Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great Pantry Re-Do

When it came time to find an apartment, Jam and I set out together one July weekend determined to make a decision as soon as possible. We were shown three of the most god-awful places I've ever seen...EVER. I returned home somewhat discouraged that a place I had seen on Craigslist that was almost perfect, had disappeared. Three days later, the "realtor" (I say that in quotes because the whole deal was SHADY!) we were working with called and asked me to look at a place. Jam was in NYC, so I brought my sister along. It was THE apartment from Craigslist! I only had to walk a few steps into the apartment to know it was indeed perfect. Spacious, filled with light, with a built-in china cabinet AND a pantry. Bliss. I put a deposit down, my sister loaded a video she recorded on YouTube for Jam's review, and a few days after that, I signed the lease.

The pantry is one of the best things about the apartment, and I claimed half of it as my craft space. I know, I know, that was pushy. Luckily Jam was cool with it. My crafty things were the first things moved and unpacked, partially because I needed so many of my craft supplies for my DIY wedding project, and partly because I have so much crap stuff. 

this was just the beginning....

Once Jam had made the move north, we devoted the second half of the pantry to food and food-related things like a panini press, Foreman grill and my beloved red mixer. Fast forward about six months. In that space of time we had a wedding, a honeymoon, continued to open boxes of wedding gifts, ordered furniture, got trapped coming home from San Diego, got snowed in more than once, had a Christmas party, had friends over...needless to say, pantry organization wasn't exactly at the top of my priority list. One day in March I realized that our pantry had fallen into disarray and disgrace. Tragic:

Cords dangled from appliances, pans were stacked haphazardly. Baking supplies and boxes of rice intermingled, vinegar and ziploc bags shared the same shelf. An old bottle of wine hid, spoiling, behind my mixer. Open bags of m and m's and pretzels lingered for months on the bottom shelf. Recipes we printed off the computer lay in an ignored pile. My Christmas amaryllis sagged in front of the window. The longer I looked, the closer I came to point break, point meltdown. I decided that the pantry needed an overhaul. 

I turned to the Container Store. I set a budget. I went to work. I sketched and resketched the pantry, I heavily stalked home improvement and decor blogs (Apartment Therapy, Design*Sponge in particular), and I made a wish list on the Container Store's website - this way I could ensure that I'd stay within my budget when I went to the store (unless I got excited and bought random things I didn't need, but I was VERY focused!) I actually took a vacation day from work to tackle this project - I dropped Jam at the airport for one of his business trips, hopped on the Mass Pike westbound and sped out to the Container Store in Natick, where I had made sure all my wish list products were in stock (gotta love the Container Store's website).

It took an entire day to organize the pantry. And while the improvements were vast, I don't think I'm quite done (having sat with the new and improved pantry for 3 months, I now know it's weakest points and know it's almost time for an update), but oh, it is SO MUCH easier to find things, use things, and I can look at my pantry without having a mental breakdown. Remember the before? The horrible, horrible before:

Get ready....


OK you really ready?

Here's the after:

Better, right??!!! 

Because this took me a whole day, I finished waaay after sunset, so sadly, the lighting in these photos isn't exactly the greatest, but here are some more shots.

I finally put to use the mason jars left over from the wedding. They've since been labeled (my dumb p-touch had dead batteries the night of the pantry re-do!)

An additional 2-tier rack and two single spinning racks wrangled my spices, baking supplies (food coloring, sprinkles) as well as things like vinegar and soy sauce.

On the top shelf, a pot lid rack wrangled our interchangeable Foreman grill racks. On the third shelf a "kitchen wrap" organizer put our ziploc bags, saran, wax paper, parcment, etc in order. The second shelf features some amazing pop-top oxo storage bins a friend gave us (oh to replace all my bins with these amazing oxo ones!), and a drop-down can rack does double duty not only organizing our canned goods, but also storing boxes of rice. Finally, I bought a small wine rack for the bottom shelf, and a mesh shelf for trashbags and boxes of sandwich bags - things we were always reaching for but could never quickly or easily find!

Also on the bottom shelf - I moved my mixer and bulk dry goods (which were heavy) down so I wouldn't have to pull them off the shelf. The basket is holding cookie cutters and other baking tools.

Even the craft side of things got a redo and tidy - not too shabby!

Though I was psyched at the outcome, there are still some things that need to be done. I still need to organize the cabinets below the shelves, purge some of my craft supplies, and tackle some of the things I didn't mention here (cough cough very top shelf of pantry cough), and I do need to help husbando finish the floor. I think this was an excellent start to my organizing endeavors though! Eek, I'm actually inspired to re-tackle the pantry and a couple other organization projects (husband's office). Stay tuned - more DIY projects might be on their way :)

Monday, June 20, 2011


I just need to vent for the quickest second: while I love social networking for the fact that it can reconnect you with old friends from across the globe and help you keep in touch with family far and near, it DOES NOT mean you know ANYTHING about the stuff going on in anyone's life, even your close friends' lives. Especially if you don't have an account and stalk people through other people's accounts :( nothing beats picking up the phone, or better yet, finding time to hang out. And if you're reading this blog, no worries, this doesn't apply to any of you :) I just found myself in a really crap situation this weekend. Actually, it made me want to delete my account so people would be forced to actually converse with me, but if I deleted my facebook account, how could I stalk random people from college and high school? ha ha ha. The account lives on, but I just might be using it a little less, and hopefully it will send the right people a message of sorts. Or not. Argh.  eta: Facebook issues solved for the moment...

