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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Sooth's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, May 28th, 2016
12:54 am
So some of you might know that I bought a fancy stereo system not too long ago (end of 2014?) This is not a new system, it's actually almost as old as I am (it's from the 1980s, 1986 to be precise). It's an audiophile system. While I'm not exactly an audiophile myself (I've failed some of those "can you tell the difference between these high quality clips and super compressed low-bitrate clips" - however the clips were just played on crappy PC speakers) but I CAN appreciate the difference between a really crappy system and a top-end system.

I didn't want to spend crazy money for a system, but I wanted something pretty decent, so I asked my dad for advice. I ended up buying a similar system to his (he's a SUPER picky audiophile, BTW), and I didn't spend too much cash on it.

The whole thing started because a high school friend reached out to me asking if my dad had any interest in buying a Carver (model M 1.5t) amp. I got in touch with my dad, and he said he didn't have any use for an additional amp. This is when I chimed in and asked if *I* should buy it. I looked up some prices online and made an offer for it (150$) and I had myself a very good quality amp. Carver made some really good products, and used amps and pre-amps by this company still fetch fairly high prices online.

An amp alone, however, is useless. All it is, is basically a power box. It literally just has a power cord, and input jacks on the back. To actually use it you need a pre-amp. This is the main control that you plug your CD player, DVD player, and other electronics into. The pre-amp has all the controls (on/off, volume, etc) on it, and all the jacks at the back. Basically for those not too tech savvy, the chain would go like this:

Source (ex: CD player) -> Pre-Amp -> Amp -> Speakers

So since I had an amp now, and it was a Carver, I wanted a matching Carver pre-amp. This isn't hard to do, since a lot of them kept the same style, however, there are about half a dozen models, and some are better than others. Without going into too much detail, I ended up buying a very nice looking Carver C-1 pre-amp off eBay.

Here's the problem though (and the reason I'm writing this post in the first place): the pre-amp has a small problem where the left channel (ie: the left speaker) cuts off 90% of the time. It works sometimes, but most of the time it just cuts off completely and I have sound only in the right speaker. Dad and I tested several things, and we know the problem is not with the amp, so it's definitely the pre-amp. The left channel comes back on if I play a lot with the volume knob, but because the power surging through this system is so high, this is extremely dangerous for the speakers and I could blow one EXTREMELY easily. Basically your ears would start bleeding if the volume knob went much farther than half way, but it wouldn't kick back on until it was closer to 75%-90%, etc.

All that said, I kind of just left the system alone for the past year or so, and I was planning to just get the pre-amp repaired when I had money.

Fast forward to this week. Apparently my Dad's current (new) receiver is having problems, and since it's still under warranty, he needs to bring it to a repair shop in Ottawa. At the same time, he asked the shop if they repair Carver gear* and apparently they do, so he offered to bring it up to Ottawa and pay for the repairs! I'm not sure how much the repairs will be, but I was very happy for this news. My Dad has actually been looking for a backup pre-amp for me as well (since he wants me to be able to enjoy the system), so this was just as good. He picked it up yesterday, is bringing it to Ottawa tomorrow, and I should get it back in 2 weeks, I think.

* Carver gear is kind of specialized because he used a lot of specialty circuitry (or something along those lines) and generally it's preferred to only bring it for repair to authorized Carver repair shops/dealers. The company, however, no longer exists, but this shop in Ottawa used to be an authorized dealer and they still have all the technical manuals and schematics for them.

For anyone interested in even more details, the speakers I bought were new, and they are by Canadian brand "Energy". They are Connoisseur CF-50, and I got those on sale from Future Shop. I think they were 50% off, so I saved something like 500-600$ (?) I think they were regular 500$ each, and I paid 500$ for the pair. It might sound slightly expensive, but you have to remember that some audiophile speakers can cost upwards of 50,000$ per speaker. There are some seriously insane prices on speakers. I think I spent under 1000$ on the entire system so far.

When I did have it working, it sounded AWESOME! Dad has a few special test CDs that really show off the different kinds of things that good systems and speakers can do. Things like hearing noises in specific places (like behind you to the left, ahead of you 10 feet, or up near the ceiling - things normal speakers can't normally do). It's a system that's meant more for quality than for just blasting rock music.

Anyhow, this is more than long enough. I'll report back with photos once I have it setup again and hopefully working.
Sunday, February 14th, 2016
9:23 pm
First Finger Position (Violin)
So I'm pretty comfortable playing open strings now on the violin, and I've started to learn 'first finger' notes. Open strings are G D A E, and first finger notes are A E B F. I'm also having to re-learn the music notes in "letter" format, since all throughout school we learned them as "do, re, mi..." and apparently no one else commonly uses that system.

Here's me playing open strings after 1 week.

I actually haven't been practicing nearly as much as I should. I have the violin right next to me in the PC room, but I didn't play it too much during this past week. I did pick it up tonight and made a serious effort with the first finger exercises, and while they're not TOO difficult, the violin isn't exactly easy to play. I'm using a temporary pair of marker dots, but you're largely meant to memorize the finger positions from memory, and by ear. For the most part the system is easy to understand, but later on when they start to add-in flats and sharps it will be a lot more challenging.

At this beginning stage I can't even IMAGINE how anyone can manage to do "vibrato" when I can barely hold the violin properly AND press the strings. Vibrato is when you wobble your hand while holding a note, which gives a really beautiful effect to the music. I'm nowhere near the point where I can even THINK about vibrato, but most good players seem to be able to do it so easily and right now it's just kind of leaving me with my jaw dropped, and scratching my head.

If I continue to practice this week, I may be able to have the first finger notes quite playable and memorized, but we'll see. At any rate I should be able to play the exercises comfortably.
Friday, January 29th, 2016
7:06 pm
The Violin
So I decided I would try learning the violin, and since today is the very first time I touch bow to strings, I would write a quick post to mark the occasion.

I recently restored my friend Devin's heirloom violin (it isn't complete yet, as I'm waiting for Devin to order some missing parts for it). At the same time, I dug out my thrift store violin and I decided to work on it at the same time. The violin was something I happened to see at Value Village one day, and it was something like 15$. It had no finger board, and none of the accessories to go with it (no tuning pegs, no chin rest, no bridge, no tail piece, and no strings). The only part that was still with it was the sound post.

I found that while the violin looked somewhat cheaply made, it was apparent that it had several repairs done to it during its life, and the edging details were interesting (done in short grain segments of wood around the perimeter). The back was also bird's eye maple, which is much less common than curly maple (though not entirely rare).

Not long after buying it I was able to buy a complete "kit" on eBay (direct from China) to repair the violin for a mere 35$ (around that). This kit included rosewood accessories (pegs, tail piece, and chin rest), an ebony fingerboard, a new bridge, sound post, fine tuners, and strings. It was supposed to come with a new nut as well, but this piece was missing.

That was a few years ago. Fast forward to around a month ago, and at that time I was able to glue the new fingerboard in place, as well as cut and fit the nut and bridge. I believe that cutting and hand carving the bridge took around 2 hours.

