Thoughts on de-popcorn-ing ceilings? Dusty. But at least I was fashionable while doing it.

I plan to start posting more frequently about things I enjoy. This is likely to include:

Podcasts – I upped my walk lengths by adding podcasts to my listening habits, and am a bit addicted. I try to support them where I can, and figure that I can improve my support of them by recommending them to you all! I listen to a pretty broad range of things, so if podcasts are a thing you like, at least one will likely be up your alley. Unless your alley is true-crime. I just can’t get into that.

Books – I’ll likely recommend books and series that I’ve read. If you’ve written a sci fi or fantasy novel, and want an honest review of it – definitely reach out! I would prefer if it’s available on the library system, because I’m really trying to keep the volume of things I own down.

Angel-wing Begonia

Stuff – as mentioned above, I’m really trying to reduce my buying wherever possible, but when I do find a thing I like and that genuinely works well, I’ll bring it up! Stay tuned for Lexy’s rant about the amazingness of Aftershockz Trekz Titanium. This is not where I’m suggesting people who make things send me their stuff for review. I genuinely… do not want stuff. Unless it’s plants. Want me to review your Hoya Carnosa Compacta? Send ‘er on over.

This is all, I guess. Seeing as how this is set up to post on new years’ day, and assuming I get a flock of visitors, let me end on this:

“The same boiling water that softens the potato will harden the egg.”

– unknown

I try to remember that when I start stressing about resolutions or healthy habits or whatever. Be kind to yourselves!

Le Picbois

In an unexpected turn of events, a lack of internet has brought me back to blogging (written in Word and hoping the internet returns soon).  That and someone starting to follow me in an impressive display of hope.  Some big changes have happened since last I attempted to bring my blog back from the dead.

I think you could probably trace my overall happiness with where I was in my life by how regularly I posted blogs – my level of enjoyment in writing, my ability to think creatively and write short stories.  Kind of sad when I realize how long it’s been since I last wrote consistently.  Or wrote fiction, even that not posted on this site.  Man.

That isn’t the important thing, though, so move out of the shade.  Listen to music, feel better.

 

The long and the short of it is that I realized that my obsession with finding/buying a house in Toronto was, to put it bluntly, an effort to distract myself from the actual issue. My strong dislike of where I was in my career and life in general.  Some things popping up at work, combined with the dog’s injury (full recovery, fyi), and my friend (and also coworker) leaving work to go on maternity leave brought things into focus.  So what if I bought a house in the city?  It wouldn’t change anything else, other than adding pressure to stay where I had an income. Not exactly a real solution to my ennui.  Enter thoughts of job hunting for the first time since I was in university.

In a twist of fate I promptly got called by not one, not two, but three separate headhunters over the course of about a week.  And unlike previous calls, I said “yes” to all of them.  Salmon Arm, BC?  Love the name, gosh that’s far, let’s give it a go.  Mississauga?  Why, it’s just down the road!  Collingwood?  I was there… once…maybe… as a child… it’s… northish.

Well, it turns out that the location in BC is one of the hottest dryest parts of Canada, and nearly impossible to even find a rental.  I was feeling my yes-man attitude, but I really like having a roof over my head… and the Ontario bears are more interested in sewage than hunting people.

Mississauga turned out to be a job in which my entire job would be construction site administration.  RESPECT the people working on construction, people.  LONG days, rarely any shade, and even as basically a photographer/construction journalist, just doing it for a month at a time leaves me completely drained.  Necessary work, but not for me.

Collingwood, though.  Collingwood hit ALL the marks.  Interesting job, interesting company, interesting place.

I quit my job.  I tidied up 7 years worth of deck clutter and paperwork, said seven years’ worth of keep-in-touches, and headed north.  To a town less than half the size of the smallest place I’ve lived for any length of time.  I QUIT my job!

And promptly realized that, while most places that aren’t Toronto and are much smaller than it would have much cheaper rent… places that cater to cottagers, boaters and skiers… do not.  Especially when you add in a dog.

