Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Junk Drawer

A while back the cousins and the outlaws* got into a discussion about the Junk Drawer. It seems each of us cousins --and all the aunts and uncles-- have a junk drawer in our kitchens full of the ubiquitous nonsense that only a junk drawer can hold. Scott, my cousin Jane's husband and unofficial president of the O'Neill Outlaw Association, insisted that junk drawers are a useless waste of space. The cousins dissented, arguing that without a junk drawer where would you store things that otherwise have no home. For example, where do you store extra twist ties, rubber bands, and matches? How about krazy glue, a ruler, or doggie poop bags?

I know exactly what's in our junk drawer without even having to look: mostly pens that I never use and sharpies that I do use, interchangable screwdriver, scissors, battery charger, rechargeable batteries in unknown state of charge, binder clips, string, and tape (Scotch and washi). I made that list from memory! Here's the full monty:

I'm sure the organization bloggers either fainted or got really excited upon seeing the above photo of my (too) small junk drawer. Sorry, there's no fancy after photos in this post, but I'm sure Jen at iheartorganizing can provide lots of sexy photos of organized drawers. Or the Container Store. My gawd! I love that place!

My sister Betsy has two junk drawers: one for junk and one for manuals to every appliance they have in their house. The manuals drawer, she says, is the best way to store manuals because they come in weird sizes and would be impossible to find if filed away in a box somewhere.

Side note: I think the best place for manuals is in the recycling bin after you've downloaded the digital version and stored it on Dropbox.

Side note: I have many hard copy manuals filed away in a filing cabinet (clearly, I don't follow my own advice). The only ones I have ever referred to are:

  • Washing machine --for maintenance procedure
  • Sewing machine --for different sewing techniques and procedures (because I never remember how to sew buttons and zippers and which foot I'm supposed to use)
  • Arm's Reach Cosleeper --because that is a bitch to set up unless you do every step in just the right order.

My mother also has two junk drawers --downsized from a massive junk drawer (top drawer of her buffet) and a junk cabinet (complete with phone books! Who uses phone books anymore?).

What do you have in your junk drawer and do you clean it out or organize it regularly? What's the weirdest item you've discovered in your junk drawer and what did you do with it?

*Outlaw culture is a real thing in my family. You are either blood related or an outlaw (in-law).

Friday, May 15, 2015

House Tour: Outside [Superfluous Photos]

Our house is definitely a work in progress. The first photo shows the house when we moved in.

Ours is a corner lot. We are slowly removing the old overgrown shrubs and will be replacing them with what I'm calling a "modern cottage" landscape. Where we live in Utah is considered the high desert so, a low-water landscape is an important objective. Oh, and we already removed the white metal awning over the dining room window. It blocked our view to the Wasatch Mountains, which, admittedly, we can see best in the winter months.

Here is the front of the house as it looks today.

Looks like the house can breathe now that it's not hidden behind those big shrubs and that useless awning!

The pots were a quick project. A simple can of spray paint and some painters tape gave these basic terra cotta pots a more modern aesthetic. I had different pots out front last year that Jack spray painted yellow when I was 40 weeks pregnant, but I relegated them to the back this year. Actually, I haven't decided what I'm doing with them yet this year.

To do (Front):
  • Phase I:
    • Remove stumps from front
    • Remove shrubs on the north side of the house
    • Plant grasses 
    • Paint the front door a fun color
  • Phase II:
    • Remove grass
    • Plant low shrub "wall" along sidewalk edge for a better transition from public to private (I'll talk about this in a later post)
    • Add a pea gravel or decomposed granite (dg) patio with table and chairs
Of course all of the above requires redoing the irrigation system, which is necessary (it's an older system) but not a cheap endeavor. 

The backyard is a little challenging because it is open to the side street and the "back" is our garage and driveway, which abuts the neighbor's house to the west. We are of the opinion, however, that we don't want our yard completely walled off to the neighborhood with a tall fence along the street (and I'm pretty sure a street-side fence is limited to 4 feet by code)(I should probably know that). Our objective is to create a comfortable outdoor room with "windows" to the sidewalk. We like seeing people walk by --we've met many neighbors that way, but a little enclosure would make it feel like a usable room. Another objective is to create a true playscape for the boys. Gavin loves to be outside and we'd like to nurture his affection for nature. As much as possible I'd like for the nature to stay outside so, mulch and gravel will be part of the new plan, as opposed to the straight up dirt and mud that gets tracked in now. I'll share our plans soon.