Shortly after this, the violin was pretty much ready to go. All I needed was to have it set up (sound post installed), and to get a bow. I didn't want to spend 60-70$ locally for a student bow, so I ordered one direct from China for 25$ including shipping. For around 12$ the quality is pretty amazing. It is hand carved rosewood with an ebony frog, and mother of pearl accents (which match my other rosewood accessories).

The only thing I really need now is a case to store it and transport it (40$ on eBay +10$ shipping) and a digital tuner (around 20$). For now, I'll just sit the violin on my ottoman.

My first lesson (I'm taking courses online on YouTube for free) was a little rough and scratchy, but not too bad! I'm currently learning just the open strings, as well as correctly holding the bow, and avoiding hitting other strings.

I'm already noticing that I might want a shoulder rest, as the violin seems to rest uncomfortably on my bony collar bone. We'll see.
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
2:28 pm
First Chiropractic Visit
Well that was a very interesting (and expensive) visit.

I just got back from (is it odd to say"my") chiropractor. He explained the problem (it has a very forgettable medical term). Basically, one of the vertebra in the spine moved out of alignment, which then causes muscles around the area to tense (and hurt).

The consultation was maybe 5 minutes, and then he brought me into the next room (which was gorgeous, BTW since this place is in a gorgeous old Victorian house) where he has me lay down on the table (face down). Next he used some kind of "vibro-massager" which left me feeling combinations of relief, pain, and tickling sensations. After this, he did a few other pops and adjustments, had me on my side, and oddly contorted, and did some more hip and spine adjustments, and that was it. Strand up, walk around.

I'm still a bit sore, but I don't have the same kind of pains, I think it's mostly the already aggravated muscles. He wants me back in tomorrow.

So yeah, very quick and simple visit. I just wish it wasn't so expensive. First visit: 115$. Subsequent visits at 40$ (I believe). Normally this wouldn't really be too much of an expense for me, but since I'm just NOW heading back into work after nearly 7 months w/o work, it really hurts the wallet.

Also, it turns out Dr. Chris is kinda hot. He has short light blonde hair, blue eyes, I'd say he's roughly 40 (but I suck at guessing ages - at least a few years older than me).

Current Mood: sore
11:12 am
So Many Homos - I Threw My Back Out Again - & Roadwork
There seems to have been a torrent of YouTube "Coming Out" videos lately, several of which have been by high-profile content creators. One of the most shocking to see was Shane Dawson's latest video, where he explains his struggles with bisexuality. It's a truly honest and raw coming out story, and in it he explains how it would be so much easier to simply just be gay, or straight, rather than "somewhere in between".

The Shane Dawson video (which came out just yesterday) comes not long after Joey Graceffa's coming out video. Fans (myself included) were probably not too shocked about this, due to Joey's rather... flamboyant(?) personality, but it was a long time coming.

The list seems to be growing, as more and more young YouTubers keep uploading their "coming out" videos. Not long ago there was Ingrid who came out, and just today another (not well known) YouTuber that I just started watching a few weeks ago (who is cute as hell) just posted a "oh btw I'm gay" video on his channel. His video is much more casual, since he's been out to friends and family for years, but I was still thrilled to see it (did I mention he's cute?)


In other news, I threw out my back again.

I'm finally back to work again on a few projects, and while I was working on a small sofa/settee yesterday I pulled something. It wasn't too bad, so I kept working, and I was alright. I was still a bit sore, but not too bad this morning, so I went back in to work on a few other small projects, and something pulled again, and then I could barely move anymore.


My boss has strongly suggest I visit a chiropractor, and I think I'll take that advice. He suggested his chiropractor, and apparently he's very good (and not too far). I'll be going this afternoon (he doesn't open until 1pm today), and we'll see how it goes.


Roadwork on my street/intersection continues. They are redoing all the sewer and water lines, and the whole street is a mess. They were connecting the lines into the other intersection last night, and we were told we'd have no water between 7pm last night, to 7am this morning. They were working ALL NIGHT with big (LOUD) machinery, and giant flood lights pointing towards my house.

Lucky for me I'm a pretty heavy sleeper, and I didn't have much trouble falling asleep. I feel really bad for any light sleepers in the area of the next block or so, because there's no way they got any sleep last night.

The worst however, is they're not even done yet, and we still don't have water! It's past 11am! I have SOME water on hand, but not much. Do you have any idea how inconvenient it is to wash your hands with water out of a bucket? To brush your teeth? To do dishes? I also can't shower, and there's no way I can manage a sponge bath with my back in so much pain.

Hopefully they'll have the water back on soon, because this is ridiculous.

Current Mood: annoyed
Saturday, December 27th, 2014
1:50 am
Christmas Dinner
I'm mainly posting this "for future reference" but since it won't be private, I'll try to make it... cohesive? legible?... something like that.

So I had my Mom over for Christmas this year. It's usually just the two of us, since my parents are split up, and Dad wants nothing to do with her (ever again), and Matt still isn't on speaking terms with me. So yeah, it's just the two of us. An added note is that Dad isn't even in town at the moment anyways (I spent time with him on the 20th). He left before Christmas to go spend the holidays with Grandma and our French side of the family up in Lac Mégantic (I wasn't planning to go, but I didn't get an invite either).

That said, I usually go to Mom's place for Xmas dinner, but last year she mentioned that it's so much work that she might not bother next year, so I offered to do it this year (and probably again next year, honestly, since I love to cook for people).

She and I had bought turkeys on sale around Thanksgiving time (10Lb turkey for under 9$), and I decided to brine this one. Mom had done a brined turkey a few years ago, and it was salty (she hadn't rinsed it) but AMAZING. This was both my first brining experience, as well as my first turkey cooking attempt (I've cooked chicken, but never a whole turkey). This meant that I had to borrow Mom's roasting pan, and she lent me a cooler to soak/defrost the turkey.

I looked up LOTS of information and recipes on brining, regarding concentration ratios, soak times, etc. There seems to be no clear consensus. Some people suggest only soaking the turkey for 4-5 hours while some people soak it for 2-3 days. This depends (to a certain degree) on the concentration of salt-to-water, but most places recommend a 5% ratio (I worked this out to 3 Tbsp salt to 4 cups water, and it worked just fine for me). I soaked the turkey from 8pm (on the 24th) to around 10am the next morning, so roughly 12 hours. I had added about a Tbsp of peppercorns and a few bay leaves in with the brine water. I don't know if this made much difference.

After brining, you MUST rinse the bird. Mom forgot this step when she had done it the first time, and it ends up too salty. If it's rinsed it will be just perfect.

After rinsing, several people suggest patting it dry, and letting the bird "air dry" for up to 2 days (which seems RIDICULOUS) and others say to pat it dry and put it directly into the oven. I went in the middle, and just patted it dry, and got it ready in the roasting pan*, and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours (roughly 10am - 1:30pm).

Cooking time. This pissed me off. Obviously for perfect doneness, you need to use a meat thermometer, but I don't have one, and I usually eyeball these things, so I was relying instead on established cooking times. According to web sources, a 10Lb turkey should have taken between 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 hours to be perfectly cooked (at 325F). I made SURE my oven wasn't too hot by using an oven thermometer, and put it in the oven at 1:30 (at exactly 325F), planning for it to be perfectly cooked by 5pm.

