29 March 2013

IKEA Vrijdag: Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit (4x4)

As I mentioned in last week's review of the IKEA Expedit bookcase (5x1), we purchased multiple Expedits for our home. They're simple and clean looking and are a great way to display books, tchotchkes, and assorted what-have-yous... In the living room in particular we needed a big bookcase - in Chicago we had 3 large bookcases just for the "grown-ups' books"and we still had a bunch of books on the floor for lack of better book housing. We cleaned out a lot of books before we moved but there were plenty that we just couldn't part with, and so in preparation for placement of the masses to come we purposely searched for a large bookcase.

We purchased an Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit (4x4) for our living room in high-gloss red. Going along with the red/white/dark blue-grey color scheme in the living room, we decided to make the bookcase a focal point as well as a way to divide the living room from the kitchen and create a better sense of two distinct spaces. Initially, we thought about getting a 5x5 Expedit but there are fewer color options, and since we liked the red so much we settled on the 4x4.

Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit (4x4)

The bookcase is made up of particle board, fiberboard, ABS plastic, and acrylic paint. The ABS plastic is known to hold up well in high-impact situations (it's used in car parts), so it's likely to survive the Little Man. The plastic is also what makes everything "high-gloss." It's easy to clean, which is good because it attracts fingerprints very easily - the bookcase needed a buffing to take off our fingerprints after we put it together and needs an occasional buffing to remove tiny finger and hand prints and paw prints.

Little Man listening to "rock and roll" - this is how we find fingerprints.

While the care of the completed Expedit is easy, the construction is not. IKEA warns you on their website and on the box that this is a two-person job, and with good reason. This thing is a monster and very heavy. When searching through the enormous IKEA warehouse at the bottom of the store, it's important to realize that the larger Expedits come in two boxes - so make sure to search for both boxes and double-check that the colors match. IKEA also points out that this should be fastened to the wall, again with good reason since this is a monster piece of furniture with a high center of gravity that attracts tippage if not secured to the wall (mounts are included with the hardware).

The general instructions are systematic and easy to follow since there really is no difference between the back and front or top and bottom. Per usual, IKEA includes the little allen wrenches in with the hardware, but unless you're a glutton for punishment you should just use a power drill. If you don't own one, I highly recommend that you borrow/rent/buy one before trying to put this together or the little allen wrench may leave you with a puddle of tears and a thumb blister worthy of a Guinness World Book record. That being said, there are three main difficulties we found when putting this piece of furniture together:

  1. Pushing sliding the pieces together. Because some of the pieces are large/longer than your wingspan, it's hard to feel like you're really getting them pushed together properly. If you have a soft mallet you may be able to push everything together more effectively, but I'm betting that a hammer is just a bad idea all around. Pushing the pieces together (with little upper body strength) caused another "sternum pop" that left me muttering under my breath for a few days.
  2. When you go to put the last piece on to "cap it off" and connect the whole contraption together. Perhaps this is related to point #1, above, or maybe it has something to do with physics that I just can't fathom or explain; but the sides seem to bend slightly outward. When you go to put the last piece on you have to use all your strength to push the sides toward the center of the Expedit to allow the holes to line up vertically for the screw to go in correctly while drilling. This also is a two-person job. 
  3. It just didn't look quite right. Once all the pieces are secured together, it still looked like they just didn't get pushed together correctly (Again, see point #1). While the Expedit was still lying on the floor, I performed what I can only describe as horizontal body slams (think short, quick rolls) against the sides of the bookcase in the hopes that maybe I would knock them into place just a little better.

We added the little soft furniture pads (included with the hardware) to the bottom piece, stood the bookcase up (again, a two person job unless you want to end up underneath it), and pushed it over against the wall to mount it. It was here that we discovered we had to unscrew one side to attach the mount to the Expedit. It would have been nice to know this before we got all the pieces together because of the leaning out issue (see point #2, above) which would only have needed to be dealt with once. It was't a big deal but it was annoying. The next day we went the additional step of adding in the little grey cabinets (to be reviewed in another entry).

When our things from the States finally arrived, we we able to just add all the books right to the shelves. Most of the shelves "settled" and the unit looks finished now, without the spaces between pieces. It adds a nice balance to our living room, and it effectively holds most of our books.

We give the Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit (4x4) 3 Swedish meatballs on our 5 meatball scale. Two meatballs were deducted for the three issues found during construction. The piece itself is holding up, but the construction was a bigger pain than anticipated for the simplicity of the design.