We built the tall fence on the south edge of the property last year. We thought that maybe we could get away with delaying that project, but it was necessary for the basic enjoyment of our yard. The short story is that the neighbors to the south were hosting their relatives in a rundown camper, their dogs didn't get along with the relatives' dog (and all would bark through the previous chain link fence across our yard to any and every dog or person on the sidewalk), there is graffiti on the wall of their crappy garage from the previous tenants, there's a punching bag hanging from a tree, and a toilet (inoperable, I hope) sitting by the back door. Now that you think we live in Redneckville (we don't), you understand the need for a six-foot fence! The rest of the neighbors thanked us profusely for covering up the eyesores. It's true what they say about fences. #goodfences #goodneighbors

No, the fence is not facing "backwards." We intentionally designed it this way so that the fence would have a little detail and so the street side with the gate would line up with something. Eventually we'll replace the chain link next to the driveway and along the north side of the yard and the height will line up with the middle cross piece.

You can see how it lines up in the back of this photo.

In the center of the backyard is a lovely cherry tree. We thought that it would yield more cherries than we could eat, but either the birds ate all of them or the berries never really developed because we never saw one last year. The tree has two redeeming qualities: 1. in the spring, it gives off the most intoxicating fragrance and is covered in pink blossoms, and 2. it delivers an incredible amount of shade, making much of our yard cool enough to be enjoyed in the summer. The Utah sun is very strong and SLC is at ~4,000 feet elevation, which makes shade incredibly important. We can even sit outside for dinner for much of the summer except the hottest days and are shaded from the hot western sun. 

Last fall Jack built two raised planter beds for our vegetable garden. This is the first year I've planted using the square foot method. So far it's been helpful in terms of figuring out how many plants per square foot and not overplanting. I set up a simple grid using twine and a staple gun. Then Gavin and I used more of a broadcast method for planting seeds. It was a whole lot easier planting with a preschooler that way instead of forcing neat rows. Gardener's Supply has a great kitchen garden planner that I used and would recommend (see plans below). I've already harvested the arugula, some spinach, and beet greens. The sparrows are doing a number on my beets. I had no idea they liked beet greens. Now I have to get a netting. #notyoursalad
East Bed

West Bed
I've already diverged slightly form these plans. On the advice of a friend, I nixed the strawberries and included a few more herbs. We never picked up any green bean seeds so, we'll skip those this year. In the long term, it might be fun to build a trellis system that bridges the walkway between the two beds for the climbers like beans, cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini. 

Along the fence by the sidewalk, we are slowly chipping away at the grass. I dug out a small bed last year, but this spring we are being more aggressive. You can see in the photo below that the grass on the left is a little brown. That's where Jack turned up the ground. You can kind of see the line where the grass will remain to the right. It lines up with the north wall of the house.

In that last photo is our peach tree. We planted it last year just after we moved in. We added a pear tree this year. Fruit trees were pretty popular with the Mormons when they settled in the valley as a way to be self-sustaining. Fruit trees appeal to my Yankee spirit. I grew up making preserves and canning tomatoes with my dad. The rest of the plantings in this bed will not be edible, but are chosen for their low water needs and seasonal interest. The last remaining shrub to the left of the peach tree is an old forsythia that we cut back to the ground last spring and it bounced right back. It looks ok in this photo, but it's spring show was unremarkable and it is a bit of a mess. So, out it will come. 

I'll add more house tour photos soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Big Move 2...

...and 3

...and 4

I'm feeling embarrassed that it's literally been years since I posted to this blog. Oh well, I've never been one for keeping a regular journal. But, as the title to this post implies, we've made another big move. Actually, we've made several.

We moved to Salt Lake City from Philadelphia three years ago. Then last year the lease on our rental (never shared those pics) ended because the owners wanted to move back in and we moved to a big house by the university. It was a former party house, too big, and suffered from too many "fixes" over the years. Luckily, we were there only a short time before we closed on our current home. Yes, we finally bought a house! Three weeks later we had to say goodbye to our beloved fur baby, Cooper, who had developed muscular cancer that had spread to his lungs. We barely had a chance to mourn his loss when Tristan decided to arrive --the very next day! It was about 2.5 months of madness and a little bittersweet.

The last year has been a bit of a whirlwind with a new baby and a new house. Jack defended his dissertation last month and will receive his doctorate this month. It feels like we are beginning yet another chapter in the life of our family so, perhaps it's a good time to pick up the blog again. We'll be making and documenting the changes to our house and I'll revive the City Series again, too. So, stay tuned!