This, of course, didn't work out. I checked the turkey at 4:00pm, and it was perfectly done (1 hour EARLY!). Lots of clear juices in the bottom of the pan and the legs had spread open, with the top skin nicely crisped (but not super golden or dark - since this is a brined bird). It was completely clear just by looking at it that it was fully cooked.

So I called Mom and she came over just after 4:00 while I got the rest of the side dishes ready. I told her everything should be ready for 5pm**.

*I'll just quickly note that I had lined the bottom of the roasting pan with a layer of halved potatoes, and a slivered onion. This worked out WONDERFULLY to keep the bird up off the bottom of the pan, and we also ended up with some wonderful roasted potatoes soaked in turkey drippings.

For the other side dishes, I made stuffing from scratch (for the first time - having only seen my aunt do it once, and having only vaguely looked up a few basic recipes). I used something like 8 chopped, and oven dried panini buns as my bread base, then roughly 1 cup diced onion, with 1 cup diced celery. Roasted that in butter, and added Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage (I had no Parsley left). Once that was 90% cooked, I soaked it with boxed chicken broth and cooked it a bit more, then tossed that into my bread crumbs.

Then, I cooked a double box of sliced mushrooms, and added those to the bread crumbs, along with more boxed broth and a bit of the turkey drippings until I had the consistency I wanted. Most stuffing recipes then add eggs, and bake it in the oven, but Mom has an egg allergy, and I left it "done" at that point (and it was just fine, and damned good).

I also made mashed potatoes. Nothing fancy here, just sliced red potatoes with the skins on, cooked in salted water, drained, mashed, with butter, milk/cream, and a dash of garlic powder.

Another quick side dish was frozen sweet corn, and of course gravy made with the turkey drippings + rue. I also had small dinner rolls left from my party.

**Everything was ready by something like 4:57pm since we were joking around about the time, and I ended up with a few spare minutes.

To drink I had 7-Up on hand, and I also made Sangria from the leftover wine from the party (using orange slices, grapefruit slices, a pear, an apple, a few raspberries, a splash of Rum, and a splash of Triple Sec, and a bit of sugar). I forgot to also add a cinnamon stick. It turned out okay, but I thought the grapefruit gave it a rather bitter taste, so I added a bit more sugar.

Eventually (later that night), I ended up removing all the fruits (except the pear pieces and raspberries), adding the juice from the other half of the orange, a bit more sugar, and a splash of Fragoli Straberry liqueur. It's not too bad now, and I'm slowly drinking the rest of it.

For dessert, I got a store bought pumpkin pie (sadly without whipped cream or ice cream). I planned for coffee with the pie, too, but we were pretty full and I didn't end up making any.

So yeah, the turkey was awesome (moist and delicious, and "pre-salted" without being overly salty). I was also very happy with how the stuffing turned out. I almost made cranberry sauce from scratch, but the store had none left (and we didn't really need it), and I also thought about making carrots, but we had more than enough food, especially for just 2 people.

This isn't the most glamorous photo, but it's the only one I took, and it gives you an idea of what I made, and how it turned out. The round piece in the bottom centre is one of those potatoes from under the turkey (since it looks a bit odd in the photo).

Side note: The photo is actually today's leftovers, since I didn't take any photos during the actual "fancy" dinner with the good china, so it looks a bit more sloppy since it all came out of a pan off the stove top.
Sunday, September 28th, 2014
12:22 am
Harry Potter
So recently, I've been in a "reading mood" and I've decided to finally read the Harry Potter series. As I'm reading them, I'm also re-watching the movies. I just finished the third film, which is prompting me to write this post.

For the most part, I thought that the first 2 movies followed the books EXTREMELY closely, and the parts that were cut out of the book were extremely minimal. Most of the important dialogue was also identical to the books. But having just re-watched Prisoner of Azkaban (the third film), I'm left a bit pissed.

They changed SO MUCH STUFF. Seriously. It didn't follow the book at all. The main story is basically the same, but several major events were put completely out of order (Harry receiving the Firebolt broom), and huge chunks of the story were taken out. Some, admittedly, for length (as I'm sure it will be for the rest of the films, since the books went from 300 pages to over 600), but what's annoying is that in this film, they added a few scenes that weren't in the book. Some of the important main story dialogue was also modified (for no apparent reason).

A few major differences (off the top of my head):
- Aunt Marge doesn't float out of the house.
- There is no mention of shrunken heads on the Knight Bus (or in the tavern at Hogsmeade).
- There is no mention of a clock tower at Hogwarts (and in the film it is featured prominently in many scenes).
- Harry never gets the chance to step up to the Boggart before Lupin sends it back into the cupboard (it doesn't transform into a Dementor). As it's explained later, Lupin was afraid the Boggard would transform into Voldemort, and freak-out the whole class.
- There is no mention of that long wooden bridge (and when Harry and Lupin have their conversation about the Boggart, it's in his classroom, not on the bridge).
- Harry receives the Firbolt broom at CHRISTMAS, and then Hermione is worried it might be from Sirius Black (because the broom came with no note), and it is confiscated by professor McGonagall who has professor Flitwick check it over for hexes (which takes weeks). Harry finally gets the broom back just in time to use it in the following Quidditch match (and he wins).
- Snape brews a potion for Lupin to keep him from changing into a werewolf. There's a whole mini-drama where Harry thinks Snape might be trying to poison Lupin, and when they're in the Shrieking Shack, Snape had been on his way to give Lupin his potion, which is when he saw the map, and went after them.
- The conversation (back story) about Sirius Black at the tavern between the teachers happens with Harry, Ron, and Hermione sitting in the tavern at another table (next to the teachers), and they hide Harry under the table.
- The whole scene with Malfoy in front of the Shrieking Shack (snowball fight) happens completely differently, Hermione wasn't even there, it happens at night/evening. Harry is seen by Malfoy, and has to run back to the castle in the secret passage before Malfoy can tell on him (because he wasn't allowed to be in Hogsmeade). This is when Snape catches Harry in the hallway with the map.
- Speaking of the map, Peter Pettigrew is never seen on the map by anyone except professor Lupin, after he confiscates the map from Harry/Snape.
- The scene at the end with all the Dementors and Sirius is also different. In the book, Harry is also with Hermione: the three of them being attacked.
- Etc, etc.

So yeah, really mixed feelings on this one. I know that this one was a different director, but still used the same producer as the first two. It also had the same writer, so I don't know why it was so different.

As I'm flipping through info on Wikipedia right now, I'm incredibly surprised to read this: "However, it was, at the time, the most highly acclaimed film of the series, and is widely considered by critics and fans to be the best installment of the franchise." Really? It's definitely not my favourite in the series.

I know this is SUUUUUPER old news by now, but if you want, please share your thoughts.
Sunday, July 6th, 2014
5:04 pm
Broken Lamp
I've been looking for a while for this whale oil lamp that I've had packed away. I looked for it on at least 3 or 4 occasions over the past month or so, and I finally found it today. I wasn't happy with how I found it though:

Broken in half.

