Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Preparing for the holidays - challenge

Have you noticed that on Simplify 101 blog is a 28 day challenge to get your home ready for the Holidays. The point of the challenge is to get some organizing and cleaning issues done before the Thanksgiving. I thought of participating even though Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Finland (yet another holiday not celebrated here). Last year I also did some of the points from the challenge. It was better than doing nothing.

I know I'm bit late on the start of the challenge, but that's fine, I can catch up and even if I don't it's ok. So I started from the day three. Decluttering surfaces. In our home all surfaces are clutter magnets, but the entry table and drawer are the super magnets. So I put the timer on for 15 minutes and we got to work. I told A that all surfaces are the places to concentrate. After the speed decluttering the surfaces were already looking so much better. It's so easy that I'm always amazed how come we spend so much time avoiding the decluttering.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Project bags

I made reusable vegetable bags over a year ago. But I'm afraid they did not work. The problem was that the sticker from the scale did not stick to the bag so not only once I had lost the sticker with the price of the vegetables somewhere and had to look for it or then I had to be really careful not to loose the sticker by placing the bag and the vegetables very carefully into the cart. So after I realized it was just too difficult to use the bags in grocery shopping I left them home and did not touch them in many months.

Then I was knitting few days ago and noticed that I'm using ugly plastic bags to temporarily store and move around knitting and crocheting projects. And then I remembered having those reusable bags which are see through. Just perfect. So that is how I found new use for the vegetable bags.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Apple chips

This should actually be a guest post, since I did not make the apple chips I'm about to show you, but A did. His friend, who also happens to have a blog, was visiting us few weeks back when we were just starting to wash the apples for the cider. Since apples were everywhere in our home those soon became a discussion topic. She suggested that we could make apple chips from the sour apples we had so much of.

A thought apple chips could be fun so he made them. He didn't google any recipe, although I'm sure there are many. First he removed the seeds with an apple drill and then sliced the apples thinly.

Some of the slices he hung on a rod and some he placed on an oven rack. Then these were placed in the sauna. We did not have the sauna on or anything, but the room is always a bit warmer than the rest of the house and there is some handy free space. I think it took about one week for the slices to dry. Maybe.

After the slices were dry we had apple chips. I don't think the slices are actually crunchy, like you could expect chips to be. They have some toughness in them which I think all dried fruit have. I've never been a huge fan of dried fruit but the apple chips are okey, they are a nice snack once in a while. At least the apples store better like this and take much less space.

~ ~ ~

And look we got our first snow last night.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Pumpkin carving

Halloween is not celebrated in Finland although some stores do sell Halloween junk for the kids. Also pumpkins are sold around this time. I, like most other Finns, am not that excited about Halloween, heck I don't even know what it's for. Well anyway... crafting is fun and when I saw the carved pumpkin on Santa's blog Homestilo I just had to carve one too.

Like said the Halloween isn't such a big thing here so I did not want to carve on the pumpkin anything scary but thought of carving something more related to fall. I searched a simple image from the web about a tree and did plan to print it out, but for some reason the printer would not work so I ended up copying the image to a paper from the screen using a pencil. Then just carved the pumpkin using the drawing as a guide.

I think it ended up looking really cool. I added a string of light inside it. I made a small hole in the back with an apple drill where I ran the wire through.

Because I scooped out most of the inside of the pumpkin before the carving I also had to figure how to consume all the pumpkin. So I made a pumpkin pie with this recipe (click). I know according to the recipe I should have used a sugar pumpkin and I don't know what is the pumpkin I had but I had to use it somewhere. I made the pumpkin into a puree and used half of it to the pie and placed the rest in the freezer, so I can make a new pie later if I want to. I hope the puree freezes well. Since A is in Shanghai again I took the whole pie to work and fed it to my co-workers. Anything taken to work is gone in a matter of minutes and so was the pie too. I had never made a pumpkin pie before and had actually tasted it only once before. That was last year when we were visiting in NY on Thanksgiving. The pie I made looked quite ugly, like you see there, but it was good, tasted like gingerbread dough.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Bottling cider

Do you write it bottleling or bottling, or is that even a word? I will write bottleling for now, untill I know better. Bottling it is, apparently

So let me first tell you what gear you need for making wine or cider. There are not actually many things and those should not be expensive.

    1. Bucket
    2. Airlock

   3. Siphon

   4. Gravity meter


   5. Corker, for wine wine bottle corker for cider crown cap corker and if soda bottles are used then the corker is not needed.

