Category Archives: Domestics

Neato Robotic Vacuum = Household Hero

Wow, ok so I got this cool new robot vacuum because I am lazy and also like having cool house gadgets.

Guys! This thing is amazing! Kinda makes me feel gross, but also amazing. You see, because I run a B&B from my home, I am always cleaning and vacuuming. I had just vacuumed before I got this little guy, but after I ran it through the living room it was full of crap. Like, gross, floor-icky junk. I couldn’t believe it.

I’ll spare you the photo of it, but just believe me, it was gross.

I couldn’t believe it because I had just cleaned, and it still managed to pull up that much junk. I don’t know if I should be ashamed or proud of myself for getting this thing.

Like I said, this thing is cool in a Star Wars kind of way. Just look at it!

In a living room far, far away...
In a living room far, far away…

Details

This little magic trick is a Neato Robotics Xv-12/Xv-11 Automatic Vacuum Cleaner. You can find it online in a bunch of places, but I got a refurbished one from FactoryDirect.ca because I’m a little low on funds right now and really shouldn’t be buying robots for my house.

I got the basic one I think (hard to tell) and it’s been great. I just wish I had the extra brush for all the cat hair around here!

I decided to go with this brand rather than a Roomba this time for a few reasons.

  1. Price. Generally speaking, this brand is much less expensive than the Roomba models currently available.
  2. Positive Reviews. I did a bunch of research and this brand seemed pretty solid to me. We’ll see how it fares over time.
  3. Features. This is the only robot vac that is actually a vacuum and not a sweeper. I also like how it has a square shape for corners, maps the space & it’s path around it efficiently and won’t fall down my stairs. I can also program it to clean automatically every day and it usually finds it’s way back to the docking station.

I had a Roomba way back in the day, when they were still new. It was a cute little red thing we called Ruby; I had bought it for my parents. Unfortunately the battery died and they never really used it. At that time they had to be manually plugged in to charge, so that was a pain. At some point my folks threw it out which was a shame because it cost so much.

Now the Roombas are so damned popular, they can charge a small fortune for it. I don’t think they’re really that much better than the other brands, they’ve just done a great job branding themselves. I wouldn’t say no to a free one, but I don’t see myself paying $800 for a robot vac that still can’t get into the corners or get a room 100% clean.

Like any robot vac, I’ll still need the old canister vac to do a really thorough job, and also to pick up after whatever the robot misses. I really, really, REALLY want a super-sexy Dyson vacuum, but haven’t been able to justify the spending, no matter how much my allergies, cat, and guests demand it. One day. For now I shall content myself with a robot. In my house. Doing my chores.

Life is good.

Cat vs. Vac
Cat vs. Vac

The Big Bedroom Makeover!

I’ve been itching for change lately, and now that I have all this spare time on my hands I’ve been working on some “projects” that I’ve wanted to do for a while.

My most recently completed one was the bedroom makeover!

My old room was awesome, but it was cluttered, busy and not very relaxing. I had my computer desk in there and basically did everything in that room. It wasn’t a very peaceful environment to fall asleep in, or just relax in general. I have issues with sleep as it is, so I decided that I’d make a big change and move the desk out and do the room over in an effort to make it more serene.

I moved the desk into my media room/spare room (Photos to come!) and set to work.

Working With What I Had

The biggest challenge was trying to get all my disparate elements to come together, with little money. I really didn’t have a budget at all.

Everything in my room is second-hand. I don’t think there is a single piece of furniture in there that is new! That certainly posed a unique challenge. I also fell in love with the purple bed set on vacation and had to work a new colour into my palette that wasn’t there before. Originally I was aiming for whites & pinks since I had a white bedspread and pink pillows & curtains to work with. Then I remembered I wanted to bring my big black chaise into the room for a reading nook. *sigh* there’s another colour to work with!

So now I had 4 main colour accents: Purple, pinks, white & black.

Goals

The goals for this room makeover were:

  • Create more space both physically and optically
  • Declutter & organize
  • Use the furniture and stuff I already had and find a way to unify it better
  • Make the room more functional with separate spaces for makeup, jewellery/accessories, sleeping and reading
  • Make a more relaxing and calm space

My main inspiration for this room is the pink & cream bird curtains. I made them when I moved in and I still love them! In the photos below, see if you can pick out all the little bird elements I used to tie everything together!

