17 November 2013

Shelf Display and Organization

Bookshelves are great household features aren't they? When considering amenities we'd like to have in our homes, attractive storage and display features often rank pretty high on the list. But then when we finally get it, we're often overwhelmed with what to put on the shelves and how to display our possessions in the most practical and decorative way.

Before you throw your hands up and walk away, you should know that achieving functional and visually pleasing shelf storage and display can be yours in four easy steps:

1. Identify Goals: The first and most important task is to identify how you want the shelves to work for you...i.e.will they simply be decorative, or do you intend to use the shelves to store and access your frequently used possessions. These considerations will impact your arrangement choices.
Using my own office as an example, the goal is for the shelves to hold items and books I regularly use, as well as personal items and photos that inspire me. More specifically, I need:
1. Hidden storage and easy access to desk paperwork.
2. Display inspiration for family history writing and research 
3. Hidden storage for family history items (photos, memorabilia, etc.) 
4. Display personal memorabilia
5. Display inspiration and books for photography. 
6. A place for children's play "office" supplies and other objects of desire.   
That's a lot to cover but I've got a huge wall of shelves to fill.
2. Gather Items: Second, gather the items you want to put on the shelves. I always think of the William Morris quote, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," when I'm thinking of what I'll include in my displays.

3. Assess Items: Review the items you've gathered and consider: a) their decorative value; b) how easily and often you'll need to access them; c) consider the size, shape, height and color of the items to be shelved in order to achieve the proper balance among the composition.

4. Arrange Items: Start placing the items on the shelves setting less-used items higher up and frequently used items in easy to reach spots. Then evenly disperse your items among the shelves by shape, color, height, etc. to achieve a pleasing "balance."

In our example, we'll work from the bottom up. But first, note the very top (and hard to reach) shelves hold framed vintage maps that have personal meaning for me. Just the sight of them inspires me in many ways.

Blank canvas....

The very bottom shelves will hold storage for family history items; four baskets...one for each line of our families. This system allows me to just toss items into the appropriate basket as they come my way, then deal with them properly when the moment presents itself and, at the same time, provides hidden, yet easily accessible storage.

Label your storage boxes for quick identification and storage.

The two next-higher shelves are dedicated to child's play. If you have small children, or even just children who visit often, try to provide a spot where their own things are within reach and they can be near you when you're working in your space. It's been my experience preschoolers love to "work" alongside a working adult. Click here to link over to a more detailed explanation of the arrangement of these shelves.


I like having family photos and memorabilia mixed in with the family and local history reference books I use...

Finally, all of that desk clutter gets tucked into a couple of "book" storage boxes. These storage boxes are so readily available in many stores now, but they can be pricey - I've seen them as high as $50 - so it pays to shop around. I bought these at Marshall's...$10 for the large and $8 for the small...gotta love Marshall's & TJ Maxx! I also found a vintage dough bowl to hold the larger envelopes that come my way. Placed on a shelf above eye level, the papers in the bowl can't be seen when being stowed away.

The storage book boxes have their own shelf as these will be accessed daily. Above that are photography books as well as a vintage camera for interest.

The center section of shelves is used for more family photos and then filled in with other odds and ends I've collected. The finished result leaves me with everything in its place...
and now I can even use the desk!

15 April 2013

Spring Cleaning With a (Re) Purpose

Clothing:  Expect to see retailers mark down spring clothing 30% to 40% this month for mid-season sales. For deeper discounts of 50% or more, though, wait until the end of the season in May. 
Kiplinger Online post ~ Best and Worst Buys for April, 2013 ~ by Cameron Huddleston, 
posted April 8, 2013.  

This spring (and with an eye on Earth Day), as you begin purging your closets and drawers to make room for the new clothing you've scored while taking advantage of seasonal sales, don't be so quick to toss or donate your unwanted items. Maybe you're like me who often has a sentimental attachment to certain clothes - and even though you know you'll never wear them again, you can't seem to get rid of them. I love discovering ways to repurpose favorite clothing pieces to get that last bit of extra use out of them and keep them near me at the same time.

Clothes that are too worn to donate or that have no sentimental value to me are almost always stripped of their reusable elements (i.e. zippers, buttons, pockets, etc.) to be used in future crafting or repair projects, then tossed in the rag pile.

Recently, I used some of the buttons from my mom's saved button collection to make vintage button hairpins to be given to my nieces as a nice reminder of their grandma. 
Just bobby pins and Krazy Glue give these buttons a new life.

