Practically Organized

Posted on

When my husband and I moved into our house 18 years ago we had been married two years and had a son who was a few days old. Since that time we have added four more children to our household as well as many items that are intended to make life run smoothly. 

Over the years, empty drawers have filled to overflowing, and cabinets have accumulated this and that. Bottles have transitioned to sippy cups which transitioned to plastic cups which then transitioned to glasses. The drawer that once held a huge telephone book had become empty when the phone book became extinct, then filled with aprons and dishtowels because the dish towel drawer next to it was too jam-packed to shut. The cabinet that held the dog’s treats gathered this and that when our daughter’s allergies caused the dog to transition to a new home. 

This kitchen is very busy. We don’t eat out very often, and my kids, 4 of them teenagers,  all eat A LOT. When they’re hungry for something, which is often, they cook it. Last night my son wanted brownies, so he made a batch of homemade brownies. The kitchen was functioning because everyone knew where things were even if it wasn’t the most convenient of arrangements. But with seven of us using the kitchen, it was making things harder on us than they needed to be.

Well, the other day I got fed up. I think the trigger was the whiteboard on the fridge which we use to write items that need to be brought on the next grocery shopping trip. I recommend this little item for every kitchen to jot a product down when you use the last of it, need it and don’t have it, or just want it. But ours for some reason had a nickel-sized hole straight through it; it had been used and abused beyond reasonable expectations. (Such is life with 5 kids.) So I went online to order a new one. I quickly found a nice black marker board that you can use neon dry erase markers with that I thought would look very nice on my black fridge. This overworked fridge also held a printed-out weekly calendar which I often didn’t get printed until the middle of the week, and a handmade, scribbled-on, scratch paper menu of who is cooking what for each day of the week. While shopping for the new black erase board, I saw a black magnetic menu board and a black magnetic calendar board. Wow! I could totally render the fridge presentable and make life easier in the process. Here is what my fridge looks like now. 

The glowing piece of paper to the right is a list of leftovers currently in the fridge, another organizational piece I highly recommend. The glowing piece to the left is a list of what our recycling company allows and prohibits, because we can never remember what numbers on plastic are allowed and which aren’t. 

But this got me to thinking, “what else could I do to the kitchen to make life more convenient and neater?” I started seeing opportunities all over the place. Unfortunately, I didn’t take “before” pictures, so you’ll have to trust me that it was a mess. 

The first place I went was my spices. 18 years ago I bought a small Lazy Susan to put in a cupboard and this is where my spices lived. They were supposed to be alphabetical, but they were seldom constrained by that rule. And some bottles were too big to really fit on the Lazy Susan, so they wandered over to their next-door cabinet. When I needed a spice, the hunt was on. I knew where most of them at least were supposed to be, but the kids were clueless, so when they wanted oregano or parsley or garlic salt they had to engage my help. And if I wasn’t available they just pulled out spices until they found what they wanted, then put them all back on the Lazy Susan in a haphazard manner, contributing to the non-alphabetical disaster that was my spice area. 

So I bought a couple of these spice racks to stick on the inside of my cabinet doors to hold the spices. And I bought some spice jars to put the spices currently held by huge containers into smaller jars they could be held on the new racks. The big jars now live in a more out of  the way place. 

Here is the finished product. As you can see, I realized that these little racks can also hold prescription medicine bottles, vitamin bottles, and some inhalers. 


This, plus the now-empty Lazy Susan, led me to empty out a very busy cabinet that had been holding medicines. The ones that wouldn’t fit in the spice rack I put on the Lazy Susan and in its next door cabinet. It looks like this.


Now I have an empty shelf to think about filling…as soon as I find a new place for my stovetop cleaner. 

This then made me think of the worst problem area of the whole kitchen: the dreaded spatula drawer. This deep drawer held all my ladles, spoons, scoops, a garlic press, an apple slicer, and a 1 million and 5 other miscellaneous but necessary kitchen items. This drawer wasn’t this way for lack of thought, I just didn’t know what to do with it or how to organize it. It really frustrated all of us more than any other thing in the kitchen. I searched online for suggestions, and finally decided to fill it with dish towels aprons and potholders. Those items had been crammed into two smaller drawers, also a source of constant frustration. I also cleared out a drawer that held unused recipes and manuals that came with various kitchen items, small appliances, etc. That bottom out-of-the-way drawer now holds utensils that don’t get used very much: grilling items, canning lids, cookie-cutters, and such like. 