Since I was starting with the curtains, I decided to go with a lighter wall colour to brighten & enlarge the room. I picked a very light, creamy bone shade that closely matched the cream in the curtains. It’s a neutral enough shade to achieve all my goals and provide a nice backdrop for the splashes of colour in the art & accessories.

The final product

With the desk gone from my room there was tons of space for a new vanity and reading area. I got the black chaise off of Craigslist last year and the “vanity” that you see is actually a sewing table from my late aunt. I think she’d be happy with how I arranged it! I also had an old chair sitting around the apartment, so I painted it and upholstered the seat in a shiny black to match the chaise. My mom thought it came with the table! Score!

Vanity & Reading Corner

 

Close up on the vanity. I reupholstered & painted the chair to match!

I also took this as an opportunity to go through all my accessories and prune them down. After that I had to find a creative way to keep most of them in sight so I could remember what I had! (I couldn’t keep them all out, I have an insane amount of stuff, so just the faves are on display)

I found an old cork board hiding in a storage space and my problem was solved! (Everyone knows the cork board trick for jewellery now, right?) I painted it the same colour as the walls so it would blend in and provide a good backdrop for my pretties. Not bad! Again, just working with what I had on hand, folks!

Part 1 of the "jewellery bar"

I also finally found a way to display some of my floral hair fascinators creatively, while finding a home for my tiered tray (that thing is impossible to store!!!!)

Click to enlarge
May I offer you a rose for your hair?

All said and done, I think I did a pretty swell job of pulling everything together, and I was able to achieve each of the goals I set out for this project.

click to enlarge
The "Other Side"

The funny thing about this room is that I really didn’t set out to have it bird-themed. It just sort of worked out that way. I went with the motif from the curtains and tried to have little details throughout to provide continuity. I may not have chosen this myself, but I think it worked out well! Sometimes you just have to let your project choose  YOU.

Birds

click to enlarge
Curtains - The Inspiration
click to enlarge
More bird details

If you also like the bird theme, I got the hooks and white wall-birds from Umbra. I buy from the concept store downtown, but there are lots of other retailers that carry them as well. As for the spunky wall decal, I got it at the dollar store for $2!!! Amazeballs. I bought it months ago because it was pretty and it sat around until I finally realized I could use it in this project. Win!

Royal-Tiger approves this room makeover!

Yup, I’m at it again + cat photos

I just can't help myself

 

Well, I’m still pretty bored with things these days. So I found another random item to paint. Above is my lost, forlorn chair. It came with the apartment when I moved in 4 years ago and was ugly in it’s unfinished state. A chair with good bones, though.

I reupholstered it Red Green style (with duct tape, for you non-Canadians) and it looked better… but still needed a little something.

I’ve got some white paint left over from repainting the dining room a couple of months ago and I was bored, so…. there you go.

Painted chair ahoy!

One more coat and this baby’ll be ready for it’s new cushion and new life as a stylish matching chair to my decor.

 

Anyway, if a photo of a half-painted chair doesn’t do it for you, here are some photos of my cat Luna to make up for it. She’s going to be featured in this week’s Caturday post over at the Catsparella blog. Isn’t that exciting?!?!

 

Basket Case!
In which Luna finds the secret window garden
My butt DOES NOT look fat!!!!
Kitty, deconstructed
Nevermind, I found the rest of her in the box

I totally realize that she is making weird faces in these photos. It’s like this all the time at home. Never-ending chuckles!

How to Clean your BBQ: A (Very Simple) Step-by-Step Guide

This is what I look like when I BBQ

 

Ahhh, smell that fresh air? See those flowers? Hear those birds outside?

It can only mean one thing… BBQ SEASON!

There is nothing more divine than a delicious meal cooked over the grill. It signifies the start of warmer weather and better food!

But after the long, harsh winter sometimes your grill needs a little TLC before you can start flipping those burgers and smoking those haunches of tasty meats.

Does your grill look less like a paragon of fiery grilling prowess and more like a pit of despair?

 

Example: Pit of Despair

Don’t worry. Here are a few simple steps you can take to give your grill a good once-over before you jump into the season. These instructions are for a run-of-the-mill propane BBQ but can easily be adjusted to a charcoal one as well. You can easily use cleaners and solvents and fancy tools, but then it’s just a lot of work just to see the grill mucked up again the next time you use it. Why fight it’s nature?

Step One

Find your BBQ. Sometimes they like to hide in strange places over the winter.

