Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Diagonal Drawer Divider Tutorial

Remember that list of New Year's resolutions I shared?  The impossible one with too much for one person to do?  Well, I've been working on a few of them.  Actually "organizing the closets" turned into a lot more when a friend of mine inspired me to join in on the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge.  This is an encouraging site that gives a manageable task to complete each week, helping you to tackle the whole house in the course of a year.  A couple of weeks ago, the task was to organize the cabinets and drawers.  I immediately remembered this cool utensil divider I saw on Pinterest.

This comes recommended by This Old House, and is made by MasterBrand.  I was ready to buy the thing...until I found out it costs a whopping $75!  So instead, I showed the picture to Jonathan, who said he would make one for me. 

It cost him less than $5 and took him one evening to make.  (That is, one child free evening while the rest of us were in Arizona.)

I had recently moved all my spoons and other large utensils from a container on the counter to this drawer.  It was a huge mess.  While my drawer still doesn't look quite as magazine-worthy as the one in the showroom, it is improved by about a million.

Here we go!

Materials needed:

- Miter saw (You might not have one of these just hanging around, but it's what makes the angled cuts of wood, so it's pretty important.)
- Wood.  Our drawer is 4" deep, so Jonathan used 1x4's (which are actually 3 1/4" high).   You need enough to make a box on the inside of the drawer, and then the diagonal slats.  For ours, 2 8 foot boards was more than enough.  There are different qualties of boards. Jonathan went with the least expensive, but made sure to seach for boards that were straight.
- Hammer and finishing nails
- Wood glue
- Tape measure
- Clamp (or an extra pair of hands, if your wife is not out of town)

Step One: Make a box.
Measure the inside of the drawer.  You want the box to fits snugly inside of it.  Here's how to do this using minimal math.  To make sure the sides of the box are exactly the same length, cut one board, then use it to mark the cutting line for the second board (picture one).  Then place both boards inside the length of the drawer and measure the width (picture two).  This is the length needed for the second set of boards.

Step Two: Assemble the box.
Use wood glue to bond the corners together, making sure that the long pieces of wood are on the lenght of the box, and the short pieces form the width.  Finish the corners with nails for added sturdiness (picture three).

Make sure the finished box (picture four) fits inside the drawer before proceeding (picture five.)

Step Three: Cut the diagonal inserts.
Decide where the inserts will be placed in the box.  Mark the lengths on the board (picture six).  Using a miter saw, cut the board at a 45 degree angle.  Make sure that the cuts form a trapezoid (picture seven).

Again, if your board are the same length, you can measure second board against the first (picture eight) 

In our drawer insert, Jonathan made one section larger than the other to accommodate my unwieldy wooden spoon collection.  In this case, not all of the insets are the same length (picture nine).

Step Four: Attach the diagonal inserts to the box.
Using a clamp (or a friend), hold the inserts in place while you attach them to the box using finishing nails (picture ten).  Especially if your box fits flush with the edge of the drawer, drive the nails as deeply into the wood as possible, because they will add to the overall width of the box (picture eleven).  This will also keep the inside of the drawer from being scratched.

And there you have it! The perfect home for large utensils at the perfect price.  I asked Jonathan if he was going to finish the wood.  He said I could take apart the newly installed childproof drawer lock and do it myself.  Unfinished it is...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ice Cream For Breakfast

My grandpa died yesterday morning.  I wanted to write something about him, but I just didn't know what to say.  I figured that this is one of those times where a picture is worth a thousand words, and so here are as many pictures as I could dig up in the archives of my digital photographs.

My grandpa used to give us kids ice cream for breakfast.  I remember him hiding my bowl behind a propped-up book, and blatantly lying to my mom, telling her that I was eating cereal.  What boldness!

He always made me feel special and grown-up, especially when I was an insecure teenager, and desperate to be taken seriously.  It's probably for the best that my mom has the photos from those years.

But I do have lots of pictures from our wedding...

We had an inside joke.  He'd always say, "I'll meet you with bells on."  When he came to visit, he'd bring a bell, and ring it loudly.  When I was little, I thought this was really cool.  When I was older, I thought it was really uncool.  When he gave me a bell on my wedding day, I cried.

And I cried again when he asked my grandma from the other side of the family to dance with him.

He was a man of many stories - all of them funny.  I once tried to get him to tell me about his experience in World War II.  He told me about five funny stories.  Nothing serious at all. 

He has many grandchildren, and all of us adore him.

He loved baseball.  He tried to get some of the rest of us to love baseball too, but I'm not sure if he ever succeeded.

He also has an impressive coin collection.  I remember him buying me albums to put pennies in.  I collected a very large jar of pennies, but I don't think any of them ever went into the album.  (Hannah seems much more fascinated when money that I was.  Maybe that's a good thing!)