Life in Dutch Rating for Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit (4x4):

28 March 2013

I Heart Holland: Reason #9 - Medical Information

Just about every medicine, from paracetamol (acetaminophen/Tylenol) and ibuprofen to inhalers and antibiotics come with braille on the packaging. This is just one of those little things that because I can see well enough to read the tiny print, I never thought of until the first time I picked up medical packaging. Obviously, if you cannot see and rely on braille for reading, this is essential to knowing that you have the correct medication for yourself.

I don't know if this is a requirement by law or something manufacturers have agreed to on their own, but I think that the benefit speaks for itself.

It's a little hard to see in the picture, but if you look closely, you can see the braille over the "i"

26 March 2013

Speaking Nederlish... in Dutch... and English... (Kind of...)

There's no doubt that living in a foreign country has it's perks (i.e. a once in a lifetime experience, travel opportunities, etc); but one of the perpetual disadvantages is not being able to speak or read the language. In the Netherlands, a high percentage of the population is conversationally fluent in English, which makes it easier for us to make our way around, but there are still plenty of situations where knowing Dutch is essential, especially because you don't want to rely on a hope that someone else speaks English.We're working on learning Dutch - Mark took a course at the university back in the fall, I'm in the midst of lessons right now, and the Little Man is enrolled for 4 days a week at peuterspeelzaal to help his language acquisition - but it's so far been a slow process for all of us.

Dutch, or Nederlands as it's said in Dutch, isn't an easy language to learn. Like English and German, it's not a Romantic language and has weirdo grammatical, spelling, and pronunciation rules and exceptions, but if you already know both English and German you will have an easier time learning. When reading, there's a higher chance of recognizing a few words because of the closer relationship between Dutch and English, but listening to someone speak or attempting to speak yourself is a whole other story. There are sounds in Dutch that just don't exist in English, and when combined with certain regional dialects the whole experience of a conversation is rather painful at times. But I suppose it's not to different than most of our conversations with the Little Man and his toddler-English dialect.

More recently, the Little Man is using Dutch words more often. He's seemed to understand quite a bit for some time, but only now is he thinking to use Dutch terms himself. He'll now talk about something being "on the tafel (table)" or about how much he loves paarden en shaapen (horses and sheep) and has started to realize that there is a word in English and a word in Dutch for the same thing. We also try to use what Dutch we know at home to reinforce what he's hearing at school and encourage him to use the simple sentences we use, but he's often a step ahead of us. At Christmas, Little Man made a Christmas ornament at school and was telling me in Dutch what he had made. After repeated mispronunciations of what he was calling it, Little Man informed me with narrowed eyes and a tone that suggested the conversation was over, "It's a ball."

What's always a bit odd is how often we see and hear English phrases, particularly in advertisements. We realized that we've made our way around easier than we first realized precisely because we do seem to see English everywhere. Products even have whole phrases and sentences in English that have helped us know what it is going on immediately. HEMA, a department store similar to Target in America, often uses English on their packaging though the store primarily serves the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Many other brands and stores do the same.

From an ad for HEMA dierenvoeding (animal food) - with English as main identifier

While English is often used, it's still hard to find what you need when you don't know Dutch. Especially in the grocery stores or the markets you are less likely to find English on labels for foods and household staples. Personally, I don't think I would have been able to get around the winkels (stores) without the amazing technology of the internet and having the benefit of a smart phone. Thanks to a Google Translate app I always have, at worst, a mediocre translation of a new word to help me think through what I'm looking at. The app can also translate text when you take a picture with your phone's camera, eliminating the fat-finger typos of a language you already don't understand on a small touchscreen. Like I say, it's a lot easier now than it would have been even just 10 years ago.

With a little bit of hard work and a little bit of work, we'll figure out the language on our own and rely less and less on the amazingly helpful phrase, "Spreekt u engels? (Do you speak English?)" Or we start relying on the Little Man to translate for us...

22 March 2013

IKEA Vrijdag: Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit (5x1)

Here starts one of several Expedit series reviews. The series in general is rather versatile, and they fit well most places. The first Expedit we're reviewing is the "long and skinny" - a shelving unit that's 5 shelves in one row that can be placed vertically or horizontally. 

We use the 5x1 Expedit horizontally as a TV stand with some shelving and baskets below. We chose the stand in white to go along with the grey/red/white color scheme in the living room. This particular model is all particle board, fiber board, and acrylic paint and lacquer, so it's rather light and easy to clean off, though I'm always suspicious of the durability of "light" furniture. So far it's held up well, but it's also out of the way of regular living room traffic and Little Man is well past the point of pulling himself up and playing at the immediate surface. 

Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit - 5x1 versions

A nice thing about the Expedit series is that IKEA really wants you to purchase things to "complete" the piece, and so they offer a crazy-huge selection of additions. Baskets, cabinet and drawer inserts, casters, and even wall-mounts are all available (though some additions are not recommended for specific Expedit products - i.e. no wall mounts or casters for the 5x5 shelving piece).

Putting it together was simple enough in theory, but I came across a bit of difficulty putting it together on my own. First, if you're not paying close enough attention, it is very easy to push a dowel in too far and have it be of no use (fortunately I noticed before it was too late and had a pair of pliers close by to pull it back out). Next, while pushing the shelves together with the dowels I felt a "pop" in my sternum that continued to haunt me for a few days, which may not have happened if I did anything to ensure some sort of upper body strength, but unfortunately I figured that out after the "pop." I can't remember if IKEA recommends this to be a two person job or not, but it didn't feel that difficult ("pop" aside), especially because we had already decided to leave the Expedit in the horizontal position. IKEA does recommend that when placing vertically, you mount to the wall with the provided hardware - I would also recommend in the case you have any kind of cat/dog/child/adult with childlike coordination in your home.

In general, we're happy with the piece. We give the Expedit 5x1 Open Kast/Shelving Unit 4 Swedish meatballs on our 5 meatball scale. A meatball is deducted for the suspicious durability. 

Life in Dutch Rating for Expedit Open Kast/Shelving Unit (5x1):

19 March 2013

I Heart Holland: Reason #8 - Sprinkles for Breakfast

It is perfectly acceptable to feed your children candy with breakfast. "Sprinkles" on buttered toast in the morning is a very common breakfast food.

Toast with sprinkles

The Little Man has no complaints, and recommends peanut butter  toast with dark chocolate curls.

This picture was actually taken back in August, but the intensity with which Little Man eats sprinkles is the same.

17 March 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day from the Little Man

In recognition of the Little Man's (and Ace's) Irish heritage, we've been talking about St. Patrick. The day was approaching and several of his books make mention St. Patrick, and we were preparing for our recent trip to Ireland, so St. Patrick has been a regular conversation topic. In preparation for today, we did a little project about shamrocks. Besides the lore of St. Patrick using the shamrock to teach about the Trinity, we talked about how some people think shamrocks are "lucky." This is the Little Man's thought about what he's lucky to "have."

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

15 March 2013

To Dublin and Back Again

Our brief e-silence the past few days is due to our weekend trip to Dublin, and in lieu of our regular IKEA Vrijdag, we're providing a recap of our trip (since I know there is no way for me to write up both in a reasonable amount of time).

Seeing Ireland has been a lifelong dream of mine. Like a lot of Irish Americans, I felt a calling to "the motherland" and a wish to see part of where my ancestors came from. After our brief layover in Dublin when we flew back to the States for Christmas, I decreed (yes, my decrees have weight) that we would be visiting Dublin in short order. And so we did.

We flew on Ryanair for the first time - which was an experience in and of itself. In a way, the airline is like the Southwest Airline of Europe, but there are some stark differences. Ryanair can have ridiculously cheap airfare when you buy on a sale, but you're only allowed 1 carry-on per person (strictly enforced to the point that a small bag with the Little Man's milk cup was rather rudely assessed as unauthorized additional baggage until I said we'd shove it into another bag) and the charges for checked bags are rather high. For the first time in a very long time, we got to walk on the tarmac to the plane since Ryanair doesn't pay for gate walkways. The flight attendants are also selling something (cosmetics, raffle tickets, gross reheated airline food) for what feels like every 10 minutes.

The flight to Dublin left around 9:00 pm our local time and landed just before 10:00 pm Dublin time. We got through customs and out to a cab in good time - and made it to the hotel in about a 20 minute drive. Our cab driver was actually a Londoner who married an Irish woman and stayed in country, a little interesting that our first lengthy interaction was with someone who was not even Irish. From the driver, we learned that it was Six Nations Rugby tournament weekend and France and Ireland were playing in Dublin. This explains why the hotel/hostel prices in city centre seemed high for the weekend (we stayed in West Dublin, on the outskirts of the city). And why we saw more French speaking people than one would expect on a typical March weekend in Ireland. While walking around the streets of Dublin, there were more berets and tri-color scarves than we would have expected, though at 5 o'clock game time, they all disappeared into the pubs or the stadium. The good-natured rivalry between French and Irish fans was fun to watch, though we did pray for an Irish win - better to have a happy hometown crowd than and angry one (the game ended in a 13-13 draw).