It's a clean break (in the best possible spot), and I actually discovered that it was already broken here. There was a thin layer of clear adhesive, which I then removed. I will be able to re-repair the lamp, but it's a bit sucky. The lamp will actually be a good candidate for some Hxtal. Hxtal is a very expensive specialty glass adhesive (used by museums on irreplaceable items like the Portland Vase) that I've been meaning to buy for a few clock related restorations. I have one beautiful original glass tablet from the 1840s with a vertical crack that I wanted to repair with this glue. It takes over a week to set, it goes on very thin and liquidy and dries crystal clear. It's supposed to dry strong enough that if there's any excess, it must be ground-off.

Side notes: the original pewter burner and collar were horribly butchered, and unrepairable, so those also need to be remade/replaced. This is a rather beautiful lamp from around 1830-40.
Friday, June 20th, 2014
11:32 pm
In Memory of Claudio Lake
This post is something I want to write down partly to share, and partly to get it off my mind.

On June 19th, just the other day, Claudio (also better known as CMaddoxBiitch, or Maddox Madison) https://www.youtube.com/user/CMaddoxBiitch died of skin cancer.

Claudio was a gay drag queen from NY city, and he was good friends with several of the other gay YouTubers that I follow/watch. He wasn't one of the YouTubers that I watch frequently, though, and I wasn't subscribed to his channel, but he was often featured in other videos and he was a great guy. I've seen him in dozens of videos over the past several years, so I knew him through those.

A month ago, he was admitted to the hospital, and diagnosed with skin cancer. He had started treatments/chemo, and as far as everyone knew, he was doing well. Then just out of the blue we find out that he died. It just seemed to come completely without warning. Like the flick of a switch. Many of his friends had been talking with him just the day before, and he had just uploaded a new video on the 17th.

I just feel so shocked by his death. It's been on my mind all day. Everything seemed to be going fine, and everyone thought he would get through this and come back stronger than ever, but it wasn't meant to be.

It's also really heartbreaking because he was just too young. 28. Two years younger than me. He had his whole life ahead of him, and now that future is all gone. Just a month ago everything was fine and normal, and now he's dead.

I can't imagine how heartbroken his family and friends are.

Life is short. Make the most of it.
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
12:34 am
Aloe Vera
Everyone knows what Aloe Vera is (or at least you should, unless you've been living under a rock), but not that many people know that you can eat it, or how to prepare it.

If you've ever played around with the cutting off a leaf, it's kind of an otherworldly experience.

When you cut through a leaf, the interior is entirely filled with a clear gel, with just a thin green outer layer. The gel looks kind of like clear Jell-O but once you start cutting it, or playing with it, it quickly turns into SLIME. And I seriously mean it when I say slime. It drips, oozes, and it's a bit sticky. It's kind of like runny eggs, but kind of semi-solid? If you watch the first part of the video below you'll see exactly what I mean.

The gel on its own has pretty much zero flavour, but can have a very mild bitterness. It's often added to things like juices and smoothies, but blending it too much makes for a foamy drink (and that doesn't seem too appealing to me particularly).

The reason I'm writing at all about aloe is because today I had to finally deal with my aloe plant, which has become some kind of Frankenstein abomination over the past few years.

I don't even remember when I bought the darn thing, but I do remember it was at a yard sale, and I'm pretty sure I bought it while I was at the apartment, likely around 2004-5 ish. So nearly 10 years.

In that time, it has grown continually, and over the years has lost a bunch of its lower leaves. Some leaves were damaged, and eventually it got so large that it was supporting itself against the window glass.

About a year or two ago it finally collapsed out of its pot, and started growing kind of sideways off the shelf/bench I've got it on. It also started to have a bunch of small babies which grew quickly. Some of these I grew in a new pot, one other I left, and some got picked off.

Fast forward to today, and this is how awful it was looking:

For the sake of clarity, this shows the bottom leaves pushed back, and you can see how the stem curves out of the pot.

It literally took up the entire width of the dining room table (3 feet).

So anyways, I cut off the entire bottom after doing a bit of research, and I pulled off several additional leaves, and stuck it in a new pot. Apparently it should be fine, and it should regrow some new roots. If it doesn't, and it dies, then I still have several baby plants. I have 3 to give away, one set aside for Lynne, the original root stock with 2 babies, and one other small one that I'm keeping. 7 plants total, with 4 being given away.

So after all that trimming, I had a bunch of leaves left (which you can see in the first photo) and I wanted to try some.

If you want to prepare aloe for eating, there's really only 2 things you need to be aware of; 1: don't eat the green part, and 2: the plant will ooze yellow sap around the edges when you break off a leaf, or cut it. While this sap isn't toxic, it smells like really bad b/o and is a strong laxative. Generally when you are preparing the aloe, they suggest that you soak the fresh cut leaves in a large container of water for 5 minutes, and that once you cut off the green bits, you just rinse them in clean water to make sure they're free of any sap.

The most informative video I found online is this one, but it's 30mins long, so you can skip ahead.

So how did I prepare mine? I just cut about a 3" section of a nice fat leaf (you want to use a nice plump one, and not one that's thin or partially dried out), and I pared off the green bits, which left me with a gelatinous rectangle of slimy flesh, and I rinsed it, and finely diced it. I then added it to some sparkling lemonade very much in an imitation of the very popular "Aloe Vera Juice" which is just floating aloe vera chunks in white grape juice (and it's awesome!) My version is pretty much the same thing, but with fairly big chunks since I can't cut them quite small enough.

In related house plant news, the Lemon Tree is still alive and well. It's had several ups and downs over the past few years, and last year it was nearly 6 feet tall again, so I chopped it down practically to nothing, and since then it has come back quite beautifully, and it has put out a really nice array of branches. It's no longer leggy and random looking. It still has never flowered though, which is quite discouraging.

It is, however, healthy and beautiful, which makes me very happy with it currently. I keep pinching off the tips to encourage side growth. I'm hoping I can keep it about this size.

For those who don't know, or can't remember, I had grown this tree from seed several years back. I remember it almost like it was (not quite) yesterday. I was at a nursery with my aunt and uncle in Kemptville one summer, and they had this large tree at the end of a table in their greenhouse. I remember that from about 10 feet away, you could smell the most AMAZING and intoxicating perfume from the flowers. When we got up close to it, it was in full fruit, and hanging off the branches were what appeared to be large pale grapefruits. I asked one of the employees there what kind of tree it was, and he said it was a lemon! They had just left the fruit on it, and the lemons get huge and turned pale.

From that instant I became somewhat obsessed with growing one of my own. Growing a tree from seed was actually very easy, but fruit/flowers aren't guaranteed. It can be anywhere from 1 to 10 years from planting. If you buy one from a nursery you have a much higher chance of success, but I was broke then, and I didn't want to pay 40-50$.

I just took about a good half hour to track down the old posts. The original visit to that nursery was at the end of May 2005, and the lemon seedlings had sprouted by early June:

So the tree is almost 9 years old already. Wow. Time flies.

Current Mood: cheerful
Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
4:02 pm
I've pretty much abandoned my recipe LJ, but I made this recently, and I wanted to post it.

World's Fastest Cabbage Soup

Here's a soup that I've made a few times with good results. The basic soup has only 2 main ingredients, and cooks within 5-10 minutes, but I suggest adding a few optional items.