He loved babies, and just wanted to hold and hold them. 

My grandpa was an amazing man with an amazingly generous heart.  I can't even begin to say how I miss him.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

No Slip Dish Towel Tutorial

I've been eyeing some great tutorials on Pinterest about "stay put" or "no slip" dish towels.  The idea is that the towel is attached to the oven door, and they don't fall off...or get pulled off by little hands.  I often find my dish towel in places like the couch, or the girls' bathroom, or under Hannah's bed.  Not handy when I have wet hands! 

This isn't a new idea, but this is a fresher, more modern take on the craft bazaar, crochet top towels.  Here are some really great ideas I've pinned:

The Stay-put Kitchen Towel from Pin. Sew. Press.; The No-Slip Dish Towel from Martha Stewart;
and Stay Put Dish Towel from Sassy Sanctuary.

One of my New Year's goals is to work toward a paperless kitchen.  So I went out and got some new dish towels.  I already have dozens of towels, but most of them pre-date Jonathan, so I decided that it was time for a little update.  I adore flour sack towels (and have two whole sets of hand-embroidered ones that have seen better days), so when I saw a set of brightly colored flour sack towels today at Target, I was so excited.  I love that they are very thin, which makes them dry fast after use.  Or at least they did when we lived somewhere without humidity.  Now, nothing drys fast...

But as soon as I got home and logged into Pinterest, I discovered that none of the tutorials I had been looking at would work for my big, square flour sack towels.  They were meant for smaller, rectangular towels.  So I took some ideas from all of the above sources, and did a mash up.  (Guess who loves Glee?)

Ready for a sewing tutorial?  Here goes...

I started with my towel.  I folded it in half, and lightly pressed the center seam as a pinning guide.

Then I pulled this wonderful stuff out of my stash.  I googled it, and unfortunately, I don't think they make it anymore.  (Please tell me if they do!).  This is mesh elastic, and it was originally purchased by my grandmother, probably in the late 70s or early 80s.  My mom sent it to me last spring.  (Can you see that she paid $.55 for it?)

There are three thin cords of elastic, woven together with a clear, stretchy cord.  You sew through it a couple of times while stretching the elastic, and it makes a sort of smocked look.  I used up a whole bunch of this when I was mass-producing Christmas pageant costumes in December. 

Since you probably don't have 30 year old notions sitting around, you could reproduce this with a thin piece of regular elastic, although it would be more bulky than the mesh elastic.

You can just pull the elastic tight while you are sewing, creating a ruffle.  However, I wanted to make sure that both sides of the towel were gathered equally, so I cut two matching lengths of elastic and pinned them before sewing.

I stitched the elastic 1 1/2 inches from the center on both sides. 

Then I added a 1/4 strip of Velcro just below the elastic on each side.

And here you go!  It was a super easy project, which took about 20 minutes.  The Velcro holds the towel in place just enough to deter removing it from its place, but is easy enough to detach that it can be used for drying dishes as well as hands.

And for the rest of the no-paper? I'll keep you updated when (and if) we put that roll of paper towels away for good.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A GPS Serendipity

Do you have a GPS?  I seriously cannot live without mine.  When I turned 16, my grandpa called my mom and told her that we was worried about me driving. 

"But Siobhan's really responsible," mom said.  "She'll be safe."

"I know she'll be safe," replied my grandpa.  "But she is so bad at directions.  She's going to go somewhere and not be able to find he way home."

Sadly, there is still some truth to this.  Before the GPS, I drove around with a stack of MapQuest maps in the car.  One one side were directions from home to places where I frequented (grocery store, mall, movie theatre), and on the other side were directions on how to get home again.  But now all that is over, because I do have a GPS, and it tells me, in a nice, soothing voice, exactly where I should go.  And if I get lost, it recalculates and tells me again.  (And if necessary, again.)

Laugh all you want, but finding my way around is just not a skill that I have.  I'm hopeful that I make up for it in other areas.  In fact, one of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, when Edmond is grumbling that his sisters don't know where they're going. 

"That's the worst of girls," said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. "They can never carry a map in their heads." 

"That's because our heads have something inside them," said Lucy.


Well, this morning, we decided to take a family drive.  We needed a Saturday morning outing, but one that was very low-key, after a late Friday night.  After rejecting several scenic destinations that were too far away, we settled on a short trip: to nearby Norris Dam.  We figured that we'd drive for about 40 minutes, get out and look at the dam from the paved overlook, then drive back again before lunch. 

