Monday, July 30, 2012

Kitchen Design For Dogs

As a dog owner I am aware of how my home and my pet "fit".  Gates, water dishes and dog beds all impact how some rooms are designed.  We've recently had a couple dog "guests" in our home, which started me thinking about the number of times I've had to design a kitchen around the family pet.

By far the most common design request I receive for pets is a sleeping space.  This can be as simple as a space along the wall without cabinetry so your pooch can lie down, or something a little more elaborate with a raised platform with cushions and storage.  Remember dogs like to flake out in several different positions, some curl up, some stretch out.  Gromit used to lie on her back sometime.  Make sure you measure the actual space the dog uses when it sleeps, and also make sure there's room for it to turn around (and around and around ... ) as it tries to get comfortable.  And if you're considering a raised platform, consider the age and breed of the dog.  Some dogs (German Shepherds for example) suffer from bad hips as they age possibly making a raised bed too difficult to climb into.

Next to sleeping Gromit, like most dogs, liked to eat.  If a kitchen is large enough it's quite simple to build in a dedicated eating space.  Since dogs are creatures of habit training them to go to the same place for din-dins is simple and if designed properly the dog's dining area is a nice way to show everyone that your pet is an important part of the family.  Make sure the surfaces used are appropriate for the amount of abuse they will suffer ... anyone who's seen a hungry dog inhale a bowl of kibble will know what I mean.  The stainless steel bowls in the island shown here are a great choice, not just because they're easy to keep clean, but also because they're removable.  I'm not so keen on the painted surface around it ... let's just assume it's a plastic laminate shall we?

The biggest problem we had in the kitchen with our dogs had nothing to do with sleeping (Jacks are small and will sleep almost anywhere) but with eating ... in particular storing the large bags of dog food (thanks a LOT Costco).  We've solved the problem with a roll-out shelf in the pantry and a storage tub we picked up at some Scandinavian housewares store.  The food is easily accessible although filling the tub presents a bit of a problem for my wife (it's a height thing).

This is a solution I have used several times.  There are several pull-out waste/recycling bins on the market but I find this one from Richelieu to be one of the best.  The "Euro-Cargo" line has different configurations with different sizes and numbers of tubs.  Whichever accessory you select, be sure the tubs are removable.  You'll thank me when the tubs start smelling a little "funky".  

You may have noticed all my examples here are canine.  I am a dog person, with no experience (or desire to have any) with cats.  If you're a cat person, it shouldn't be to difficult to translate these into your world.  Cat's aren't that bright after all.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Great Design: Office Space

Back in April I received an email from Useful Spaces reader Lorena Laurencelle of Yulu Communications regarding an office project they had just completed. No, it's not a kitchen, but the design of their new 300 square foot office on Granville Island can teach us a lot about good design and the value of working with a qualified designer.

The full report can be found on Yulu's blog, but I wanted to focus on a couple aspect of the project. First, the designer had the challenge of squeezing three work stations, a kitchenette and room for a boardroom table into the small space. This wasn't just about figuring out what would physically fit, but what would work with the work flow of the office. A boardroom table isn't much good if it prevents someone from opening their file drawers while it's being used.

There is in fact a small kitchenette in their office as well. By using a bar fridge and finding space in one of the drawers for drying dishes, Katie Schomaker (interior designer and owner of Katie Kovets) was able to free up counter space and keep lunch-time clutter from the rest of the office.  This is similar to trying to hide post-dinner clutter from the dining room in an open concept kitchen.

My favourite point from Lorena's post however was her discussion of the benefits of using a qualified designer to help with your project:
Some may feel that bringing a designer on is a luxury that they can’t afford but with the savings we had access to through Katie’s inside wholesale rates, we just about broke even. 
I would add that a qualified designer can sort out a solution to your problem more quickly than if you attempted to design a complicated room like an office or a kitchen on your own.  The experience we have leads us to a design solution sooner and more efficiently.

Thanks to Lorena for sharing this!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Colonoscopy: Looking After Myself

I try not to use Useful Spaces to discuss personal matters.  Occasionally I'll write a restaurant review, or give you a peak inside a vacation I've taken.  But I'm not here to discuss things that don't relate somehow to the kitchen or kitchen design.

My Mom - Rev. Marj (d. 2005)
Today I'm breaking that rule because I feel the subject is important enough.  Last week I went into the hospital for a colonoscopy.  There's nothing to worry about.  I'm fit as a fiddle, but there is a history of colon cancer in my family.  I lost my mother and my maternal grandmother to it.  It's affected close friends as well.  So rather than hide from it I decided to be proactive and get checked out.

I'd been trying for 3 years to get in for the test.  I suppose because the medical system in Canada is socialized my doctor weighed the risk factors and thought the procedure wasn't called for initially.  I was more than 20 years younger than when my mother was diagnosed (a common benchmark is 15 years) and in good health (non-smoker, fit, little red-meat in my diet, etc.).  Even the specialist I saw this year was reluctant to perform the procedure on me, but once he found out my younger brother had his colonoscopy a few months previous (same specialist) he agreed it was a good idea.

The day before the colonoscopy I had to prep my bowels.  Translation: they needed to be flushed out.  (The more squeamish of you can skip this part).  I ate nothing for 30 hours beforehand, and was only able to drink clear liquids.  No milkshakes, no smoothies and worst of all no coffee.  I endured two suppositories and an enema and countless trips to the washroom.