- Shredded coleslaw mix
- Boxed chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste

- Finely minced onion
- Finely minced celery
- Finely minced/sliced baby carrots
- Pinch celery salt

Place the vegetables into a pot, and cover with chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook until tender.

Note 1: The amounts are not listed, because they are approximated.
Note 2: Try not to keep this at a rolling boil, since excessive heat will dilute the flavour in your chicken broth. My soup was ready in about 6 minutes, and it was excellent.
Sunday, March 23rd, 2014
11:48 pm
My Settee Project (Part 4)
Finishing the Settee

The settee has been finished and brought home for a week now (Monday the 17th) and I've been procrastinating about writing-up this last part.

I was excited when my fabric came in. It came in around 3 in the afternoon, and I waited until work was done to open it and unroll it. I was really lucky to find that although I had ordered only 5 yards, they had sent approximately 7 because it was the end of the roll. As it turns out, I would end up needing those two extra yards!

The pattern was a bit brighter and more "lime green" than I had thought, but otherwise, it was pretty much what I was expecting.

Continuing with my seat, I fixed the cotton (removed some from the front) and finished my rough cover.

Next, I prepared and sewed my cover. Originally I wasn't going to have a piping running across the front edge, but Pierre suggested that I put one to "square-up" the look of the seat.

Because there's a piping there, I wanted to match-up my fabric band. Basically, because there's a sewing there (the seat cover is 3 pieces consisting of the seat, piping, and front band) you lose an inch of the pattern if you use the same piece. In order to match the pattern, you need to cut both pieces (main seat and front band) from two separate places on your fabric to have the seam allowance needed on both pieces. Does that make sense? Basically you need to waste quite a bit of fabric to avoid having the pattern mismatched at the piping seam.

To make things even worse, I cut my front band WRONG (the pattern ended up in the wrong spot), which wasted most of 2 yards of fabric that could have been used as my side arms or possibly the back panel.

Once the seat fabric was finally put together properly (photo above) and tacked in place, I started working on the back. It's at this point that I realized that all the added height of the finished seat made it VERY difficult to add the webbing, burlap, and other "foundation" work on the frame. It should have been in place after the springs were covered, and the edge roll was reattached, but before any stuffing was done on the seat.

It was difficult to do, but I managed to get the back webbing and burlap installed.

Next was redoing the "lumbar roll". This was a padded roll of straw wrapped in burlap. I have never seen one like this, and neither had Pierre. It serves as extra support at the base of the back. I simply transferred the straw into a new burlap sleeve, and sewed it shut on 3 sides.

It was then tacked on the bottom rails, and hand-stitched to the back burlap/webbing (as before).

Here's a detail. Also note the added piece of webbing on the arm. Originally the fabric was just pulled around the burlap and stuffing of the side arms, but having a webbing here (folded in half) helps add a lot of strength in this area. Other sofas often have a wooden rail here for this purpose.

Re-installing the horsehair and moss padding.

After the moss/horsehair was a layer of new cotton, followed by the rough muslin cover.

Finished fabric:

Work on the arms was next. Burlap was added (tacked only on 3 sides - none where the webbing strap above is), followed by the original horsehair padding. This was the only photo I got of this step.

I reused some of the old cotton for the arms. I had wanted to do the same for the back panel as well, but it was unevenly worn, and I didn't use it there. The reason: the old cotton is more compacted, and has fewer gritty imperfections than the new stuff. It's also a bit thinner, and I wanted to keep the arms relatively "slim".

Patterns were cut from the existing old covers (beige stripe ones) and used on the rough covers as "test fitting" since they don't need to be 100% perfect. This is prior to nipping and tacking in place.

Rough arm covers installed:

Some adjustments were made to the patterns, and applied to the finished arm panels. These are also made of 3 pieces (top "wing", piping, and lower arm). These were matched and mirrored for height, but not matched with the back panel (which I could have done if I were super picky, and if I had a lot more fabric to work with). Additionally, the top wings were loosely matched with the arm as best as possible (the arm end where it meets the wing has a large curve, so getting a match is difficult). The left arm has a near perfect match because of the large leaf pattern that flows well into the bottom piece, but the right one was harder to match.

Side note: the seat's front band had been only temporarily tacked, since the arms wrap around under it.

Finished inside arms, along with the finished front band. This shows the piping being installed around the perimeter.

Side panel installed. Note: these are always tricky to install. There is a combination of 4 different fixing methods used on this single side panel:
- Cardboard "blind tacking" strip along the top horizontal section of the arm.
- Ply-Grip (a flexible metal edging) used along the curve of the wing top.
- Metal tacking strip along the front edge (basically a metal bar with nails in it, where the fabric is wrapped-over and tacked down.
- And a simple row of staples tacked down the backside of the sofa, as well as on the bottom edge.

Next, the back panel.

I wanted to stick with historic materials, so I used stretched burlap panels as a stiffener here.

The shallow curve was carefully tacked using cardboard strips (along the top), and metal tacking strips on both sides.

The last step was the bottom fabric. I used our "better" bottom fabric, hand tacked in place.


Finished sofa as seen in my living room (note that the colours from the shop above are closer to the actual colours, and they look darker/dimmer in my house photos below).

Sunday, March 16th, 2014
8:25 pm
My Settee Project (Part 3)
Alright, it's time for part 3 of 4 for the Settee project. I finished the settee yesterday (Saturday the 15th) after another 11 hours of work on it. I went into work at 8:30am, and I finished the loveseat at 7:30 (quick note: I may go back and forth between loveseat and settee but I'm always talking about the same piece of furniture).

I might have posted the finished piece today, but I forgot my camera at work with all the final photos. Fortunately I have many of the other photos still to share for this third post.

This post will deal with the restoration of the frame, refinishing the legs, and all the steps involved in the reupholstering of the seat (installing webbing, springs, tying, stuffing, etc.)

When I last left you, I was finally down to a bare frame:

As you can see, someone had sanded all the finish off the 4 legs. The legs (as well as the entire frame) are made of solid birch. They were originally stained to look like mahogany. You can still see some of the stain on the tops of the legs, as well as some of the stain that overlapped onto the wooden frame pieces.

The entire frame was loose, so it all had to come apart.

While most of the frame pieces were in good shape, I repaired several sections that had chunks of wood torn out, or large missing chips. This included one entire strip along the right hand side, and 4 smaller patches. These were fitted with the use of a router, and small pieces of birch, glued with carpenter's glue.

Once all the patches were fitted, and trimmed, all the old holes in the frame (from thousands of tacks and staples) were patched with a urethane glue. This is a modern "construction adhesive" that we use for the same purpose at work, and it dries to a hard rubbery consistency, which helps hold staples better than something like wood filler (which just crumbles).

The frame was originally held together with hide glue (aka "hot hide glue", or animal protein glue, which is made from hides and bone, and has been used for over 1000 years). Because of this, it was easy for me to take apart, and reglue with new hide glue. I prefer to use hide glue for 4 reasons:
- It keeps the piece historic.
- It is reversible (it dissolves in hot water).
- It sticks to itself, so you don't need to painstakingly scrape all the old glue joints.
- It is an ideal glue for chairs and high-wear pieces of furniture because it creates a rock hard immovable joint similar to epoxy. A lot of other modern adhesives have a flexible joint, which eventually fails (especially when used on chairs).