As we left our neighborhood, Jonathan wondered if there was a more scenic way to get there than the highway.  We typed "Norris Dam State Park" into the GPS, then started off along a road Jonathan knew about that went in that general direction (but was not the highway.)  After several miles of meandering through residential neighborhoods, we ended up driving down a steep mountain road.  We had obviously left civilization behind us.  Then the pavement ended.

"Turn around!" I cried.  "The stupid GPS always does this.  It takes us down the most obscure roads.  I am not going to go on this dirt road!"

"It might be obscure," Jonathan pointed out, "but the GPS never gets us lost.  We always get there."

I pouted for a few minutes while Jonathan, the Chicago suburbanite, went on about how he didn't even know there were dirt roads in America until I took him down a "shortcut" in my hometown.  And then we saw that there was a stream running along the road.  It was beautiful.  We passed an especially architectural water tower, that Hannah thought was a lighthouse.

And then we came to the end of the dirt road, the place where the pavement started again.  We were just off the "real" road that we knew.  But what we could see from our vantage point, and what is hidden from the pavement, is a really beautiful old grist mill.  We happily piled out of the car to check it out.

The stream was so clear, we could see to the bottom.

The mill house was an intriguing mix of stone and weathered wood. 

I look at those stair-steps.  I wonder why it was constructed like that?

The wheel was huge.  (No water, obviously.)

In spite of it being the dead of winter, we found lots of plant life.  This was growing in the cracks of the rock wall.

And here is yet another picture of "we did something, and Lydia slept through it."  I tried to park the stroller in front of a cool wagon wheel...see?  She didn't open her eyes until we walked through the door of our house.  At least we have one kid who sleeps in the car, right?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Toddler Bed Sheet Downsize

Buying a toddler bed wasn't one of the best purchases we ever made.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have opted for a twin bed when Hannah outgrew (or more like outmaneuvered) her crib.  But a toddler bed is what we have, and so we are left with the task of buying bedding for it.  Up until now, Hannah has used (a) a crib sheet with no top sheet, or (b) some bright red Elmo-in-an-airplane sheets. 

When we bought the Elmo sheets, he was Hannah's obsession.  (What is it with that guy?  Having watched hundreds of episodes of Sesame Street - or rather, dozens of episodes hundreds of times - "Elmo's World is definitely my least favorite part of a show that I otherwise really enjoy.)  Little did we know that we would move into a new house and re-create her room as a girl's pink princess extravaganza!  But the red airplane Elmo sheets lived on, because they were what we had.

I wanted to buy a new set of sheets, but they don't make a set of sheets for toddler beds.  They made four piece sets, that consist of a flat and fitted sheet, and regular-sized pillow case, and a comforter.  Really, people?  Kids need lots of sheets for middle of the night changes (you know what I'm talking about), but how many comforters does a kid need?  We didn't even need the Elmo comforter; thanks to lots and lots of really nice grandmas and church ladies, we have about a dozen beautiful, hand-made toddler-sized quilts that are so much more wonderful and meaningful than any comforter sold in stores.

So...what to do about the sheets?  I saw this wonderful tutorial about how to make your own crib sheet.  Perfect!  I ran out to the fabric store, ready to buy four yards of something really cute, maybe even in flannel.  Then Jonathan did the math (why is it that it never occurs to me that $8 times 4 yards is way too expensive for little girls' sheets?), and that was abandoned. 

And then one day, I was in Target, and I found a set of really cute, really pink twin sized sheets on clearance for nine dollars.  Aha!  All the fabric I would need, plus a pillow case, and some of the seams were already sewn!  A win-win-win.

I started by picking out the seams of the fitted sheet.  This was super tedious, but I was able to salvage the elastic, which made the project even cheaper since I had originally counted on buying elastic.  I wish I could say that I made this nice little opening, and then pulled the elastic out, but it was sewn in along the entire edge, meaning I sat for an entire evening ripping out stitches.  I am happy to report, however, this was the hardest part of the whole project.

Something, maybe being tired of the tedium of picking out all those stitches, emboldened me to rip the fabric instead of cutting it.  Oh boy!  I would recommend buying some cheap sheets just for the sheer joy of ripping them in half.  What a cool feeling!

The bad news was, in my sheet-ripping euphoria, I didn't measure very carefully, and ended up having to sew the fitted sheet "sideways," with the pattern running long-ways instead of top to bottom.  But other than that, I am so very pleased with the way they turned out.

The tutorial for the fitted sheet was very easy to follow, and came together in no time.  The top sheet was even easier.  I kept the existing top, with the nice finished edge, and one of the finished sides.  Then I ripped (!) the bottom and the other side to size, and stitched them up.  Done!

So the Elmo sheets are retired (at least unless needed for middle of the night sheet changes) and the total pinkification of Hanhah's room is complete.

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