But for those items that I have trouble parting with no matter what their condition, I try to repurpose them in a way to extend their usefulness and life. For example:

Here's a sample from Family Chic of turning a men's dress shirt cuff into a little pouch to hold cash, jewelry or other small objects to be thrown into a purse or pocket. Simply cut the cuff from the shirt sleeve and sew the two sides up!

Last summer, I used old jeans to make a fun denim banner that hangs in my craft room for now, but will be used later this year on Memorial Day and 4th of July to give a nice Americana look to my buffet serving area. 

More recently, I took on a more ambitious repurposing project when I turned a pile of my son-in-law's old, but cherished, t-shirts and well-worn jeans into a great and, hopefully still cherished, 
t-shirt and jeans quilt/picnic blanket. 

The top, or t-shirt side, of the quilt was made from nine t-shirts.

The bottom, or jeans side, of the quilt was made from nine pairs of men's jeans. And the whole thing rolls up nicely to take along wherever the summer activities lead.

There are thousands of ways to repurpose clothing, giving new life to worn objects. This spring, cast a creative eye toward your no longer useful items and re-craft them into new favorites.

07 April 2013

Party Favor Pots II

Last week's cute Easter party favor pots were a hit with our guests and they all seemed anxious to get busy potting the herb seeds they received. With that, I decided to use up the leftover Plantable Coir Pots to give another gift sampler to everyone for Andrew's birthday dinner celebration we had on Saturday. I gathered up the supplies and this time the simple fillers gave a nod to the Birthday Boy's interests:

  • Burpee herb seed packs - Parsley, Oregano, etc. - this week there was a buy one, get one at Menards = .50 each
  • Birthday Boy's current beverage of choice for everyone to sample and toast with - New Glarus Spotted Cow beer $7.99 / 6 pack
  • Paint chip note booklets to honor Birthday Boy's handy skills - handmade / free
  • Branch pencils found at Marshalls to appeal to Birthday Boy's rustic nature- 10 for $5
  • Mini cupcakes and candles for everyone to light and blow out with their wishes for Birthday Boy - 12 for $3
  • Scalloped tissue paper
The paint chip note booklets are easily made by cutting down several scrap papers to fit into the variously sized folded paint chip cards and then stapling the bottom, matchbook style.

On some of them, I cut across the tab end with a scallop scissors for an extra finishing touch.

It all assembled easily and quickly...

To make a welcoming and festive display!

Fun and done!

04 April 2013

Spring Brunch w/Table Party Favors

What's more fun than receiving a favor basket? Putting one together!

This week, I was preparing for our Easter brunch get-together with nine family members. The two little ones had their Easter baskets and eggs but what about the adults? Some things you just never seem to grow too old for. I decided to provide a little springtime love for them with cute little coir plantable pots filled with treats. The same idea could be applied for springtime wedding or baby shower favors.

Here's what I used:

  • 6" Coir Pot - (I used Planter's Pride Plantable Pots 100% Peat-Free Renewable Coir) 6 pots for $2.49 at Menards
  • Green Spanish moss (for "grass")
  • Pack of herb seeds (cilantro, sweet basil, chives, etc.) The "Burpee" name adds a fun dinnertime touch...don't you think (and even more so if using for a baby shower). $1 each
  • Sanpellegrino Sparkling Orange Juice - about .90 each.
  • Peeps S'more pack: Peep, one graham cracker, 1/2 Hershey bar all wrapped in Glad Wrap and secured with ribbon - cheap cheap
  • Other Easter Candies


I knew it was a hit when the trading of the seed packs began!

02 November 2012

The First Two Extra Minutes of November

It's November. Or as I like to call it, No-slumber. There are dozens of things to do and remember this month, all begging immediate attention. Over the next few weeks, we'll address winter-readiness topics including energy-saving tips, home maintenance, shopping, holiday decorating and entertaining - to name just a few. We'll start with the three easiest, yet most important, tasks:

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m. - which means you'll turn your clocks back and gain an hour to your day. While some people (mostly those under the age of 20) have the luxury to apply this extra hour to sleep, for most of us, it really is an extra hour to get work done. With an ever-growing jobs list, I'm thankful (since this is the month for Thanks) to have all 60 minutes of it. 

I like to use my first extra minute (actually 30 seconds) of November to check my smoke detectors. Did you know that most residential fires occur during the winter months? Now I don't know about you but it seems to me that a 30-second task that potentially equals a life or lives saved is the best insurance deal you could hope for. No excuses...go check your detectors and replace the battery if necessary.