Then there was the Peg-Lyte.  4 litres of a "fruit flavoured" beverage that helped further clean my bowels and replenish some of the nutrients I was missing from not eating.  My brother had warned me about this stuff.  His words were "the procedure isn't bad at all.  It's the preparation that sucks."  At first the Peg-Lyte was tolerable.  Kinda like Tang but with a slightly medicinal aftertaste.  2 litres in and I was really understanding what my brother was talking about.  3 litres in and I was ready to toss the rest of it down the drain.  It's not that it tasted horrible, but after 4 litres of anything you're going to get tired of it.

I woke the next morning feeling cranky, but otherwise fine.  It was like a day with a stomach flu, but without the nausea.  I felt a little light-headed from the hunger but could easily have gone to work if I had to.  My wife drove me to the hospital for my 11:30 appointment and after saying "good luck" she left.  She hates hospitals, and I don't blame her.  As welcoming and efficient as the staff are (and they really were excellent for me) the hospital is a place that reminds us of the frailty of life.  But the alternative is much worse, and I kept telling myself that as I was taken to my bed for the day.

I undressed, put on a hospital gown and waited in my bed for the nurse to come and take my blood pressure, pulse and start an IV.  The IV was the worst part of the procedure, which is to say it wasn't bad at all ... insofar as needles go.  After about a ninety minute wait my time came up and I was wheeled into the procedure room.  The doctor I had met with earlier greeted me, we exchanged pleasantries about Le Tour de France (he's French) and then he explained the procedure.

I would be sedated, then a thin tube would be inserted through my anus, through the rectum and into the colon.  The tube had a tiny video camera that allowed to doctor to look for any polyps inside.  As a side benefit, I was also able to watch the procedure on the monitor (totally optional). If anything was found another tool could be sent up inside the tube and used to remove the polyp for later examination.  The idea here is to find polyps before they become cancerous.

I was rolled over on to my side, sedated (via the IV tube, so no more injections) and watched the proceedings on the monitor.  Yeah, I was curious. I felt some slight pressure inside me ... and then awoke back in the ward, rested and not the least bit uncomfortable.  In fact, I felt like I had just had a really excellent nap.

As per hospital policy I had to wait an hour after waking up before I was allowed to go home.  The only restrictions I faced was I was not allowed to drive myself home, was not permitted alcohol for 24 hours, and I should ease into eating.  Otherwise it was business as usual.  So my wife retrieved me from the ward and we went and grabbed a milk shake.  I spent the rest of the evening watching television, catching up on lost meals and getting ready for work the next day.

We all have reasons to stay healthy.  My youngest son just graduated high school and his older brother is going to graphic design school and really starting to find his way in life.  I have a father who influences me more than he knows, and a wife who loves me more than I deserve.  Initially I was afraid of the colonoscopy.  But I owe it to the people in my life to do whatever I can to stay around as long as I can.  And so do you.

In the end (HA!) the colonoscopy was no big deal.  If by reading this post I influence you to go have yourself checked out then my sharing some mildly embarrassing moments in my life will have been worth it.

For more information on colorectal cancer and what you can do to look after yourself, please visit the Colorectal Cancer Association website.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

NIM: Espresso Via Text

Coffee is part of my morning ritual (I offer up this post as proof) and if you're anything like me you're usually enjoying that morning coffee with your iPhone, catching up on texts, Tweets and the like.  My iPhone has essentially replaced my morning paper in that respect.  Thanks to the folk at Zipwhip you may soon be able to combine your morning tech indulgence with your caffeine addiction.

Textspresso is a prototype only ... but this is the type of technology that I love!  If you let your imagination run with this you can easily see how you could text your refrigerator to see if you're out of milk, or pre-heat the oven so you can pop the roast in when you get home.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Roofing Your Home: This Time It's Personal

I remember the last time we re-roofed our house.  I had just moved into it as a renter and my father (the owner) had me coordinate the project.  It was a mess.  There were old shingles over the place, my lawn mower picked up roofing nails (and hurled them across the street at neighbour's cars) for weeks afterwards and the project lasted for almost a full week because the roofer held down another job.

A couple months ago we noticed water leaking into the lens of an outdoor light fixture mounted beneath the eaves.  After further investigation, we decided the roof of 15+ years had served its purpose and needed to be replaced.  Crap.

Working with the trades on other people's homes is a piece of cake for me.   I hire the trades, they do the work and I deal with the customers.  It's not personal.  This time it was my home, and my money; very personal.  We brought in four companies to quote the job, and I'm happy to say they all showed up when they said they would and provided their quotations when they said they would.

The company we hired to do the work was not the biggest, nor the most "professional" looking.  He was however the least expensive.  Normally, that sort of thing is a red flag for me.  In my industry "less expensive"often equates to "cheap" and "cut corners", and I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't concerned about this.

So why did we chose who we did?  Referrals.  These guys had impeccable referrals, one being from a family friend.  Each referral said these guys worked hard, worked clean and shoed up when they said they would.  That was good enough for me.

They showed up bright and early on day one, made sure the lawn was protected from the workers and the shingles they were removing.  They removed only a section at a time to be sure they'd be able to finish up an area in the event the rains came back (it's been crazy wet in Vancouver this year!).  And they worked.  Hard.  

The roofs (house and garage) were complete in two days.  That included all rubbish removed, walks swept, and the lawns run over with a magnet rake to remove nails.  For the last clean-up push they brought in a couple extra workers, and just as quickly as they arrived, they were gone and we were the proud owners of a new roof.

I'm a big believer in referrals.  In fact I base the majority of my new business on it.  Having work done on your home can be a very personal endeavour, so having someone else you know or trust tell you the people you're about to invite into (or onto) your home is extremely important.  In that spirit, I offer you the contact information for a really great roofing company in the Metro Vancouver area.  If you hire them, tell them I said "hi"

Lakeside Roofing
Wayne Gray
778 846-8717
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