It still looks a mess, but I have a divider coming in to break it up a bit, and by design I won’t need to rummage through it very often.

The other two drawers that used to hold dish towels now look like this.


One holds long items, the other one, smaller things. I still have a bit of tweaking to do (I probably should get those can openers out of there since I’ve used them maybe twice). I used these dividers to break up the drawers. 

I also bought these magnetic hooks to hang the most-commonly-used items over the stove. 

And here is what used to be the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drawer, now contentedly holding its dish towels, aprons, and pot holders. 

The deep drawer works perfectly for these items which are best stored stacked up anyway. 

I still have a few works-in progress. I’ll edit this as I figure out new ways to keep things humming most effectively. Until then, as you can see, it’s not perfect, it’s not beautiful, but hey, it’s practically organized! 


DIY Silhouettes

Posted on

silhouettes

 

I’m all about handmade Christmas presents.  I don’t do it to be cheap, but to be personal.  Here’s one of the best I’ve done.

I tried it several ways because some of the things recommended on other sites just didn’t work.  (Murphy’s Law, anyone?)  What I landed on really works.  This is not an “I should do this sometime” post, but a “I tried this several different ways and this one actually works” post.

Supplies needed:

  • Person or cat or whatever you’re making the silhouette of
  • Digital camera (or smartphone)
  • Printer
  • Printer paper
  • Copier that allows you to shrink or expand your image
  • Any color of card stock, available at an office supply store (this may not be needed, but have some just in case)
  • Thick watercolor paper, available at a craft store (get the really thick stuff, as not all watercolor paper is created equally)
  • Either sharp scissors (both medium and fingernail-size) or an exacto knife with cutting surface
  • Black tempera paint
  • Large-sized artist’s paint brush
  • Word processor and paper for making name tags (optional)
  • Picture frame

photo

Take a side picture of the subject with your digital camera, like the one here. (I apologize if this picture appears horizontal instead of vertical on your screen. For some reason it is appearing sideways in some formats and not in others. Anyway, you get the idea. Just take a silhouette-style pic.) I should have had him take his glasses off, though.  You’ll want to do that if your subject wears glasses.  I put my girls’ hair up in ponytails to simplify it.  You can try it several ways to see what you like best.  Once you’ve done that, print the picture on plain printer paper. The quality of print or paper doesn’t have to be great; you’re going to paint over it anyway.

Now use a copy machine to adjust the size of your picture, copying it to be 20% or 110% or whatever of the original copy to achieve the size you want the finished product to be.  (If you know how to do that an easier way, go for it, but I’m technically challenged and this way worked for me.) When you have it exactly the right size, copy it once more onto thick white watercolor paper (available at any craft store) if possible and your printer cooperates, or on good white card stock (available at any office supply store) if your copier balks at the watercolor paper.

Cut out around the person’s shape from the card stock or watercolor paper.  Include eyelashes, cowlicks, etc.  I actually had to create eyelashes, and if you want eyelashes on your silhouette, you’ll probably need to do that, too.  Be very careful when cutting it out to keep little details such as the roundness of the nose, or how much a chin juts out. I used regular, very sharp, medium-sized scissors and also fingernail scissors. Some people prefer to use an exacto knife.  I searched online for other silhouettes to figure out how to shape the very bottom of the image.  I ended up making one shape for the bottom of the boys’ cut-outs and another, more curved shape, for the bottom of the girls’, as you can see in the picture of the finished product.  The possibilities are endless.

If your copier didn’t complain about watercolor paper you can skip this next step.  If your picture is now printed on card stock, place the cut-out picture flat on watercolor paper and trace around the image, tracing the shape onto watercolor paper, again being very careful to maintain the little details.  These little things are what really makes the end product wonderful, and if you’re not careful, you’ll lose some of them in this step.  Cut out this shape.