Step Two

Assemble a kit of rubber gloves, old clothes or apron, BBQ grill brush and small dust brush & pan. Optional: a bucket to catch the four years of charred crap that you will unearth.

Step Three

Use the stiff BBQ brush to rub the burnt on burger leavings and rust off the grill. Lift it out and do the backside, too. Be amazed at the amount of mystery crap adhered to the underside. Set grills aside. Complain about grease marks on your gloves.

Step Four

Using the same brush, spend an ungodly amount of time brushing the fire-hardened crap off of the briquettes below. Set them aside, pray that this step ends soon. Marvel at the amount of dust you are producing.

Step Five

Clean the grill underneath the briquettes the same way you did the top grills. Wonder why it’s so damn rusty and if it will disintegrate on contact. Sigh in relief when it doesn’t. Set aside.

Step Six

Using the BBQ brush of power, scrape the sides of the BBQ and lid so that a rain of charred animal flesh and singed veggies occurs. Notice that the inside of the BBQ was originally NOT BLACK. Woah. All the junk will accumulate in piles of ash and mystery chunks at the bottom.

Step Seven

Using your small dust brush and dustpan, clean out all the remains at the bottom. Depending on how long it was since your BBQ was last cleaned, this may take some time. Take a moment to imagine what some of those charred things are at the bottom. Is that really a bottle cap?

Work around the burners and scrape them if needed. Pray to the Gods of fire that the burners will work after this! Sigh copiously and spit churned up dust out of your mouth as you proceed. Wonder why you decided to do this on a windy day.

Step Eight

Replace all grills & briquettes and admire your almost-ready grill.

Step Nine

Carefully light up the barbie, with burners on high, lid closed and CREMATE THAT F*CKER! For about 10 minutes.

 

Enjoy!

Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.

Discussion: The “Nostalgia” Trend

Our crop of pickles after a canning session in the summer

Background: Ellie and I have ourselves a little ladies canning group with some other gals in the area. A few times over the summer we got together to make and can some of our own foods, such as pickles, salsa, tomatoes, applesauce, etc.

This blog post is taken from an email discussion we had regarding an article I found on Granny Miller’s blog. I thought it was an interesting subject for discussion and wanted to see what others thought about the trend towards “simpler times” and reviving homesteading methods of yesteryear.

Do you see it as a fad, a trend, or something that is here to stay? Leave a comment or answer this in your own blog post and we’ll get the discussion going!


From Ellie

I got this from Ginger via Google Reader, but I took the time to read it this afternoon and thought it was really interesting.  We started canning largely because our mothers had done it before us and we decided to start on a whim.  Canning and the “survivalist” mentality have apparently been sweeping North America just like knitting did a while back.  The nostalgia for simpler times is becoming a trend.  The lady who wrote this article finds it appalling and draws some distinct lines between the lifestyle of the past and today’s trends.

http://homesteadgardenandpantry.com/agrarian-life/self-reliance/survivalist-prepper-or-housewife

Check it out and see what you think.

Reply from Ginger

Interesting article, isn’t it?

While I think she does have a point, canning and “prepping” are not just a fad in my eyes. My family has always done the whole emergency-preparedness thing. My brother and I have both learned how to survive on the bare necessities, fend for ourselves and other things along those lines.

In fact, my brother is currently at a college taking survivalist courses so he can become a ranger or work in that field.

Extending this kind of thinking to our food preservation, preparation and housekeeping seems natural to us. Plus, we grew up with the Mennonites out in the country. They didn’t have electricity sometimes! When you wanted popped corn, you had this weird contraption to use over the stove or the fire, no microwave in sight!

Perhaps I am an old soul. I have always seen value in knowing how to do things yourself. While I don’t know how to knit anymore (I did when I was a child), I DO know how to sew and do handy things and repairs around the house. I know how to cook over an open flame (for the most part) and build an “outdoor fridge” as well as garden and grow things to eat.

While I won’t say I wasn’t influenced by the whole nostalgia trend, I will say that it has certainly made it easier to find supplies, information and other interested folks! Without this trend maybe I wouldn’t have met you wonderful and talented ladies :)

Haha, this sounds like it’s turning into a blog post!

I feel for the lady, she and her family take this style of living very seriously, and I understand what it’s like to be passionate about something, then suddenly it goes mainstream and everyone is doing it. It takes the shine off of what you’re doing and becomes annoying–everyone and their sister is suddenly an “expert” on it, while all the while you have been living it without trying to be trendy.

What does everyone else think?