Enough venting.

This weekend I went to a local park to try and jog a 5K...I think I should specify here. I know I can jog a 5k, and actually ran 3.2 miles in 35 minutes just the other day, but I wanted to jog this park because it was woodsy, near the ocean/river, and it had a 3+ mile looping trail so I wouldn't get bored or have to jog in circles. I bought a big ol' gatorade to carry with me and headed out. Problem 1: the gatorade was heavy and about five minutes into my run it felt like a 15 lb dumbbell. Problem 2: I went running at 11:30 without a hat or sunscreen. Problem 3: the park where I wanted to run has become mostly a dog park. I felt like an adult at the playground without a kid...creepy. Dog owners glanced at me out of the corner of their eyes or over the tops of their designer sunglasses like I was some sort of dog-napper or dogless voyeur come to stare longingly at their precious little puppykins. It was WEIRD! I saw one other runner (she had a dog) and one other dogless person (who actually creeped ME out) and my run turned into a pathetic run-walk as I lugged the gatorade around a seemingly endless system of paved trails. At one point I thought I was lost and started to wonder if I'd make it out of there alive. I did. I was soaked in sweat (more dirty looks...apparently the people in the ritzy town in which the park is located do NOT sweat) and was grateful I brought a fresh t-shirt to change into. I actually think I'll head to the park again at some point, though probably on my bike. Or with a dog. ha.

After that I went to Lowe's to continue to balcony improvement project. The feisty squirrels in my yard are determined to destroy my planting efforts. They will not win!! I will find a way to deter them! I will also put some pictures up of the improvements...you know, for the 2 people still reading this blog. Ha.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sweet Victory

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Last night we watched the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in Game 7 - GLORIOUS GLORIOUS GLORIOUSNESS! I was especially happy for my die-hard hockey fan grandparents. They never miss a game (thus being far more dedicated hockey fans than me!) and I know they must've been on the edge of their seats for all seven games!! I'm especially happy for Tim Thomas (above) our stoic, steadfast goalie. Yeah B's!

As for the rioting that followed in Vancouver - it's sad to see. Apparently many Canadians are as embarrassed and ashamed of it as I was appalled and shocked (Vancouver! Such a world class city! What the heck!). Boston had its own set of shenanigans (why to drunken men try to flip cars, WHY?) but unfortunately, Boston has learned how to deal with this kind of behavior the hard way, and from what I hear, the police presence was heavy and came down hard on anyone misbehaving. It's sad a few rotten people spoil everyone's fun, but here's to the B's win and to a safe and happy victory parade on Saturday! Go Bruins!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wow....No really, WOW!

I get these daily emails from Whole Living. They include a "challenge" for the day. Sometimes I ignore and delete them, sometimes I read them and think "yeah ok. whatever" and then delete them, but sometimes, like today, I actually read the email, "accept" the challenge, and delve deeper into the who/what/why of the challenge.

Today's challenge was "Get Motivated," and the email urged everyone to think of a task they'd been spending time dreading and re-work the thought process around that task, "focusing on the end result" so that it "fed" us instead of "drained" us. Hmm sounded like good advice, plus there's always something on my plate I'm dreading.

By accepting that challenge, I can across a list of 11 Common Stress Triggers. I've been coming home from work stressy and mad lately. I feel overwhelmed....or underwhelmed. I wondered if I had any of these "common" stress triggers. The list looked like this:

1. Money Issues
2. A Job That Never Ends (meaning you're working 24/7 because of iphones, blackberries, laptops, etc).
3. A Job You Don't Like
4. Your Relationship
5. Constant Caregiving
6. Holiday Pressures
7. Taking on Too Much
8. Not Enough Quality Time
9. Striving to be Perfect (HA!)
10. A Lack of Passion
11. Disorganized Clutter

Sigh. I feel as though 8 of these 11 things are a significant factor in my life. And trust me, I'm grateful for the three that are not, especially the "constant caregiving" one, but seriously? It's time to get life in order! I think just knowing that these things are causing unnecessary stress in my life will help me move forward.

Blah blah blah me me me.

Moving on :)

I finished Craft Hope projects 12 and 13. YAY!