There you have it, those are the equipment. Sure there are a lot of things that you might want to have, but I've listed above the essentials, the things you will definitely need for making cider or wine.

Once the fermenting is ongoing the gravity of the cider needs to be checked. Once the gravity reaches 1.005 (5 on the white area in our meter) it means that there isn't much sugar left anymore for the yeast to feast. If the sugar goes down too much it will mean that the yeast will slowly start to die and we don't want that in this phase.

For cider you also need bottles and lots of them, I prefer to use small glass beer or soda bottles but PET soda bottles work too, they just aren't as nice looking. Only requirement there is to the bottle is that it must tolerate pressure. In cider carbon dioxide forms inside the bottle so regular wine bottles or juice bottles are a no no.

Every bottle needs to be washed and sterilized. That again is the dullest job in the bottling. I used the diswasher as a bottle stand to dry the bottles.

To all bottles a small amount of sugar is added. This sugar will be food for the yeast so the yeast will form the carbon dioxide in the bottle and make the drink sparkling once you open the bottle. After I added the sugar I siphon the juice into the bottles and cork them. Now the bottles are all ready and those should be left to mature for 6 months to year and a half. Depending how long you are able to wait, knowing us it will be closer to 6 months than year and a half.

Now I need to find a place for these bottles for the time they mature. A cellar temperature would be the best, but we don't have any place like that so room temperature will do.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Stockholm souvenir

Sorry to have skipped two days of regular posting. When I wrote about the new schedule I never meant to skip two posts in a row. I meant to skip one here other there. But this and last week have been really busy at work and I have been home earliest at seven, and even though I love to write my blog it's still the lowest priority compared to all other things.

Ok so the souvenirs from Stockholm. Although calling them souvenirs might be bit wrong since our plan when we visited Stockholm was to shop and not to get just souvenirs but design and home goods. I know it might sound a bit weird getting home goods from Sweden, but they do have just bit different stuff there and shops we don't have. For instance in Sweden they have binders that have a beautiful fabric spine and the form is also a bit different. I really fell for the binders when I saw those on Benita's blog. I already have a few of those binders in the office but now I bought from Åhlens two slimmer versions to company the old ones (for anyone in Finland thinking of buying those too notice that the punching standard is different to Finnish, so you also need to get a puncher from Sweden). From Granit I bought the white wrapping paper. That is a bit odd purchase, it's just wrapping paper, but I have not seen one in white in Finland. The cards are from Ljunggrens Pappershandel. I did not actually need anything from there but it was such a beautifull shop I couln't leave empty handed.

For the kitchen I got two cling foil holders from Muji, one for cling foil and other for aluminium foil. I felt a bit dumb getting those. Not like the packages the foils come in are not usable, but these are so much nicer looking and the foils do cut better using those sturdier containers. The napkins are from Svenskt Tenn. For some odd reason I wanted to get something from there, but most things were really expensive and too difficult to transport to Finland, so I ended up getting napkins. The Dala horse cookie cutter I got from a small store in the old town, I'm afraid I do not remember what the store was called. What I think was the best purchase was the rag and the rag holder.

Those were most likely the cheapest things I bought. The holder was attached to the wall by a double sided tape. The holder has cut outs in black rubber insert where the rag can be pushed in.

We used to keep the rag folded on top of the faucet, but it was on the way and especially when the rag was dry and hard it kept droppin down from the faucet. Now it's out of the way but easily accessible. The rag and the rag holder are both from DesignTorget.

Håll Stockholm rent och vårt kök också.
(Keep Stockholm clean and our kitcher also)

Friday, 12 October 2012

Cleaning a faucet with vinegar

Our kitchen faucet leaks just very very little from the joints where the spout is attached in. It only leaks when the water is running end even then so little that I have not bothered to call a plumber. We also don't have a habit of wiping the kitchen sink and the faucet dry so lime will eventually collect in the small nooks on the faucet. And the result looks horrid. Sorry to show the faucet in all it's ickyness, there is even crums and some other spots. But no worries, it's really easy to clean.

To clean it one only needs white vinegar and paper towels. A sheet of paper towel needs to be wet with white vinegar and the sheet is rolled over the areas that need cleaning. It's important to have the paper touching the surface, so it can be lightly pressed to it. The paper holds quite well on place without bonding it on anyway. As many sheets of wet paper is added on the surface as needed to cover all the icky areas. I covered the faucet with a plastic bag too, just so there would not be such a horrible smell in the kitchen.