Guest Post: Should you outsource your household chores?

This post is brought to you by the Silicon Valley Blogger of The Digerati Life, a blog on personal finance: budgets, credit cards, online coupons, among other money management tips, tricks, and strategies.

***

Chores are one of the “necessary evils” of life. Everyone absolutely has to do chores, else life would surely be uncomfortable, maybe even downright miserable. If you won’t do laundry for a whole month, you’ll surely run out of clothes to wear. Unless you’re one of the Hiltons, the man on the street definitely doesn’t have the unlimited resources to just discard clothes as they get soiled and buy new ones. Or if you don’t want to wash the dishes, you definitely can’t afford to have a sink rendered unusable by a mountain-sized pile of dirty dishes. And don’t forget a house filled with dust bunnies. Unless you were born dust-resistant, surely, by the 6th month of zero vacuuming, dusting or cleaning the house, you’ll be sneezing yourself to the hospital. Thus, you would have to either push yourself to get to doing your chores, else, pay someone else to do it for you.

There are some people who welcome doing chores. For them, the act of doing chores allows them to distance themselves from the mental strain of work, allowing them to gain new perspectives on tough tasks, get ideas on projects they were stuck on, or, for some, believe it or not, doing chores lets them relax and unwind.

There are other people who cannot, for the life of them, do these activities. They would rather work on mentally challenging tasks. Chores bore, even disgust them. They would rather pay someone to do the work for them while they maximize their time to earn more.

If you’re the type of person who welcomes doing chores, here is how you will be able to benefit from doing chores:

  1. You will be able to maximize your budget and add more to your savings accounts, as you do everything yourself.
  2. There were studies in brain functioning and problem-solving that have postulated that people tend to consolidate mental processes as they distance themselves from problems they are attempting to solve. Some inventors have been able to get leads on the portions of their invention processes that they were stuck on when they did something else. While most people view chores as work, for others, chores serve the same function as recreation. If you’re the type who could potentially get their kicks from working this way, then you may be able to benefit from the paradigm shift that doing chores could offer.

If you’re the other type who just cannot do chores to save your life, however, then here is how you’ll be able to benefit from paying someone to do things for you: the main benefit? You’ll save time and effort.

  1. Outsourcing your chores allows you to save time, which you could put to better use: closing more deals, getting more clients, working on more projects.
  2. You’ll save energy as well, allowing you to destress through other means.

Either way, you win. To maximize either situation, here are our tips:

For the chores-loving people:

  1. When you choose to do the chores yourself, make sure that you budget your time accordingly. Time is our true resource. While I could personally clean a room for seven hours straight, this practice isn’t healthy. Seven hours is nearly an entire work shift! Thus, schedule your cleaning or laundry days on days when you’re not working, or, if you don’t have a whole day to have a long stretch of chores-time, try to budget your time. For good measure, try not to go beyond 2 hours. If you need more time, don’t go beyond 4 hours of chores. This way, you’ll ensure that your work, or the rest of your life, isn’t affected.
  2. Get the best deals on the material you use for cleaning or laundry. Grocery coupons or online coupons could work for you. You can slash almost half of your expenses if you used grocery coupons or if you shopped at discount stores. Be a wise shopper!

For the chores-averse people:

  1. When you try to look for janitorial or maid services, make sure that you’ve shopped around thoroughly and checked your area for the best cleaning companies that charge a fee that’s within your budget. Strike a balance between a good, affordable rate and a thorough, excellent service. Don’t pay cheap for something that you will only have to redo. Don’t spend too much for quality work, either. Take a look at online resources such as Angie’s List or Craigslist for this purpose.
  2. When you make a decision to use the services of househelp, make sure that the time freed up would be put to the best use possible. While ideally, you should work more because your time did get freed up, you may want to unwind instead. However, it does not change the fact that you still have to make sure that how you unwind would still be “profitable,” or a worthy “investment” of your time. No, watching TV for hours on end isn’t a worthy use of your time. Find an activity that will truly refresh you. Talking with loved ones: spending time with your wife and kids would be a better use of this time. Reading a good, enlightening book is a better investment too.

Either arrangement, if it truly suits your personality and lifestyle, would allow you to maximize your resources (time and money). Find the better fit for you, and stop trying to beat your brain trying to do something you were not wired to do. The bottom line is, you do need to budget even your time; and since chores take up your most precious resource, time, we hope our suggestions could help you figure out how to best leverage that for the best life you can live!