This is our little house:
Unlike many of the houses in SLC, ours is not a Prairie-style bungalow. I would characterize it as a Cottage-style bungalow. It has some of the characteristics of a Craftsman: a porch, brick detailing, and some interior details. It lacks the deep overhanging roof like the Prairie-style house next door and the copious woodwork of a Craftsman. We love that it is so unique! 

It was built in 1923 and predates many of the houses in the neighborhood. It's just a short block from a big park and sits on a quiet, tree-lined street. We have about 1,000 square feet on the main level and a small third bedroom in the basement. Stay tuned for a full house tour and some of the projects we started (and haven't finished!). 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Big Move 1

No, we did not move our couch from one side of the living room to the other. We moved clear across the country! That's right, we moved from Philly to Salt Lake City.

And what a move it's been. I took a new job as the Urban Designer for the City of Salt Lake. The job offer was simply something I just couldn't turn down. Jack is making progress on his PhD: he's reached the "portable stage" when he is taking his qualifying exams and preparing his dissertation proposal.

So far, we are really liking it here. We've gone hiking many weekends, certainly more in the last four months than in the previous four years in Philly. We took the pup and the tot camping Labor Day Weekend. THAT was a bit of an adventure! I promise to write some tips about that soon. We've explored the awesome farmer's market at Pioneer Park and signed up for a fabulous CSA. Jack and Gavin (but really, just Jack) built me a raised garden bed for Mother's Day. We've been enjoying tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and herbs all summer and soon will have some squash and peppers.

There are many things I miss about Philly, particularly our friends and neighbors. We obviously haven't had much of chance to build a community here yet and I know that takes time, but I think that's the roughest part about moving to a new city. Well, that and the endless packing and unpacking. Four months later and we still have stuff in boxes in the basement.

We are slowly settling in to our new place. We definitely have some more room, at least in the kitchen and living room. And we have a dining room! And it's large enough that our table looks rather dwarfed! That's not really so great. We're on the hunt for a buffet because all my linens and platters and things are living in boxes in the basement. We had a new rug picked out from West Elm for the dining room, but then thought better of it when we realized that the tot literally throws food on the floor and it would be a disaster within days.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nursery Resources

As promised, here is my list of sources for everything in our nursery.

Crib: Sparrow Crib by Oeuf in grey. Gift from my parents. (We ordered through Amazon. It arrived in 2 days.) 

Crib Mattress: Naturepedic, No Compromise Organic Cotton Classic 150 Mattress for $259.00 on Amazon 

Crib Sheet: Kumari Garden, Tara in Sun by Dena Fishbein (fabric), made by me (tutorial coming soon!). Fabric from Hawthorne Threads.  Unfortunately, this fabric is no longer available.

Crib Skirt: Capri in Popsicle Stick by Waverley (fabric), made by me (tutorial coming soon!). I purchased the fabric from, as I mentioned in this post.  The price was great, but it was a hassle. At first they told me they didn’t have a single piece of fabric. Then when I finally convinced them to ship two pieces that added up to the yardage I needed, they shipped the wrong colorway! As it turns out, the popsicle stick colorway was available in the yardage I needed and the return process was very easy. But I still never received the matching thread I ordered.

Crib Blanket: gift from and knitted by Gavin’s Nana (Jack’s mom)

Sea Turtle Wall Decal: Leen the Graphics Queen, designed by me (more about this soon) 

Changing Table: already had this. Jack sanded it down and repainted it in Winter Snow by Benjamin Moore (Aura line). We are huge fans of Ben Moore Paint and this shade of white is so soft --like a blanket. 

It used to look like this (that was a horrible DIY mistake!): 

Before that it looked like this (horrible photo. The natural wood was nice, but the veneer was peeling):

Changing Pad & Cover: Off the shelf at Buy Buy Baby. The pad is fine, but the cover is terrible. The fabric got all stretched out, has no elasticity to it, and does not stay on the pad anymore. I’ll be making a new one soon. Stay tuned.

Book Shelves: Made by Jack. Paint is Winter Snow by Benjamin Moore (Aura line). The brackets came from the paint store and were super cheap. So cheap, in fact, that one is bent (how I didn’t notice this when I bought them I’ll never know). I considered spray painting them yellow, but I didn’t want to highlight the imperfection. Eventually I’ll probably change them out for something with a little more heft and design. Like these from Anthropologie. 

