Great Books to Curl Up with this Fall

On Episode 21 of  Hang Your Hat I discussed some of the science behind creating a reading nook that will perfectly suit you, the reader, as well as some unscientific accessories that will serious seriously amp up the cosy factor.  You should totally check it out.

But no reading nook is complete without some great books.  Here are a few of my current favorites (not necessarily my all-time favorites, but the ones I am enjoying right now).

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The Bobiverse Book Series

Currently, this is my favorite new book series.  I absolutely LOVE it!  Bob is a self-replicating space probe (a Von Neumann probe if you want to be technical about it), that is on a mission to explore space and save humanity.  Throughout it all, he maintains a great sense of humor and a sense of wonder.  He is the kind of space probe that I could become friends with, and I have grown attached to him and his many copies while reading the 3 books in the series that have been published so far.

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The Dresden Files Series

The Dresden Files is an Urban Fantasy series featuring Harry Dresden, a wizard detective.  Jim Butcher, the author of this series is a New York Times best-selling author and it is easy to see why in this series.  He is able to seamlessly meld irreverent humor and fun with issues of life and death, love, family dysfunction, and faith.  I actually prefer the audiobook version of this series as read by James Marsters (you might remember his as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), to the physical book.  Marsters completely embodies the character of Dresden, which makes this series an engrossing listen.

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Anansi Boys

If you have not already made yourself acquainted with the work of Neil Gaiman, you should.  It will give you a completely new perspective on the world around you, and leave you wondering what you would find if you were able to scratch the surface of reality.  Anansi Boys can be thought of as a companion book to American Gods, as it was written along the same theme.  The Anansi Boys are the sons of the trickster god Anansi, and the book explores their life, origin, and family dynamics.  

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Sherlock Holmes as read by Stephen Fry

I love Sherlock Holmes.  I have multiple versions of the complete collection, and I enjoy them all, but this version read by Stephen Fry is my new favorite.  His reading draws me into the story in a way that I have never experienced before.  It is like I am there standing next to Holmes in his rooms at Baker Street watching him solve the mystery.  

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The Cormoran Strike series is about a disabled vet who works as a detective, his assistant Robin, and their outrageous cases.  Don't be fooled by the author's name, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, and while the Strike series isn's even in the same genre as Harry Potter her creativity, attention to detail and wide knowledge base still shines through like it did in Harry Potter.  In case you were thinking this is a good series to give to the kids after they finish Harry Potter, fair warning - this is NOT a kid's series.  This one is also being picked up as a TV series as well, so stay tuned.  I only hope it is as good as the books.

 

 

If you have a recommendation for a good book everyone should make time to read this fall, please let me know about it in the comments.  I am always on the hunt for new books, and I am sure other readers would appreciate the recommendation too.

58 Songs for the Ultimate Halloween Playlist

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Happy Friday the 13th, in October no less!  Halloween is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a Halloween playlist that sets the scene.  

Today I am sharing my Halloween playlist.  I have been putting this one together for a while now, and there are a few new additions this year that I hope you enjoy.

If I have left off your favorite Halloween song, let me know about it.  I am always on the lookout for great new additions.

Is microwaving vinegar and water a miracle microwave cleaner?

While I was researching for Hang Your Hat's Episode 8:  Wax On, Wax Off, one cleaning hack came up over and over again - Cleaning your Microwave by Microwaving Water and Vinegar.  Some sites implied that once you did the microwaving you were done and the microwave would be magically cleaned by the water and vinegar vapor, others indicated that a quick wipe down of the walls after microwaving the water and vinegar mix was required but, it would be so easy to remove the junk that it would practically jump off the side of the microwave onto your cleaning rag.

I was pretty skeptical of these claims.  It just didn't seem likely that just microwaving water and vinegar would make that much difference, so I decided to do an experiment of my own.

Before

Before Cleaning - Spaghetti Explosion Mess

Before Cleaning - Spaghetti Explosion Mess

The state of my microwave is a direct consequence of allowing my kids to microwave their own food.  It is messy, and I am ok with that.  Letting them fix their own food helps them gain a sense of independence, and learning that an uncovered bowl of spaghetti will splatter the entire microwave will serve them well later in life.  The result was that I didn't have to manufacture a mess in my microwave to do this test, so in that sense this is a "true" test of this method; however, despite the volume of mess, it actually hadn't been that long since my microwave was cleaned, so I didn't have junk baked on by eons of use.  A truly baked in mess might have different results, as could different microwave materials, wattage, etc.  Moving on.

Comparison to Standard Cleaning Methods

I started by doing a wipe down of just the door using my favorite all purpose cleaner, by Method, and a clean rag.  I had no problem whatsoever removing the mess on the door using this method - it came right off.

Experiment

Then I started on the actual experiment.  There were a LOT of variations on this method, the one I chose to use was from Magnolia Magazine's 2nd issue, Simplicity.  The directions were;

In a microwave safe bowl microwave 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and a few drops of essential oil for 4 minutes, then let sit for 4 minutes.  Wipe clean.

I followed the directions exactly, even using a timer to make sure I waited just the right amount of time.  Since the type of essential oil was not specified I assumed it was added for the smell rather than any specific cleaning quality, so I used Lavender.