First up, I made 27 bracelets for Russian Orphans:
Here are the "big girl" sizes (taken with the wicked clevah Hipstamatic app)

I loved making these - the beads brought me right back to early 90's Girl Scout camp and I admit, I kinda wanted to rock a bracelet for myself...but no! these are for the orphans! And though I joke, the orphan situation in Russia is nothing short of tragic. This is from Craft Hope's website, facts and figures via Orphan Outreach:

There are more than 143 million orphans around the world. The majority don’t live in orphanages, they live in communities. They live in extreme poverty and many are homeless.”
One hundred and forty three million. 143 million. Can you comprehend this number? Staggering. Mind boggling. Overwhelming.
I read this information, along with other countless figures, from the warmth of my own home. A safe place that I have created for my own children. With love bursting at the seams. And I became overwhelmingly grateful for all that I have and am able to provide.
A few more statistics that will stop you in your tracks…
  • Every day 5,760 more children become orphans.
  • Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…
  • Every year 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system.
  • More than 1 million orphans are waiting for a home in Russia.
  • In Russia, 60% of girl orphans become prostitutes and 70% of male orphans become hardened criminals.
Kids don’t get to pick their parents. They don’t get to pick what their upbringing will be like. They have no choices. We can’t change this, but we can help. We can share a little love from across the globe.
 A little about Russia — When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it’s shaky orphan-care system also fell. Alcohol consumption increased 10 times the U.S. level. The instances of divorce also climbed, along with the HIV-infection rate, which is now one of the highest in the world. And, according to a 2007 UNICEF report, the annual number of children without parental care in Russian ‘has more than doubled over the last 10 years, despite falling birth rates.’ Currently, there are over 750,000 children in the orphanage system and hundreds of thousands more living in the streets.

Yeah. Kinda of makes my BS about "life stress" seem pretty insignificant, huh?

As a kid, ok, even as an adult, I have pieces of jewelry that I wear that mean something. I have a necklace I bought in Kenya on my 21st birthday that just makes me *HAPPY* when I wear it. I have several necklaces my sister made for me. I have a necklace a friend had made for me for a birthday gift. I have things my husband gave me, things from my parents, things from my grandparents, a string of fake pearls that my father's mother had amongst her limited possessions when she passed away. These things MEAN something when I wear them. My hope for all the Craft Hope bracelets sent to Russia is that a kid will wear them, look at it and know that someone out there made them that bracelet because they care.

For Craft Hope 13, my overwhelming desire to "DO SOMETHING!" was fulfilled - the mission of 13 was blankets for tornado survivors. Ironically enough, Massachusetts was hit with a round of tornadoes while I was working on these quilts. They were not particularly close to where I live (about 2 hours away, around the area where I attended college, so I consider it "close" but it wasn't geographically), but we got the aftermath of the storms in my city, with lightning, thunder, powerful winds. It was mildly scary. I looked out the window and thought "now multiply this scary times about a million, and that's what you were dealing with in places like Tuscaloosa and Joplin." Damn. I hope I never see anything like that.

Making the quilt tops for each of these was a breeze - I decided to go with big squares and raided my fabric stash for suitable options. I had hoarded sufficiently large bits of fabric from baby quilts and other projects past, so I knew I could make at least two quilt tops. Sewing them brought back such fond memories, as some of the pieces were inherited from my mother. The center of the "pink quilt" was actually fabric from a dress my mother sewed for my sister! The problem came much later when I chose to back the quilts with fleece. It thought making something warm and snuggly would be nice, and if I went with fleece, I wouldn't have to do the whole "quilt sandwich" thing with batting in the middle.


Fleece is, previously unbeknownst to me, stretchy. For some reason I didn't pick up on the stretchy-ness when I was laying out quilt pieces, or even sewing the first side of the quilt back to the top. No, the realization came later, when I tried to finish the final sides and the seams didn't match or the fleece was bunched up weird. Oh the frustration! I was flipping out. When I finished the seams, everything seemed off-kilter. As I hand-sewed the final piece, I noticed how cozy the quilt's fleecy back was "At least this will keep someone warm"...and with that, I gave myself a mental dope-slap (at least that's what my dad would call it!) - "this a homemade WARM quilt that you are making for a stranger who has lost EVERYTHING," I told myself, "the last thing they are going to be worrying about is your stupid stupid stretchy fleece or your wonky seams." I told someone that I was all worried about the seams and she laughed in my face. I totally deserved it too :)

 So with that, I packed everything up and sent the quilts and bracelets off to their respective destinations. May they warms souls, brighten days, and let people know that they're in other's thoughts and hearts.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

To Do

What I have to do today: truck through a huge QA report, figure out the status of my project, get ready for a conference call next week, map out summer plans, plan meals and plan the snack I have to make for a church thing, go grocery shopping, do laundry.

What I want to do today: play on Etsy (it's pay day, the one day each week where I feel wealthy, like I have money to burn), buy a new umbrella at the hospital gift shop, laze about, read, go swimming.

I might get to do both, but it seems unlikely!

The good news? I feel a little more inspiration coming on. I've been so "blah" lately in the inspired category. Maybe it's because we finally got out of this rain/crap weather rut, got to throw open the windows and have a steady breeze flowing through the apartment (accompanied by a steady stream of bugs - our screens are not as open-window-worthy as I thought...). I feel ready to tackle projects...but for some reason, not laundry. Hmmm.