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!
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