Then let it sit. Went to watch TV or something for an hour or two. Then when I remembered I returned to the kitchen and removed the plastic bag and the papers. The lime was fully loosened by then and I just brushed it away. I didn't have to do any scrubbing, the lime came off so easily. Then I rinced and this time even dried the faucet. It took about 5 minutes without the waiting time to clean the faucet and there is no hard work, but yet the result is so good. No need to buy those horrible products that say to remove lime, vinegar works wonders if you just let it work.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pilgrimage to Stockholm

Hejsan from Stockholm. I was there with my sister last weekend. I bought flight tickets for me and my sister to Stockholm as a birthday present to her. She had birthday already on August, but I found cheapish tickets only later to the fall.

Both me and my sister had been to Stockholm numerous times, but we had never spent the night in Stockholm, yet alone spent as much time there. The standard trip to Stockholm for most Finns is the weekend cruise from Helsinki or Turku where the main pass time is to drink till you fall. Also that type of Stockholm visit will consist of walking to the center to the Burger King and not eating anything because of the hangover. Then it's time to get back to the ship to drink some more. That is considered a very successful trip by Finnish standard.

But we did not want that so we took the one hour flight to Stockholm. I had also booked a hotel room for one night. The hotel room by the way was very similar than the cabins in the cruise ships. So we were able to get some feeling of being on a cruise anyway.

I also had some ulterior motives booking the flights to Stockholm. Ever since Benita posted the Stockholm Shopping -  list of shops I've been wanting to visit those places. I picked what I considered best shops and even made a google map and I also wrote the opening hours. My sister wasn't really aware of this plan of mine. But when she realized what was the plan she was totally happy with it.

View stockholm shopping in a larger map

We had such a nice time in Stockholm. We felt that we could have even spent longer time there than just two days. This time we just concentrated on the shopping, we had seen all the standard tourist attractions on our earlier trips. But while we shopped we actually saw more of the city and the people than what we have before. Now I think we kind of got how the city is built and where is what. We walked quite a lot and visited many shops. We did not get to go to all, we ran out of time, but to most we did visit.

I will show you later what I bought from our trip. Also we spent some time in different cafes and had a very nice dinner in a Tapas restaurant. There were also sushi restaurants all over the city, ah, heaven. We were also blessed with excellent weather, sun was shining all weekend, amazing.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Making wine and cider - phase one

We picked the apples from the trees last week, like I told before. Since the tree we have that actually makes any apples makes a very sour ones and I knew about a colleague of mine who has a tree that makes very sweet apples and that he was drowning in them, I asked him if I he could give some of his apples to balance out our sour ones. And he could... he gave us almost 50 kilos (110 lbs) of them. We also had got about 50 kilos from our own trees. We planned to make cider and wine from the apples and for that the apples need to be pressed. Before pressing the apples needs to be washed, so we spent couple of hours in our bathroom washing the apples with water and a cloth. We also cut out some bad parts from the apples and if there were some really bad ones we threw them out.

Then we headed with my tiny car filled with apples to a pressing station/ juice station. I'm not sure what that place is called in English. But here those kind of places can be found where you can have your own apples or other fruit shredded to a mash and pressed so the juice extracts. In this place we went to the apples are placed in a manger where a band conveyor takes the apples to a shredder. The mash from the shredder goes to a cloth that a worker folds over the mash and these cloth bundles are piled and placed under a press. The juice pours to containers. There is very little left from the apples after the pressing, there is just almost dry pulp left inside the cloths.

From almost 100 kilos (220 lbs) of apples we got 70 liters (18.5 US gallons) of juice. Our fermenting vessels only can handle 30 liters each so we also had some juice to drink. We did not want to save up too much of the juice though since we did not have it pastorized so it only stays good for few days. The combination of the sweet and sour apples were really good, the juice was sweet but with some excellent taste too.

There are a few steps on the fermenting process that require some preparation. The fermenting vessels need to be thoroughly cleaned and desinfected also all the tools and utensils need to be cleaned and desinfected. That I think is the most annoying part.

There is some difference between cider and wine making. Cider is not as strong as wine so to the cider needs to be added less if any aditional sugar, to the wine sugar needs to be added. The more sugar there is the more food the yeast has and therefore more alcohol there will be. We bought from a special wine store an apple wine set which contained whole bunch of ingredients from the yeast to some enzymes. Most of the ingredients were added to the juice and strirred in and then the vessel was closed with an air lock. Other difference between wine and cider making is that from the wine the fermenting process is killed before it's poured into bottles. The yeast in the cider is left alive so pressure will form in the bottles making the cider sparkling when the bottle is opened.