Now you should have the shape cut out of watercolor paper.  Put the image flat on old newspaper or scrap paper, and paint the shape black on one side.  I used black tempera paint and it turned out great.  Let it dry and mount it on white paper (I used white watercolor paper to mount it on also).  Since I was doing a composite of several silhouettes, I printed off the names to place under each figure.  I wouldn’t have had to, though, because it was obvious who each one was.  If you want to make name tags, just use a word processor and choose a nice font.

Put it however you desire in a nice frame, and enjoy the smiles as they open the present.


DIY Easy Reversible Breastfeeding Drape

Posted on

photo 5

I breastfed my babies for about 4 years of my life, and I have nursed my babies just about everywhere. I am a modest person; I am very open about bodily functions (me being a nurse and all), but exposing myself isn’t something I want to go around doing. My go-to nursing drape at that time consisted of the largest receiving blanket I could find (which was never QUITE big enough), a shoestring, and 2 safety pins: not exactly a classy accessory. After I was all done breastfeeding, my daughter’s eczema was just awful and I learned how to sew well enough to make her some non-itchy clothes. I made some breastfeeding drapes for presents at baby showers, nice large stylish ones with adjustable straps, and they’ve been a big hit. I like my design better than any others I’ve found (I don’t like the ones with boning in the front. They allow you to see the baby eating, but they also allow anyone sitting next to you to do the same,) so I’ll share with you how I make them. They are REALLY simple.

Warning: If you are really good at sewing, these instructions will seem way too detailed and simple. I am in no way a professional seamstress, so if you’re a beginner, that’s okay. You do need to know how to cut material, sew a stitch, and put in a button and buttonhole.

Time to complete from start to finish (not counting washing/drying time): 1 1/2 – 3 hrs (depending on skill level).

Supplies needed:

– 2 pieces of coordinating material, 36″X 44″ You want something thick enough to not be flimsy, but thin enough to not make you and the baby hot. Remember, it will be double thickness, and hopefully even a baby born in the autumn will be breastfed through at least part of the summer, so lets not smother the little thing! I usually get a pretty cotton fabric in the quilting section. This pattern needs something that doesn’t have a one-way design but can just go any-which-way. I like to pick a material that is discreet and doesn’t yell, “Hey, everybody look what I’m doing over here” but is also classy and something a lady would wear. I see these as more for the mom than the baby, so I avoid a babyish pattern. But those are just my thoughts. You may want something entirely different.

These instructions make the sides of the drape the selvage/factory edge and the top and bottom the cut edges, so make sure that works with your material’s design.

So here goes.

YOU WILL NEED:

– 1 large button, the bigger the better. At least 1 3/8″ is great. (As you can see here, 1.25″ and less is considered a choking hazard by the Child Safety Protection Act.)

– Thread that either matches or accents with the material. The thread WILL show.

– Velcro, 10 inches long, 1/2 inches wide. I always use the sew-on kind. I’ve been tempted to try the heat-bond kind, but I’m afraid of it coming off at just the wrong time. Nope, don’t want that!

– Sewing-type flexible tape measure

– Scissors

– Straight Pins

– Dull pencil

– An iron

– Something with a right angle, such as a piece of paper or a book

– A straight edge

– A writing pen

– Sewing Machine with button hole setting

IT’S ALSO NICE TO HAVE:

– A Yardstick, or even better, a t-square

– Air soluble marker

Instructions:

1) Wash and dry your material just as you plan to wash the finished product. Use the same washer and dryer settings and detergent so you don’t get any surprises when you wash it later. Iron your material and cut off any threads that have bunched at the edges during washing.

2) Wind your bobbin and thread your machine.

3) Your material probably shrunk in the washing/drying process. That is the point, after all. The length from selvage to selvage, whatever that is now, will be how wide the drape is. You want to leave the selvage as is, make the corners square, and make the 2 pieces the same size. How? Do this. Probably one piece will be slightly smaller than the other. Work with it first. Make the sides and corners of the smaller piece even, straight, and square. This is where a t-square or yardstick will come in handy. If you don’t have those things, use a straight edge of some kind and a square corner (like a piece of paper or a book) to create a 90 degree angle. Leave the selvage uncut. Use it as the basis of your square corner. Use your air-soluble marker (or pen if you don’t have one of those) to mark the edge you want, and cut it out. Once you have one rectangle as you want it, place the other piece of material under it, right sides together, and cut the second to match the first. Now you have 2 nice, even, matching rectangles.