The drawbacks to hide glue are:
- It's a huge mess (although it cleans up easily with water).
- It takes a few hours to prepare the glue before you can use it.
- You have to apply it while it is hot (and be careful not to overheat it), and clamp it within just a few minutes.
- It needs to dry for at least 24 hours.

Let me just say: This was a HUGE pain in the rear to put together by myself on the living room floor. I could not find all my strap clamps, which made things harder, but I eventually managed. I used a tourniquet diagonally in the frame to ensure that the frame would stay square while it dried.

You will also note the refinished legs. These were stained with some aniline dye stain that I had on hand, and top coated with hand-brushed and wax-polished shellac (again, to keep it historic).

One of the two small arm patches:

At one point, someone had taken a chunk out of the centre bar and fitted it incorrectly, so I filled-in this section with a block (mostly just for looks).

Here was the repaired frame once I brought it to work, ready for upholstery:

The first step was the installation of new jute webbing. We use this webbing on all our antique restorations, and we prefer to use as much as possible, to help make the upholstery last longer. If you will recall from previous photos, my sofa originally had only 4 vertical straps per side, and 3 horizontals.

Once the webbing is installed, the springs are attached. Usually we use "hog rings" which are metal rings, crimped to the springs and into the top layer of webbing. For this sofa, and simply out of personal preference, I chose to hand-stitch the springs instead. This is way more time consuming, but I just prefer it. This is the hand-stitching as viewed from the underside.

Here's the 4-way tie which I did on "day 2".

The original spring ties were just a 4 way tie (as above), but I definitely wanted an 8-way, which is far superior, stronger, and will prolong the life of the upholstery. The 8 way was finished on day 3.

After the springs were done, they were covered in burlap, and then the burlap was hand-stitched to the tops of the springs to keep it in place.

The next step was to install, restore, and re-stitch the front edge roll. The original edge roll was simply wrapped over in fresh burlap, and re-stitched over the top to preserve the original shape and firmness.

Half way through the first row:

Edge roll finished, and top-stitched to the burlap/springs. The edge roll took several hours to do.

The next steps involve the re-stuffing of the seat padding over the springs. You will notice some white cloth which I didn't mention. This was just another layer of canvas added over the burlap to help contain the straw/dust. The first layer of stuffing is about an inch of straw.

Slightly more is added at the front to fill the small hollow behind the edge roll.

After this is the layer of moss and "lower grade mixed hair".

Followed by the lovely black horsehair (with a few previously repaired patches in a light coloured hair). The whole thing then gets loosely stitched all the way through into the burlap over the springs, to keep all the stuffing from shifting around.

The last layer is cotton (aka cotton felt), followed by a thin muslin cloth. In this photo, I had way too much stuffing over the front, and I had to redo the front part again to square it up. Not shown is also a thin layer (a band) of original moss which was stitched over the front of the edge roll.

More soon!
Monday, March 10th, 2014
9:06 pm
My Settee Project (Part 2)
As I mentioned in my last post (Part 1), I really didn't expect to have too much trouble with this settee, but oh boy was I wrong.


The first piece to come off was the bottom, followed by the back. As soon as I took the back panel off, I cringed.

Now, from my perspective, the image above is just horrifying, but let me explain why. First, the awful added elastic webbing (the black and white straps), and second, I can spot at least 3 different fabrics (not a good sign). The last upholsterer also didn't pad the back very well, and you can see just the loose sheet of yellow foam along the bottom. There's also the "ply grip" which is a really cheap and lazy way to attach the back sides (the metal edging along both sides). Ply-grip is meant for CURVES, not straight sections, but we see this fairly often.

Moving along, I removed the rest of the back panel along the top curve of the sofa, and then I partially un-tacked a section of fabric. This revealed FOUR LAYERS!

In the photo above (working from the outside-in) is:
- Top "current" green leaf fabric.
- Rough corduroy-looking beige fabric. Plus a layer of cotton padding.
- Beige and brown striped fabric (see top corner of the picture), with more cotton.
- Dark green fabric.

This was going to be hell.

For those new to upholstery, when you redo a piece, you're supposed to remove the old fabric and start fresh, but in a lot of cases, lazy upholsterers will just cover over the old fabric, and add additional padding wherever it's needed. This is an awful way to work, and leaves you with an overly puffy looking (and often lumpy) sofa or chair.

In the case of this poor sofa, they covered over it THREE TIMES, and it meant that I'd have to strip the frame down three times as well (which is like doing 3 sofas).

Here was layer 1 removed (the green leaf print). Note the added padding, which they just glued over the old fabric.

Under the padding is almost a fully upholstered sofa. This was a very thick and rough fabric, probably from the 70s or 80s. This was held in place with staples. Also note that there's now about a half inch strip of red showing at the top of the legs, because the top of the legs were buried in the upholstery.

I should have taken more "in-between" shots like this one. This is layer 2 being removed. You can see the third layer, and more excess cotton padding.

This layer was a real mess. Whoever did the sofa in the 70s or 80s did a really terrible hack job while trying to adjust the collapsed front of the sofa.

They had cut off the front piping, and tucked this red piece of fabric into the seat, with added foam stapled on the front. They had also glued cotton over the front edge (you can see the glue line).

Here's another "layer" photo.

Above (top to bottom):
- Top fabric (possibly as old as the 1930s or 40s).
- Thin layer of original(?) cotton padding.
- Green rough cover.
- Layer of horse hair.
- Some random piece of garbage fabric (I have no idea why this was added here, but it was only about 12" deep and not attached anywhere).
- Original burlap, coils, and bottom stuffing layers.

Here you can see layer 2 (the beige 70s or 80s fabric) fully removed, showing the third layer, possibly from the 30s or 40s. Pierre said this could even be as old as 1910 or 1920, but it's hard to say for sure. It's not the original fabric, though, because there were stuffing repairs under this, and evidence of possibly a navy blue cover and/or a violet/purple cover.

Layer 3 being removed:

Here's the bottom of the sofa, with straw and lots of dust falling out. You can also see that whoever sanded the finish off the legs didn't even bother to do the bottoms properly.

Layer 3 fully removed. The green is likely just an old (replacement) rough cover, since it was directly over the horse hair. If you're not familiar with upholstery: you can't have horse hair directly under your good fabric, because it will poke through. It needs to have a layer of cotton over it (at the very least).

Now it's been DAYS (at least 3-4 days on and off by this point), and this is where things (for me) really start to get interesting. Here you can see the beautiful horse hair layer. The white patch on the right arm is a patch done in cotton, and there are two or three lighter patches of hog hair in the original horse hair seat pad (old repairs).

You can also see the crushed/collapsed front edge roll. This is a stiff, hand-stitched, edge done with burlap, straw, and moss/horsehair stuffing to keep the front edge of the sofa crisp. Since the burlap doesn't last forever, it should have been repaired and re-stitched, but no one ever bothered to do it. What you see is still the original upholstery foundation.

With the horse hair removed (it's like a big mat and stays together in large pieces) we're starting to get down to the bare frame, but we still have a way to go.

In the photo above, you can see that the back panel has a straw-stuffed lumbar roll (something I haven't run across until now), and that the seat stuffing is toast (the springs are all popping out).