For the cider we did not get a set, mainly because the store didn't have any and there is basicly only one ingredient besides the juice needed to make cider, which is yeast. We also bought pectolase to clear the juice a bit. The yeast and pectolace were added to the juice and closed with an air lock.

And now we just wait for couple of weeks to a few weeks until the fermenting is done. I will post another post when we get to the bottleing phase. Lot of information about wine and cider making can be found by googling, we are no way any experts. We have done wine and cider only one time before and most likely are doing lots of things wrong.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

New night stands with painting disaster

So... the night stands, or the lack of them that I mentioned here are now ready and on their right places. This Ikea hack I made with the new night stands didn't seem to first work out at all. I bought two Expedit Cubes that can be attached to the wall (I can't find the cube from Ikea's webpage? Whaat!?) and the drawers to go inside the cube. My point on getting new bedside tables was that I wanted something that could be attached to the wall so vacuuming would be easier and also I wanted the new night stands to be slightly smaller ones than the old ones. Also I wanted them to be shiny white, the old ones we had were brown.

I forgot to take any proper before photos. But here you can somewhat see what we had before in the bed room. The picture is taken on spring when I was doing the spring clean.

Also I took a photo of the cabinet which I used when I placed the cabinets on sale in the web.

Dull thing was that the cubes I bought did not come in shiny white like I wanted but instead in the mat yellowish white. Also on the cubes the top and the bottom was supposed to be attached with screws through the boards. That would have meant that the screw head would be visible. Which meant that I needed to do some hacking.

I don't know what went through my my head when I started to assemble the cubes. Because for some odd reason I desided to attach the parts with plugs instead of making a deeper hole for the countersunk screw which I could have then spackled over. That would have been so much easier.

Anyway I was a jackass, because of course I was unable to put the plugs exactly on the same line so the sides of the cubes are now just a tiny bit closer to each other than they should and now the top drawer in the cube does not slide as well as it should. I would have never thought that the tolerances in Ikea furniture is this tight.

Once I got the cubes assembled I desided to spray paint them to shiny white. I started with a primer. I had bought one primer and two shiny top paint cans. The painting was a total disaster! It was just horrible! The primer spread out everywhere, luckily it didn't stick to anything I didn't want it to stick but the dust spread all over. And the smell, awfull!

Then I started with the top paint, it would have been okey, but from somewhere I got dust on the painted surface and the result was just bad. There were tiny pieces of dust on the surface and it looked horrible. Also I run out of paint, two cans was just too little. I had killed half of my brain cells in the smell and the result was horrendous. I was so annoyed that I didn't even take a picture of the horrible finish.

Then after listening to some advise from my colleaque I returned to using regular paint. I sanded the spray painting I had done and painted with furniture primer. I sanded again and then painted with shiny oil based paint with a mohair roller.

And the finish was so nice! I love the result I got when using the regular paint, I didn't have any dust problems either. Just look how shiny it is.

Then was just left to hang the cubes on the wall and assemble the drawers. I would have wanted to hung the cube just a bit lower but under the other cube is a socket which defines the hight.

Because I did not paint the underside so here you can see what the screw would have looked like if it was on the top.

After all the trouble I still do think the painting was worth it, I do love these cubes. I love the airy feeling they have because they seem to float next to the bed. If I would have been happy with the shade of white the cubes were I think I could have just covered the top to hide the screws. Like a glass plate that has a painted underside or a painted board.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Cleaning terrace for fall

I spent all weekend outside cleaning the terrace and the back yard. Now when I'm writing this post on sunday evening I feel so tired. My back and shoulders are aching, but in a good way, like after an exercise. I took only couple of photos on the whole weekend but I did so much. It might be bit difficult to see from the photos, but I did all this
  • Turned the compost
  • Moved ready compost to the flower beds
  • Took all rest of the tomatoes from the plants inside to ripen
  • Cut the tomato plants to pieces and put them in the compost
  • Pulled all the cucumber plants from the ground and also put them to the compost
  • Moved few plants on the flower bed
  • Planted tulips and narcissus bulbs
  • Greated a border for the flower bed from old tiles
  • Raked the lawn
  • Cut some overgrown braches from the bushes
  • Aired some blankets we keep in the conservatory
  • Beat the conservatory carpets
  • Brushed clean the conservatory floor
  • Washed all the pots we keep in the other trunk
  • Washed all gardening tools
  • Sharpened some gardening tools
And now the terrace is looking like this

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