Since our late arrival on Friday evening meant that Little Man (and his parents) needed a rest as soon as we got to the hotel, we started out on our sightseeing nice and early on Saturday morning. First, a trip on the commuter line to a trolley closer in town, and the trolley to what I thought during my planning was central to the city. As it turns out, the website for the Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) is not that clear as to how one would jump from the commuter rail to city centre, but we figured out more about the system through our trial and error.

We made our way through some historical sights and notable locations. We started at the General Post Office (GPO), the sight of the 1916 Easter Rising that ultimately led to the final push for Irish independence from Great Britain. The Irish rebels declared an independent Irish Republic, took over the post office, and declared war on Britain. The rebellion itself was quashed, though not after significant damage to the city of Dublin and near total destruction of the GPO itself. The average Dubliner did not participate in the rebellion and was angry with the rebels for the destruction that was wrought on the city; but after sweeping arrests, terrible prison conditions, and executions of the leaders (including James Connolly, who was dying of his wounds but was tied to a chair in order to be killed by the firing squad), Irish public opinion swung in support of the rebels and the Sinn Fein party whose members were primarily responsible for the rebellion. The rest led to the very messy path of an independent Ireland. The history nerd in me was awed to stand in the same place as James Connolly, Padraig Pearse, and others, and amazed that the GPO (later restored) continues to exist as a regular post office with the monotony of the "every day."

The General Post Office, O'Connell Street, Dublin

After the GPO, we made our way to Trinity College's Book of Kells display and the Old Library. The Book of Kells is a highly illustrated book of the four Gospels, written by monks in the 9th century. The detail and amazing good condition of the book make it one of the wonders of Ireland. Unfortunately, during our visit the college was having problems with the climate controlled protective case and the book was not available for public viewing. But it wasn't a wasted trip as we still got to see the Long Room Old Library, a gorgeous oaken sanctuary and display for over 200,000 of the library's oldest books.

The Long Room of the Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin

Next up, the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology. Here, the museum hold all sorts of artifacts from ancient Ireland, including "bog mummies," medieval weapons and religious artifacts, and "every day" items (fishing nets, pots, pans, capes) from across the timeline. From the museum we took a stroll through St. Stephen's Green, a beautiful public park in city centre with a rich history and memorials to commemorate great persons and events in Irish history.

Fusilier's Arch - A grand entrance in honor of the fallen Irish soldiers of the British Army during the Second Boer War

St. Patrick's Cathedral was the next stop on our walking tour. The Cathedral is named for the patron saint of Ireland who is credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland. It's believed that St. Patrick may have used a well at the site of the Cathedral to baptize new followers. The existing building has been standing since construction started in 1220, though a St. Patrick's Church is known to exist on the site since at least 890. 

St. Patrick's Cathedral, a view from the park

The building hasn't had it easy - while suffering from the usual stories of damage by storms and accidental fires, the church was claimed as an Anglican church during the Tudor Dynasty and was stripped of much of its ornamentation and fell into horrific disrepair until the building was given assistance by the Guinness family in the mid-19th century. Today, the Cathedral is the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland. Interestingly, the author Jonathan Swift was Dean of the Cathedral and is buried within the building. (As a general observation, the official website of the Cathedral is fantastic - it's worth checking out for the history and virtual tour.)

Sanctuary of St. Patrick's Cathedral

Appropriately, we visited the Guinness Storehouse at St. James' Gate after going through the Cathedral. The site has a self-guided tour explaining the brewing process, though you don't see any of the brewing at this location. There's also a load of different floors explaining the history and other aspects of the Guinness establishment. But really, the best part of the tour is the complimentary pint of Guinness.

After a walk back towards city centre, we popped into The Gutter Bookshop in the Temple Bar neighborhood, a fantastic independent book store where we picked up a book of classic Irish tales for the Little Man and a telling/memoir/historiography of the 1798 Irish rebellion for me. Since the rugby match was in progress, all the pubs were packed, but we managed to find space to sit down at the Czech Inn's pub and watched the Ireland-France game and then a Boston Bruins' hockey game all broadcast in Czech. However, the fish and chips and Guinness were just as good as anywhere else. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the next day's adventures. 