Here's a detail of the front edge roll.

Top burlap removed, and the seat stuffing layers removed and flipped over on the floor. The seat stuffing consists of a layer of straw, followed by a mix of moss and hair (not horse hair though, but some kind of cheaper alternative). You can see the remnants of the bottom layer of tightly woven burlap that used to cover the springs (more on this later).

Burlap removed, and spring ties removed (a lot of these were already torn and broken).

About the burlap. The old stuff was excellent quality, and very tightly stitched together. In this photo, you can see a small sample of the old burlap, next to the modern equivalent, which is a much looser weave.

Once the springs were removed, and the old webbing discarded, any remaining tacks & staples were removed, and I was finally left with a bare frame.

This is a really well made frame with nice tight joinery, and very thick rails. Our best estimate as far as age is early 1900.

Just for comparison, here's the frame from a sofa of approximately the same age (1920s). This was a really nice sofa, but you can see that the frame is made with really rough cut wood, with less precise joinery. Both, however, are still miles better than most of what's available today.

More soon.
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
10:35 pm
My Settee Project (Part 1)
I've been working for the past week on the restoration of the antique settee (loveseat) that I picked up off Kijiji (for those who aren't familiar, it's an online classifieds site similar to Craigslist) for 30$ a few months ago.

When I first saw it at the seller's house, I knew it had a fairly decent frame, coils (which are the best) and I liked the overall shape and size, so 30$ was a huuuuge bargain, and I picked it up with Mom.

I've been enjoying it and using it in my living room since I bought it, but now it's time to redo it.

Although the current upholstery was pretty recent, I knew that the sofa had problems, and everything would have to go. The entire seat was all lumpy, and some of the spring ties inside were loose. The frame joints were also loose, so the frame would need to be knocked-apart and repaired.

Someone had also poorly sanded all the finish and stain off the legs, and I wanted to get them back to their original dark mahogany colour.

Before I started to take it apart though, I had *NO IDEA* it was going to be this bad.

But before I even started working on the sofa, I had the very difficult time of browsing through fabric choices. If you've ever had to pick a wall paint, this is just as bad, or worse. I don't think you guys can imagine the sheer number of fabric books we have at the shop. Probably around 200 or more books, each having anywhere from 20-100 fabric samples each. Prices range from around 20$/yard to hundreds of dollars per yard (150$+). An average price is generally 40-60$/yard for a high quality fabric with good wearability.

Since I wanted a high-end, but decently priced fabric, I limited my choices between 2 or 3 companies (which was still around 50+ books). The following are some of the choices I was mulling over. I had thought of going with something fairly bold, possibly geometric. I also needed something that would work with my green living room, but that could also work in another room if I decided to move it (or get a larger couch, or if I repaint to a different colour, etc). I decided I should pick something either red, yellow/gold, green, black/white/grey or beige/taupe.

This one had a beautiful velvety texture, but I was worried the white would get dirty too easily.

This one was nice, but maybe a bit too modern for me, and again, I worried that the white may get dirty too easily.

These three were under serious consideration for about a week before I made my final choice. I really loved the red or yellow (see below) fabric on the right, but I didn't like the shiny/silky type feel of the fabric. The centre fabric is one that I REALLY liked, but the wear was only 9000 double rubs (which is considered "medium").

I was thinking of going with the yellow on the left, and doing a chair for the same room in this red damask.

I ended up nixing the above choices (either due to wear or because I just didn't like the look or feel of the fabric) and then pondered these two. I love both of them, but the green one was too much of a yellowish/celery colour that clashed with my green walls (see below), and the geometric one was going to look too modern.

In the end, after a LOT of frustration, indecision, and doubt, I ended up picking this one.

It's a medium sized print, has good wear, it's similar to what's on the sofa currently (which I don't mind), it's somewhat period looking for the piece, and it has a nice feel to it. It also doesn't clash with my green walls, and the colours won't show dirt too much, so I don't need to be constantly worried about ruining it. It pretty much crossed everything off my list. Another small side note is that I could still use some red (or yellow) throw pillows on the sofa to give a punch of colour to the room.

More soon.
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
9:27 pm
Dealing With Feathers!
I just posted about the wonders of feather pillows in my last post, but this one deals with the darker and messier side of these wonderful pillows.

If you have ever seen a movie with a pillow fight in it, with feathers flying in every direction, you can't really appreciate the sheer mess this would create in your home. It's almost unimaginable. If the pillow is a fairly high quality one, the filling will have a lot of down in it, and the down is as light as air. It will get EVERYWHERE, and coat every surface it touches (including walls).

How do I know this? Well, today we re-stuffed a large feather pillow for our latest sofa project. IT WAS A MESS. Pierre hates doing feather pillows, and luckily we rarely need to do them. In most cases, you just need to make a new down-proof "extra" slipcover over the old pillow to help contain any leaks, but in the case of this particular pillow, the pillow had been poorly redone some time ago, and it was about 3" too short side-to-side.

Here was the new pillow casing (with baffles*) and the existing old pillow on the right, which had to have its feathery innards transferred to the new casing.

*Baffles are internal dividers which help to keep the pillow rectangular, and also help to keep the feathers evenly distributed inside. The old pillow (previously redone) did not have baffles.

This is a shot of me right after we had gotten all the feathers into the new casing. Note all the thousands of tiny little feathery bits floating in the air.

It got everywhere. In my eyebrows, eye lashes, hair, sweater, shoes, under tables, all over the floor, everywhere.

This was Pierre right after he sewed the pillow shut, and just before we started to clean up.

And ta-dah! There's the finished pillow sitting in the sofa. I'll be taking a set of photos of this sofa for the upholstery blog (http://lefebvreupholstery.blogspot.ca/) soon.

I really love how this sofa turned out. It would look awesome in my living room against my green walls. Sadly, it's not mine.

In closing, I still love feather pillows, despite having to deal with this nightmarish mess & cleanup.
Saturday, February 1st, 2014
3:32 pm
I'm wondering if anyone out there is still reading LiveJournal posts. I haven't been seriously checking LJ in years. In either case, I thought I would make an interesting post about down. Not the direction, or the emotion, but rather the kind that is found on birds.

Since I've been working in upholstery since last summer (has it been that long already???), I've come to find a huge appreciation for down & feather pillows.

Those who know me well know that I have a deep love for old things. This is evident if you've ever visited my home, browsed my blogs, or know of my interests (fine antique clocks, antiques, and cabinetmaking - to name a few). There's just something wonderful about the level of quality and craftsmanship that is found in antique items, and isn't seen these days anymore (unless you pay a premium).

Getting back to upholstery, a lot of people are shocked and appalled when they find out that some of the old pieces are stuffed with straw, horsehair, cotton, and jute. Some of our clients find that the pieces are too stiff and uncomfortable, and choose to have the upholstery changed to foam (which is sad). What a lot of people don't realize is that foam may be more comfortable, but it only lasts about 20-30 years, and then it's no good. It either becomes too soft (a common problem on sofas - where you sink into them), or it hardens and crumbles into dust (as I've seen on several chairs). This is not true for horsehair and cotton. While straw does eventually break down, for the most part it can be reused, and will usually last around 100+ years. We have done dozens of antique Victorian or early 1900s pieces with this kind of stuffing, and we can usually reuse it successfully. Horsehair and cotton will last indefinitely, and the rest of antique upholstery (the jute webbing and burlap covers) needs occasional replacement.

