Sunday, 24 June 2012

On Kitchens and Camping!

It's hard to believe that we are already nearing the end of June. That is half the year gone!

It seems just a couple of days ago that we were signing for our new kitchen and I was thinking: 8 weeks!  That's a lifetime away! (I've never been any good at waiting for things...)

Well the time flew past, in about a week the builder comes to start ripping out the old kitchen (and a few other bits of the house that we don't like).  Then we have a week of the plasterers, plumbers and electricians working to get the room ready for the new kitchen to be fitted at the end of the week.

I say almost as there are still a couple of things that need to happen before we have the kitchen of our dreams.  The first is the new work top.  It can't be fitted until the new units are in and everything has settled as it's stone and can't be cut on site.  Then the kitchen shop will come in and remeasure everything to ensure that it fits perfectly.  Thankfully we are going to get a temporary worktop until the new one is cut and fitted!

And of course the colour of the kitchen :)  When the builder has finished everything is going to be plaster coloured - not really what we are after...  So we went paint sample picking yesterday.  40 minutes going through every single colour in the DIY store picking the ones we liked (and joking about some really nasty colours) and then leaving with a handbag full of sample sheets to take over to the kitchen shop and compare against the sample worktop and cupboard blocks.

We knew what colours we needed - something neutral to match the other walls as the downstairs of the house is open plan, and something to match the grey of the counter top and the white of the cabinets.  Both of us were thinking of an off white to smooth the colour transition of the counter to the cupboards.  We had also got some sample for when we repaint the bedroom and just for a laugh I threw it in. Wow!  It worked perfectly!  And what's more Mrs Stace thought the same thing!  So there is going to be come colour in the new room, art-deco style!  Now, the shapes of art-deco have never really appealed to me - at least not for interiors, but the colours I love! I'm now even more exited about getting everything finished and looking good.

The camping? That is how we are going to be cooking for the week whilst we have no oven or hob (or sink, or water downstairs!) We brought a griddle pan for the Weber BBQ in the garden so that we can grill food, or make pan dishes, and have we a duel burner camping stove in the attic that we can use making rice or noodles.  All in the great outdoors, well back garden anyway :) And it couldn't have happened at a better time!  June in Holland is a wonderful month of sun, low winds and outdoor eating!

Well it should be... However, today I cancelled my run as it's tipping it down with rain and the outlook for the next week is not much better.  Thunderstorms, strong winds and a subtle lack of sun do not give me a positive outlook cooking in the open air!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Finally, how to make a Mac useful!

About 12 months ago I brought myself a 13" MacBook Pro to replace the Sony TZ 21 that I ruined by dropping a sheet of metal on the screen (DOH!).

For the last 6 months or so it's been languishing in the spare room, unused and unloved as I have come to hate the thing.  And hate OSX even more.

What's more Mrs Stace hates it even more than I do so I couldn't even give it to her.

What to do then...  Well after trying it again this week and wanting to throw it through a window within 20 seconds of starting it I decided I had to give boot camp another go.

So...  I'm typing this on a Windows 7 MacBook Pro :)

And...  First impressions are not bad.  Performance is acceptable (actually better than it did under Lion) and I can live with the screen (though it's still not great - why people rave about the non-retina Apple screens I don't know).

But...  It does feel like a workhorse again, rather than toy.  Now for the Visual Studio and SQL Server tools and I'll be ready to go!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sugar, Sugar

Over the last month I have started to get get into some kind of routine - from going running again, cycling and building my own machines.

One of the cycling trips that I did over the last couple of months was to visit an old sugar factory and try to get some nice shots.  It had been a while since I have really tried to get some nice pictures and I was really happy with the results.  I hope you like them too :)

I was playing with HDR for the first time here.  I love how the clouds have come out.  This is a cycle path next to the Polderbaan runway at Schiphol what we had to travel to get to the factory

This time I was looking for something akin to the plates that you get in 1950's and 1960's books
Different angle, same building and going for a more 1970's feel

No one at work believes me that this is just from playing with Saturation .  No HDR or other PhotoShop  trickery :)

The old sugar factory chimney juxtaposed with the new 'Sugar Silo' office centres being built to  regenerate the area

Honestly, I have no idea what these buildings are, I just liked the shot through the reeds :) Though my knees and back didn't!