It takes about 15 minutes to get anywhere in Collingwood.  It’s got a village-ey rural vibe with a great downtown strip, multiple grocery stores, multiple independent coffee shops and easy access to basically EVERYTHING outdoorsy, and an assortment of great local things.  For example, while at the local farmers’ market a few weeks ago… sampling some delightful Georgian Hills Wine and Cider… I met a couple who’d moved to this area for the rock-climbing.  After that, I checked out the local alpaca farm’s wares (and the two alpaca they brought with them!), and bought locally made pierogies.  Had this town ever been on my radar before now, I might have realized that I’m not the only one who thinks this is pretty cool.

I found a place and moved in the day before I started work at my new job.  And boy did I ever find a place!  My little cottage has cows down the trail in one direction, horses in the other.  Still within a 10 minute drive to downtown Collingwood, but unexpectedly rural.  I could go on and on, but sufficed to say: gas fireplace.

I’m a month into living here, and my only complaint is that my friends from Toronto aren’t quite as close as I’d like them to be.  Luckily, there’s a lot to be said for visiting me.

Work-wise, I hope I’m not jinxing it by saying I think I’m doing well.  A bit of a learning curve for sure, but my new boss is excellent, and I think that on the whole I’m taking on enough of the work-load.  My new coworkers are friendly, my new work really seems to care about its employees, and the cafeteria is full of fruit in a much appreciated display of that care.

Living-wise, Gwynn is adjusting to the new strange noises, my rental is charming, and I have mostly successfully adapted to living on my own for the first time since university.  Minor incidents of cheese-and-crackers for dinner aside.

I’ve still got things to do… but overall…

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Happy.

Scattered Marbles and Physics

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I’ve lost my marbles.  I was so good for a while, with the healthy eating and the flexing of my imagination and the general adulting at life, and then the seam ripped and all my marbles scattered.

The fitness one rolled under the desk and wedged itself in the corner with the dust bunnies.  I keep trying to get it out again, but the gravitational pull between my bum and the couch feels insurmountable.

 

bernard-illust6The writing marble went off somewhere, I don’t know.  I keep catching sight of it out of the corner of my eye but when I turn to face it, it’s vanished, like the escaped class-pet in the ducts of every parent’s nightmares.  If the hamster came home not-pregnant and lived in the walls for all of Christmas break… then how is it now pregnant?  How?  I’d come up with a story, but my mind is a blank.

I keep finding and then dropping the arts and crafts marble – at this rate, those mitts will be ready to wear around June.  I’ll have to give them to my friend whose baby is due in June.  The magic eight ball’s sources say the likelihood of my starting and completing my baby themed project is no.

I know exactly where the ‘being a functional adult and taking responsibility’ marble is.  It’s kind of lego shaped, I step on it at the most inopportune moments and the instant stubbed-toe agony it produces tells me which marble it is.  I just don’t like it, so I leave it where it is, even if that means I’ll step on it again in a month or two.

Healthy eating is a slippery one, and I think it rolled under the fridge.  Every time I think I’ve caught it I realize I’m actually holding on to a gobstopper.  Which I then proceed to eat.  Lint and all.  Pretty sure there’s a magnetic field between junk food and my face.

This has been the status quo for more than EIGHT MONTHS.  Interspersed with random flare-ups of art or writing that are the equivalent of an “I aten’t ded” sign to the universe at large.  While this past summer can be blamed on my atrocious work schedule and location (10 hrs x 6 days of broiling hot site work for 3+ months WILL melt all the get-up-and-go from your body and leave you a dehydrated Iced Capp junkie potato), the rest of it is entirely on me physics.  I did the adult version of the toddler-flop and became an object at rest.

Has letting everything go made me happier?  More relaxed?  Surely I’m at least caught up on the laziest of pseudo-chores, the television? Hah.  My globe-trotting friend over at The Mundo Express is doing a better job of that while living out of a backpack and maintaining a blog!

 

Physics is getting tough on me and I hate shopping a lot, so with the goal of breaching the gravitational hold of the couch I signed up for Krav Maga classes last week.  This object had better get in motion if she doesn’t want to come down with a bad case of forcefully applied physics!

Next step: find something healthy and filling that’s faster to make than a  microwave chocolate mug cake (link… and paleo link… for when you want to pretend that it’s healthy.  Because I care about you and your sudden inexplicable desire for microwaved cake.  Blame it on me physics.).