This brings me to feather pillows. Lately we've been working with a lot of them (a huge sofa cushion, and half a dozen loose pillows). We did a beautiful little wing chair recently which had horsehair stuffing in the arms, back, and wings (the bottom had been previously replaced), and it had a wonderful feather seat pillow. The pillow was almost 90-ish years old (we estimated the chair was around 1920-30), and despite a few small tears to the pillow lining, it was still beautiful, fluffy, and comfortable.

There isn't really anything comparable to the feel of feather pillows these days. Down pillows are even less common (feathers are much cheaper and more plentiful, whereas down is only the thin and supper fluffy "under feather" stuff). What is generally used these days as "down alternative" is just Dacron pillow stuffing, which is a fluffy polyester material, or something similar. This is what you'll find in most throw pillows and bed pillows. They feel nothing like feather pillows, and the material is much cheaper to produce. Generally, a Dacron throw pillow is 2$ while a feather throw pillow is at least 12$. Feather pillows have almost a memory foam springiness to them, and you can fluff them, and arrange them very easily. They also don't really ever form lumps (which can be a common problem with Dacron). Feather pillows also last pretty much forever (100+ years and more, occasionally needing new "down proof covers" made for them).

Here's the original label from a set of pillows we worked on recently.

The main reason for this post was to share my new-found love for down/feather pillows. I decided to buy one for my bed to see if I'd like it more than a standard pillow. Feather pillows are actually not too easy to find locally anymore. Out of the wide selection of standard pillows at the store I visited, they had ONE option for a Standard/Queen feather pillow (made in Canada!) and they were 14.95$ each. Not cheap, considering you can get a standard pillow for 4$, but also pretty standard pricing for a feather pillow, and you're paying for a much higher quality item. I tried it last night, and I actually found it very comfortable, much easier to adjust, and I'm not sorry I spent the money on it. Time will tell, but it's possible I might never go back to a standard pillow again.
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
1:16 am
Rambling Randomness
*The Following*

I just watched another brilliant episode of The Following. I still don't understand why I can't seem to convince my friends to watch it (despite my best efforts). It's just *SO* good. It's brilliantly written, has a ton of twists and turns, and the actors are all amazing.

If you haven't really heard much about the show, you may have heard of it as "that new show with Kevin Bacon in it", which really shouldn't be your reason to watch (or not watch) this show. The story revolves around a psychopath with a cult following helping him torment the protagonist (Bacon), and it's quite complicated to explain much more of it without spoiling too much. If you think you might be interested, have a look at a few teaser trailers, and at least give the pilot episode a shot. The show is still in its first season, and they're at episode 11 (which I haven't watched yet).


I've always been interested in scents in one form or another (it used to be incense, scented candles, and essential oils), but lately, I've been interested in finding a better quality/longer lasting version of my signature scent, which is Activist by The Body Shop (a beautiful comforting scent reminiscent of a root beer float). I've been watching many men's fragrance reviews on YouTube, and getting a feel for what's out there. Until recently, I had no idea that high-end fragrances could fetch as much as 500$ for a bottle (or even more than that, if you can believe it). Most designer fragrances (Dior, Chanel, D&G, YSL, and others) however, are closer to 60-100$, which seems to be the average price for a quality fragrance. Obviously since I'm so BROKE I can't go and purchase any of these, but that hasn't stopped me from sampling dozens of department store fragrances over the past few months, and there are many really beautiful fragrances out there. Currently there are 3 that I plan to buy once I have some money I can play around with.

*Procrastination & Lack of Motivation*

I seem to be stuck in this grey area. There are dozens of projects that I want to work on, and a few priority ones that I really NEED to work on, but I've been finding it difficult to get off my ass and actually do any of them. It probably goes back to the unemployed aspect of my current daily life (which seems to make me feel like I'm lacking any purpose, but not in a "no reason to live" sort of way), so I've just been wasting the hours away on the internet.

These days my daily routine seems to have become:
- Wake up around 10-11am.
- Get dressed, make a cup of coffee, and catch up on my Google Reader subscriptions (old house reno blogs mainly).
- Check other blogs.
- Possibly do 1hr of something vaguely productive: laundry, sweeping, dishes...
- Make supper.
- Watch hours of YouTube videos.
- Shower.
- Maybe watch a current TV series episode.
- Brush my teeth and go to bed (around 2am).


I don't tend to leave the house much. It seems rather pointless to go shopping if I can't/shouldn't spend on anything. Likewise, I've been managing on as few groceries as possible to save money (and also to clear out pantry stuff that I haven't previously used in years).

So yeah. Bored, but with many projects I should be working on, and no huge desire to work on them.

I guess some people might classify this as a depression, but I don't really FEEL bad, or depressed. I still see my friends weekly (and have fun), and every few days I'll get myself to work on SOMETHING. Like today, I worked a bit on the drywall in the living room: more sanding/scraping, more mud, and I finally reconnected that last electrical outlet so that I could turn the power back on in the room, which has been "off" for a few *months*.

Current Mood: blah
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
4:54 pm
For those of you who have no interest in following my house blog, I've been working (for the past month) on a large cherry bookcase. It's actually more of a "recycling" project, since all the pieces were going to be chucked into the fire pit (literally).

Basically, these large panels and doors were from a HUGE MONSTER entertainment armoire. This was just the top part, too. Basically, the owners wanted the whole thing chopped down to about a foot and a half high with a different door setup, so we had to rebuild it from scratch.

Before scrapping the old cabinet, we had the typical "does anyone want this" before we chop it up. I decided to take it home, but since it was so freakin' enormous (4 feet wide, almost 5 feet high, and over 2 feet deep) I had to chop it down into manageable pieces.

It's getting closer to finished, but I still have several bits left to do: door fretwork, cut shelves, route backboards, a bead moulding to mill/install, and the back panel(s) for the upper section.

You can see all the related threads and photos here:

The new 2 tier bookcase measures in at 90" high, with the base being 47" wide (top) and exactly 60" tall (5 feet).
Thursday, March 14th, 2013
11:01 am
Unusual Gift
Dad stopped by the other night. I hadn't seen him in a while, and he decided to stop by after work. He also brought me a gift (for no particular occasion). He got me an Admiral Fitzroy Storm Glass (or weather glass). I knew what it was, because I've seen mini versions on antique gingerbread clocks - although they are usually broken. This one, however, is a much larger version. It's a clear glass phial about 8" tall (with a stand) and it contains a unique blend of chemicals (including camphor, alcohol, ammonium chloride, & potassium nitrate). The main liquid is clear, and there are floating white crystals in the solution (usually mostly settled in the base). Depending on the weather, these crystals will form different patterns.

It's actually really beautiful to watch the formation of crystals within the liquid. The ones currently in the glass are large flaky snow-like crystals (the kind you'd see on frosted-over bus windows as a kid). These crystals started forming after it settled, and they correctly indicated that snow was coming (it snowed last night).

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