Yellow Wooden Duck Puzzle (on shelf): Mine from when I was little

Boy & Girl Bookends: gift from my aunt

Curtains: Chipper Slub Corn Yellow by Premier Prints, Thermal lining came from Jack B’s on Fabric Row (S 4th Street) here in Philly. They have the best selection and prices for decorator weight fabric that I’ve found locally. Oh yeah, and I made the curtains! I used the same method as I used for our living room curtains.  As I mentioned in that post, thermal lining is made with a rubber backing while true blackout lining is coated with lead. Jack B’s carries both, but I did not want to introduce lead into our nursery so I went with the thermal. Make sure you ask at the fabric store what the coating is when you ask for thermal lining. Sherry from Young House Love replied to me in a comment on her blog that the “blackout” lining in their nursery curtains is actually thermal lining purchased from JoAnn’s (they apparently only carry the thermal, non-leaded variety).

Paper Lantern: Ikea. Jack added a toggle light switch from our local hardware store to the standard cord (also from Ikea), which is way more convenient than unplugging the cord to turn the light off. Why don’t Ikea cord kits come with toggle switches in the first place?

Eames Chair: This used to be in Jack’s mom’s house and was gifted to us as a wedding gift. Jack covets it and is very jealous that I’ve spent so much time in it over the last 5+ months nursing Gavin. Little does he know that this will be my reading chair for life! And aside from the fact that it’s not a rocker, it is the perfect nursing chair.

Teddy Bear Blanket: Lauren Celeste, gift from my cousins 

Yellow and White Quilt: gift from Jack’s mom. Don’t you love how it pairs so well with the curtains? Total coincidence! I had already ordered the fabric when we got this quilt.

Grey Duvet: Crate and Barrel from a few years ago

Bedspread: Avery Bedspread in Teal, Crate & Barrel (color no longer available)

Bedframe: Ikea. Eventually I will paint this yellow so that it resembles my inspiration photo seen here

Pillow shams: Capri in Popsicle Stick by Waverley (fabric), made by me

Bird Pillow: Birds in Pink colorway by Galbraith & Paul (fabric), made by me (fabric purchased at the Galbraith & Paul Sample Sale last year) 

Boppy Pillow Cover: Marimekko (fabric), made by me. Fabric purchased by Jack’s aunt at Crate&Barrel when the store located in the old TAC building in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass. was closing. So sad. L That was the best Crate&Barrel. (I know they’re all the same, but this particular one with a multi-level glass fa├žade just shone like a light box at night. The displays paired with draping Marimekko fabric was irresistible. Seriously, I think we went in there every weekend just to poke around. It explains why we have such a plethora of kitchen stuff.)

Monkey Toy Bin: 3 Sprouts Organic Storage Bin, Amazon 

Christening Gown: Family heirloom

Growth Chart: gift from Mahre (my mom). I think she found it at Homegoods.

Striped boxes: Ikea. They were hot pink and I recovered them in the Waverley fabric, but now the lids don’t fit properly…

Nightstand: Shaker-style table in maple with birch inlay, made by Jack’s stepfather

Wow. This is a ridiculously long post! So, what do you like or dislike about our nursery? What did you do in your nursery? What questions can I answer?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Before & After Series: The nursery revealed (finally!)

This post has taken forever and a day to get together. For the last six months, the nursery was never quite finished and therefore not ready for photographing. There was always something I wanted to change, add, or make, which held up the publishing of the post. But I won't bore you with excuses, let's get to the Before & After!


Initially, we thought that the rear bedroom would be the nursery and we would stay in the front bedroom. Well, when the crib arrived in the mail and we shoved the guest bed (which we planned to keep in the nursery) up against the wall, we learned that we only had a 12 inch gap between the two. Holy cramped, Batman! That was just not going to work. Plus, there was no room for a nursing chair, which meant I would end up nursing in the guest bed, inevitably fall asleep, and roll over and crush the baby! (We've since gotten over this fear.) Here's a look at the cramped rear bedroom:

Then we had a conversation with our neighbors who were due to have a baby just six weeks before us. Their rowhouse is nearly identical to ours and they set up their nursery in the front bedroom. Ah ha! We decided to try it out and no sooner than we moved all the furniture that we realized we could move the Eames chair upstairs to be my nursing chair. Yes!

You could probably do without all this narrative so I'll skip ahead. Here is the gratuitous before and after reveal:



Here are some additional detailed images:

Our Eames chair  (not a reproduction) and my Boppy pillow with custom Marimekko cover

Thermal-lined curtains made by me

All the little critters

Gavin's Christening gown

Close-up of the crib sheet and crib skirt both made by me

My little guy --happy as a clam!

 Hope you enjoyed the tour! In my next post, I'll list all the sources.

Update: See all our resources here.