Friday, 8 June 2012

How much!

After living in the house for 7 years we have finally got around to rebuilding the kitchen - the old one is 15 years old and...  Well it's not that it's starting to look shabby, it's past that now and is just dying on us.

The laminate is falling off of the cupboards, and the equipment is starting to fail - the dishwasher broke a few weeks ago (and was replaced instantly!), the oven door doesn't like to stay closed all of the time when you are cooking and the extractor fan needs a bit of 'Onslowing' whenever you turn it on (for those who haven't seen 'Keeping up Appearances' that means that when you turn it on you have to hit it to stop it making horrible noises!).

We picked a new one out a few months ago and have been going through the various processes that you have to do to get the new kitchen since then.  So someone came around and checked whether the house was square (it's not) and if everything was measured correctly by us before we went to the kitchen centre (we did!).

And then we started the upgrade roundabout.  Well, OK, I started the upgrade roundabout, it's not fair to include Mrs Stace in that sentence :)

In the town where we live Siemens has a special showroom (pretentiously called 'The Siemens Experience') where you can see all of the equipment that they make to ensure that you like it in reality - as the kitchen showrooms just do not have enough space to show everything from each company, and it can be quite different in real life to how it looks in the book.  We decided to upgrade the hob, extractor fan and fridge freezer at that point.  For not much more we decided that we would be much happier with the better kit (and if we hadn't, then we would of course be spending the next 15 years wishing we had!)

But...  They had a beautiful hob in there, so much space for cooking, 5 induction zones so you can use more pans and just an amazing looking piece of kitchen equipment.

But it needs power, lots of power - Tim Allen levels even.  Our current induction hob already has two groups in the fuse box dedicated to it, this one needs three.  Gulp.

We needed a builder for fitting the new kitchen (well the fitting was free, but the plaster work etc wasn't!) and decided to use the one that would be sent from the kitchen place as he has all of the qualifications etc to do everything.

He took a look in the electric cupboard and said something I was not expecting.  In order to use three groups for one appliance you need three phase power into the house (something that most Dutch houses seem to have anyway, just not wired in).  He would find out what the cost for that is as the electricity companies themselves have to do that for you, and then include it as a separate point in his offer.

It came back at just under our max budget for the work...  So we went and ordered the hob from the kitchen place (where it was only half the increase in price that we were expecting - a nice surprise!).  And then someone in the office gave me a wonderful question.

"So what will you pay for your electricity now?"

Say what?  I had not thought of that question, you have to pay for what you use surely, why should I need to pay more just for having the option of using more?

Getting a little scared I though that I had better check with the electric company, just to settle my nerves.

Called them up, told them I was getting 380 volts into the house for a new kitchen and asked if it was going to cost more.  "Yes," came the response, "180 euros a month in transportation costs, because you need 3 * 80 amp capability for that system."

What!  A month! 180 euros!

I asked what my current costs were... "18 a month."  A tenth of what it is going to cost.

Holy crap!  Whilst trying to find support as my knees were collapsing on me, I tried to think about how to cancel the new hob before it was too late.  2000 a year!  It's a nice hob, but 2000 a year nice before you turn it on?  I don't think so!

I double checked with the woman on the phone "2000 a year just for a kitchen hob!  I guess I need to cancel it!"

She disappeared for a couple of minutes.

"I've just checked, for a kitchen appliance you don't need 3 * 80, you only need 3 * 25.  For that you don't pay any extra.  Sorry!"

Phew!  My heart started to slow down again and the panic drained.  I guess my Dutch still needs some work if it can still cause this type of confusion!  I'm glad I checked a bit instead of just accepting it and cancelling everything :)

So now we just have to wait for the kitchen to be delivered (and hope that our mortgage company pay tyhe kitchen company on time!).  Fingers crossed that by the middle of July I'll be posting pictures of the nice things I'll be making to try out the new kitchen!