Find the cut edge, not the selvage. Cut off a 3 1/2″ strip of material from the bottom of each of your 2 big rectangles. This will be your strap. Cut off the end of each strap piece so they are each 29″ long. After you are done cutting, you should have 4 pieces of material: 2 big rectangles and 2 long strips. The strips will be 3 1/2″ x 29″. The big rectangles should be somewhere around 30″x40″ but it will vary a little.

4) First we’ll work with the 2 big rectangles, so set the 2 long strips aside for now. Put the 2 rectangles with right sides facing each other, match the edges up, and pin together or baste around the edges. This will be the body of the drape.

photo

5) Sew around the edge with a 5/8″ seam allowance. (On the selvage edge, sew it just inside where the printing starts. It will probably be a little more than 5/8″. Go all around except leave a 7 inch opening on one side. Use your scissors to cut a small snip in each corner. Be careful not to cut the stitch you just made.

photo 2

6) Using the 7 inch opening, turn your material right-side-out.

photo 3

7) Using a pencil stuck through the opening you left, poke the corners out so they’re not squared off and not rounded. Do this gently so as not to poke holes in your material.

photo 4

8) Press your material with your iron. Put your hand inside the opening and push the seams tight as you iron them. Make the edges nice and crisp. The seam should be at the edge of the pressed material. Don’t iron the opening yet. Of course, don’t iron your hand.

photo 5

9) Fold an edge at the 7 inch opening to match the rest of the edges that are sewed, and iron flat. Pin the opening shut.

photo 6

10) Now sew a stitch 3/8″ from the edge all the way around, paying special attention to secure the opening you left before.

photo 7

11) Now fold it in half, placing the sides (the selvage ends, the shortest sides) together. Place a pin at the top at the 1/2 way fold or mark it with your air-soluble marker. Measure 3 1/2″ on one side and make your buttonhole up and down, perpendicular to the edge.

photo 2

12) Now measure 3 1/2″ on the other side of the 1/2 way pin and place the end of the soft, loopy side of the Velcro there, extending toward the side-edge of the drap. Put it just inside the stitch you made in step 10. Pin it in place. Sew as close to the edge of the Velcro as possible while still catching the edge. Take out the pins as you go, not sewing over the pins.

photo 3

(My measurements are a wee bit off in this picture. Sorry for that.)

13) Now set that aside and get out the 2 long strips you cut in step #3. As I said before, this will be the strap.

14) Put the 2 strips right sides facing each other, match the edges up, and pin together or baste around the edges, similar to how you did the large rectangles in step #4.

15) Sew around the edge with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Go all around except leave a 4 1/2″ opening on one side. Use your scissors to cut a small snip in each corner. Be careful not to cut the stitch you just made.

16) Using the opening, turn it right-side-out.

photo 8

17) As before, using a pencil stuck through the open end, carefully poke the corners out so they’re not rounded.

18) Iron your strap. Put your finger or use the pencil inside the opening and push the seams tight as you iron them. The seam should be at the edge of the pressed material. Don’t iron the opening yet. Again, don’t iron your finger.

19) Fold an edge at the opening to match the rest of the edges that are sewed, and iron flat. Pin the opening shut.

20) Sew a stitch 3/8″ from the edge all the way around, paying special attention to secure the opening left before. Now your strap is sewed.

photo 9

21) At one end of the strap, attach the button just inside the stitch.

photo

(This button is smaller than I like. Get a bigger one for yours to be safe.)

22) At the other end, on the same side of the material as the button, pin the rough strip of Velcro, the side with the tiny little hooks. Sew as close to the edge of the Velcro as possible while still catching the edge. Take out the pins as you go, not sewing over the pins.

photo 10

23) Now the strap is done. You are almost finished.

24) Button the strap on the drape. Put the strap around your neck and velcro the other end.

photo 4

TA-DA! YOU ARE DONE!