Right after testing my smoke detectors (and since I already have the step stool out) I've made it a habit in my second extra minute of November to change the direction of the spin of my ceiling fans. This is by far the  easiest job on my chore list and gives big and immediate payback in energy savings, comfort and chi. In summer, your fans should turn in a counter-clockwise - or forward - direction (as you stand under it and look up). This pushes the air downward giving a "wind chill" effect in the room. In winter, you'll want to reverse the direction to clockwise so that the rising warm air trapped at the ceiling gets circulated to the walls and back down into the room. Be sure to keep the fan speed on low in the winter otherwise you'll again create a wind chill which is not good in the winter. 

Remember the Ceiling Fan Direction Rule: 
Summer - Forward, or counter-clockwise: Downward air movement makes a "wind chill" effect.
Winter - Reverse, or clockwise on low speed: Recirculates warm air trapped at ceiling back into room. Note: An exception to this rule is if your fan is on a very high ceiling. You should then keep the fan set in the forward spinning direction. 

Tutorial to Change Ceiling Fan Direction: 

Turn your ceiling fan off.
Find the switch on your fan's motor housing.
Flip it. 
Turn your ceiling fan on. 

Comfort, savings and moving air (chi) with the flip of a switch. Check, check and check.

31 October 2012

Versatile Storage & Display

How often have you gathered up a collection of items in your home and thought, "What can I put this stuff in?" I've uttered this question to myself on two occasions in just this week alone! The challenge to solving this dilemma is in finding a container that looks good enough to be left out to display in a place where the items are used and is strong enough to be moved around as needed. So let's build an attractive, sturdy and versatile box...more specifically, this 30"L x 7"W x 5.5"H box:

To start, gather up your supplies:

Materials List
3 - 4' Pine Fence Boards
12" Length of Rope
8 Wood Screws
Titebond III Wood Glue
Vinegar / Steel Wool Solution (for stain)

Measure fence for cutting

Mark the cutting lines on boards.

Cut the boards. 

Glue adjacent edges of boards.

 Tack or clamp boards together to hold while glue dries. 
Use a spray bottle to apply the vinegar/steel wool solution and let dry. 
The solution will darken the wood as it dries. Cut the rope to the desired length. 
A hot razor blade was used here to cut and seal the ends in one swoop. 
Secure the rope to the end of box by screwing the ring clamps to box.

Fill your rustic-looking box and display in a convenient spot for easy access! 
For now, I'll use this one as a handy and attractive way for the little one 
to choose her own books to read. 

19 October 2012

Stop a Running Toilet

A toilet that runs and runs and runs is more than just an annoyance. It can be a real drain on your pocketbook not to mention the unnecessary waste of water. One common reason for a constantly running toilet is you may have a worn and/or damaged flapper that doesn't allow for a proper seal after the toilet has been flushed. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a defective or stuck toilet flapper can consume 200 gallons of water per day...you can do the math using your local water charges to see what that might cost you. Plus, wasting water just isn't cool, soooo.....

While it might seem a daunting task, it really is an easy fix to replace a flapper yourself, which could save you $100 or more depending on what your local plumber might charge.

First thing to do is determine the type of flapper you'll need. Flappers are customized to the brand and even sometimes the style of toilet. The surest way to purchase the correct flapper for your toilet is to remove the one currently in your toilet and take it to your local home improvement or hardware store. With that, I'll begin by  showing you how to remove the old flapper:

1. Shut off the water at the valve by toilet. 

2. Lift the lid off the toilet's tank.

3. Flush the toilet to empty the water from the tank. 

4. Here's the old and much damaged flapper.
This is what you'll remove so you can replace it with the new flapper.

5. The flush lever holds the chain that lifts the flapper.

6. Disconnect the chain from the flush lever.

7. Remove the flapper totally by removing it from the overflow. The overflow is the tall,
plastic part in the center of the tank. The flapper itself has "hook" type ends on each arm that
simply snap off and/or onto the overflow allowing it to securely attach to the overflow.
Pop each arm end up from the overflow. 

8. The old, faded flapper is now out. Take this part to your local
home improvement or hardware store and ask for the proper replacement for it. 

The toilet being repaired here is a Kohler 2-piece, so I'm using the
Korky Toilet Flapper - purchased from Home Depot

9. Once you've got the correct flapper, putting it in is simply a matter of working backwards
from how you removed the old. Here, the new flapper is being securely attached to the overflow by making sure the hook ends of each arm of the flapper are snapped onto the overflow at the base. 

10. Attach the chain to the flush lever, adjusting the chain length so there's
just enough slack for the flapper to sit flat on the flush opening. 

11. Slowly turn water valve back on.     

12. Give a couple test flushes to make sure everything is working properly.                

13. Re-install the tank lid.

And done!