To get a good view of the countryside, Sunday was set aside for a tour of County Wicklow and the mountains. Starting from the city centre, the mountains are just a half hour drive by a coach bus, though you have to watch out for cyclists and wild goats on your drive up.

Little Man on the bus, awaiting the promise of country sheep sightings

The first stop on the tour was the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, on the site of a former British military barracks built to deal with Irish rebels in the early 19th century. Over the years the buildings have been used as a boys' reformatory school and as a refugee center for German children helped by Operation Shamrock after the Second World War. Now the non-profit organization, founded in response to the "Troubles" in Belfast during the 1970s, works with groups to promote peace and find conflict resolution. Conveniently for tourists, there is also a cafe on site for snacking on the way into the mountains.

The Armoury Cafe at the Glencree Centre, County Wicklow

Next,we stopped at Lough Tay, one of the most photographed places in County Wicklow. The small lake is between mountains and is a gorgeous view. Apparently, the Guinness family also has a lakeside estate that has hosted all sorts of celebrities over the years in part because of the view and seclusion offered by the terrain.

Lough Tay, County Wicklow

After Lough Tay, we made our way to Glendalough, a site of St. Kevin's 6th century Christian/monastic settlement and a large round tower built during the 10th century. (one of several around Ireland used as landmark for travelers, a bell tower for the calls to prayer, and sanctuary during Viking raids).

The Round Tower, Glendalough, County Wicklow

The settlement is in ruins, and much that was built with wood that has long since rotted away. Surrounding the area is several graves that were being placed well into the 19th century. Among the ruins is the old monastary building (known as St. Kevin's Church or the Kitchen), and the Cathedral. The sight is quiet and pleasant and fun to explore.

St. Kevin's Church, Glendalough, County Wicklow

After Glendalough, we stopped in Fitzgerald's pub for some lunch and a pint before moving onto Avoca Mill, the oldest running woolen mill in Ireland. They create all sorts of colorful weaves, though no weavers were on duty during our visit.

Acova Mill, County Wicklow

After a quiet ride home, we managed to find a good spot in a city centre pub for dinner before heading back to the hotel for the evening. We had one last night and our flight mid-afternoon on Monday. After getting up early, we made our way back to city centre to get a traditional Irish breakfast at the Merchant's Arch. The food was fantastic (it's hard to go wrong with bacon, potatoes, and a good thick toast, among other things), and the service was great. The Little Man even came away with a key chain of crossed American and Irish flags. We finished up our breakfast, spent a little extra time in the GPO (there's a small museum tucked to one side of the building), and caught the shuttle bus back to the airport.

Merchant's Arch Pub, Dublin - view from the Ha'penny Bridge

The trip back was uneventful (the best kind of travel), though from the Eindhoven airport there was some crazy traffic that took us 45 minutes just to get out of view of the bus stop. Luckily, things moved much faster once we got off the street in front of the airport.

While it was a short trip, it was an enjoyable one, and definitely recommended as a vacation destination. We'll be going back another time, but next time we'll stay longer.

13 March 2013

I Heart Holland: Reason #7 - Easy European Travel

It's amazingly easy to travel within Europe from the Netherlands.

Anyone that's had the chance to bop around Europe already knows that it's easy to move around - the countries are small (compared to the US, Canada and Mexico); there's a highly developed rail system; there are large commercial flights to most regions you would want to go; several European Union treaties make it easy for crossing borders between nations. 

But it's appreciated by us as our traveling ventures have had us step through at least the airports of Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, and Reykjavik. 

Coming soon, a post about our weekend trip to Dublin; and because I can, here's a "spoiler" picture from our trip.

The River Liffey and the Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin

08 March 2013

IKEA Vrijdag: Nasum Mand/Basket

We mentioned in last week's IKEA Vrijdag review of the Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table that IKEA recommended particular baskets and we disagreed...

We purchased the Nasum Mand/Basket for our Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table instead. The Nasum fits just as well into the space as the recommended baskets on the IKEA website, and we felt that the lighter coloring of the banana fibers that make up the weaving matched better to our Nordon Klaptafel/Gateleg Table that we use as our kitchen table.

Nasum Mand/Basket

The thicker weave of the banana fiber "hides" the numerous weirdo kitchen items that have been mostly dumped pell-mell into the baskets, but is also easy to pull in and out since the weave is smooth and not "bumpy" like a traditional wicker basket (the baskets were designed with the Expedit series in mind, but I think that since we're always going in and out of the baskets, these are a good choice for the Hemnes).

The most random of the weirdo kitchen items.

The assembly was easy: the baskets came flat and opened up into a box shape, and the bottom piece just drops right in, keeping the sides steady and keeping the stuff from dropping out when you pull the basket out. It's like IKEA thought of everything... The only issue with the baskets is that some feel sturdier than others - one of the bottoms in particular seems just a touch too small for the rest of the basket, but we've been able to keep lighter things in that one, though I feel like there should be a little more consistency for something mass produced like this. Since the Little Man doesn't feel the need to rummage through these baskets, they've stayed pretty clean - which is good, because I don't have a clue as to how I'd clean them after a child-related accident...

We give the Nasum Mand/Baskets 3.5 Swedish meatballs on our 5 meatball scale. Points are deducted for the seemingly random level of sturdiness to each basket.

Life in Dutch rating for Nasum Mand/Basket:

05 March 2013

A Few Additions to the Schooling Routine

The day has finally arrived when Little Man got to start two additional days of school during the week to help with his language acquisition. Since most kids only attend peuterspeelzaal two days per week the Little Man gets to make a whole new set of friends, but he has the benefit of going to the same classroom and seeing a couple of the same teachers. Dropping him off for the first day of his new schedule went easily since he already felt at home in the classroom and recognized teachers.

Picking the Little Man up proved to be easy as well, with a very happy and bouncing (literally and constantly) attitude that carried him mostly home. I say mostly, because we typically pass a small speelplaat (playground) in the neighborhood on our way home, and they have recently added a new piece of play equipment.

Playing spin (spider)

Though, eventually, we were allowed to leave and go home for lunch.

Looking through the "spyglass" for home

Next week, I also start my formal Dutch language acquisition with official language lessons. With some hard work, and a bit of luck, I hope to go from faking my way through conversations at the kassa (cash register) to actually understanding when someone deviates from the script I keep in my head for the occasion. 

01 March 2013

IKEA Vrijdag: Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table

We're used to not having much counter and cabinet space, so when we were buying our furniture for the kitchen, we wanted to give us an extra bit of counter and storage space if we needed it. The Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table looked to work well as a buffet table for the back of our kitchen.

Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table

IKEA recommends that two people put this table together, and having put this table together by myself, I agree. You begin with the table top and build top to bottom, then flip the table over. Really, it's the flipping part that involves two people and is ill-advised to do on your own, though that didn't stop me when I was making the attempt. For the record, I was able to stand the table up without any injury to myself or the table, but it wasn't a comfortable process.

Of course, the Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table came with the ubiquitous allen wrench, but it really is better to use  a power drill for this table. The battery had died on our power drill after much use (this is, after all, when we were putting everything together), and I did most of the table by hand, which was not a lot of fun with the tiny little allen wrench. Putting the table together was a little frustrating because several key pieces looked the same on the back and the front, and I put a piece on backwards very early into the process and didn't notice until after I was done. Needless to say, that side is now against the wall and will always have to be out of sight. A few other times I was putting pieces on backwards and managed to find them before permanently attaching them. This wasn't the easiest piece of furniture or the clearest set of instructions that we've experienced with our IKEA stuff.

The table is made of solid pine and paint. It's not gotten very dirty, but should be able to just wipe off like most of the acrylic lacquered IKEA products. It comes in white, natural, or grey/brown, and is part of a much larger series for coordinating if you choose.

We didn't get the baskets when we bought the table - it wasn't until after some use and figuring out how/where to put everything that we determined the baskets would be helpful. The IKEA website recommends for the larger bottom compartments some cube shaped wicker baskets, but we found a similar basket that we purchased (to be reviewed at a later date). Since this is technically a sofa table, the Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table's top compartments are supposed to be for magazines and books, and there are small baskets available on the website, but we couldn't find any in the store. I'll note that none of the "recommended" baskets were anywhere near the Hemnes display in the store, further frustrating everyone involved. We ended up purchasing the nice colorful baskets from a different store and they do seem to suit the rest of the kitchen better than what the IKEA website recommends, and they've worked our well enough.

Sebastian would like to point out that this belongs to him.

We give the Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table 3.5 Swedish meatballs on our 5 meatball scale. Points were deducted for the uncertainty of the directions and pieces during assembly, though the table so far is standing up well, though it's not in a high-traffic area.

Life in Dutch Rating for Hemnes Bijtafel/Sofa Table:

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