Results

After Microwaving the water and vinegar mix and wiping with a dry rag.

After Microwaving the water and vinegar mix and wiping with a dry rag.

After waiting the prescribed amount of time I wiped down the inside of the microwave with a clean dry cloth.  Some of the junk did come off, but it wasn't exactly miraculous.  There was still plenty of mess left after I wiped it down.

Recommendation

After scrubbing the microwave with the warm water and vinegar mix.

After scrubbing the microwave with the warm water and vinegar mix.

When just wiping the microwave with a dry cloth didn't really work, I decided to use warm water and vinegar as a cleaning solution.  I dipped my rag into the solution and wiped down the inside of the microwave with that.  The microwaved mess didn't stand a chance.  Huge amounts came out with every swipe of my rag and soon it was completely clean.

Conclusion

The simple act of microwaving water and vinegar did not mirculalously clean my microwave; however, the warm water and vinegar mixture that resulted from this cleaning hack was quite a good cleaning agent.  If you use this hack expect to do some scrubbing.

For more on cleaning, check out Hang You Hat, Episode 8:  Has On, Wax Off.

Does waxing your sink keep it cleaner longer?

Hang Your Hat Episode 8 just came out, and it is all about spring cleaning.  While doing my research for the show I came across a couple of cleaning hacks, a few of which were even good enough to try.  My favorite of these hacks was waxing the sink.  The idea is that waxing the sink will make water bead up on it, and gunk rinse down the drain easier, keeping the sink cleaner longer.  Since kitchen sinks tend to be one of the most disgusting germ filled areas in the home, and since my sink seems to attract filth like a magnet attracts ferrous metal, I thought it would be worth a try.

The Sink Before - Not Hiding the Shame Today

The Sink Before - Not Hiding the Shame Today

The close ups really do the filth justice.

The close ups really do the filth justice.

This is what my sink looked like when I started.  The close ups really do it justice.  I won’t deny it, it was filthy, and also the reason this hack appealed to me so much to begin with.  It always feels like as soon as I clean the sink, I blink and it is filthy again.  I was really hoping that this hack would give me a bit more time between serious scrub downs.

Step 1:  Thoroughly Clean the sink  

The sink needed to be cleaned before it could be waxed, so I went with a three step approach to getting it the cleanest it could possibly be.  I should note here that my sink is a stainless steel sink, and it can tolerate some pretty heavy cleaning.  Always make sure that the cleaning products you use are safe for the surface you are cleaning.

Baking Soda and Dish Soap

The first step in the cleaning was a good scrubbing with baking soda and dish soap.  This combo makes a slightly abrasive paste that is really good for cutting through heavy grime.  When I finished scrubbing I rinsed the paste off, and the sink was already looking a lot better.

Vinegar

Next I went in with a spray bottle full of vinegar and a scrubbing pad.  The vinegar is good at getting rid of water spots and minor lime scale build up (if you have heavy lime scale build up a product like CLR is a better choice).  Note here that I washed the baking soda off the sink before applying the vinegar.  Combining the two will not do anything harmful, but it probably won’t do anything beneficial either.  Since baking soda is alkaline and vinegar is acidic when the two are combined the Ph of the combination becomes neutral, like water.  Since I needed an acid for the water spots and the lime scale I did not combine the two.  

On a side note, you might notice vinegar reacting to lime scale if you have a lot of it.  It bubbles up just like it does when it is combined with baking soda.  This is because the lime, like the baking soda, is alkaline.  The reaction is a tiny bit of lime scale being eaten away by the vinegar.  

Once the vinegar was done doing its job I rinsed it off completely.

Bleach

Last I used a bleach based cleaner to disinfect.  Make sure the vinegar is completely washed off before applying the bleach because vinegar and bleach can create some harmful gas when combined.

I sprayed on the cleaner, and let it sit for 5 minutes to give it time to completely disinfect.  Then I rinsed it off.

After Cleaning

After Cleaning

This is what is looked like when I had finished cleaning it - It cleans up pretty good!

Step 2:

Dry the Sink

Before wax can be applied to the sink it must be dry.  I grabbed a clean dry cloth and wiped it down.

Apply the Wax

Next I applied the wax.  I used carnuba wax – just like the wax used on cars.  My family does not put anything directly in the sink that we will be eating later, so I felt comfortable using the carnuba wax.  If my family ever put food directly in the sink I would have used a food safe wax instead.  

The wax is easy to apply, you just get a bit on the applicator and rub it on the sink trying to apply a thin even coat on all of the sink surfaces.  If you leave a few globs, like I did, it is not the end of the world, it just takes those areas a bit longer to dry.

Remove the Wax

Let the wax dry completely before you remove it.  When it is dry it will look like a white, slightly powdery, haze on the surface of the sink.  

Once it is dry grab another clean dry cloth and wipe off the dry wax (and be amazed how much crap you still get off the sink even after all of that cleaning).  You should not see any white haze left once the wax has been removed.

 

Step 3: Test it

Even tiny drops of water bead up after the application of the wax.

Even tiny drops of water bead up after the application of the wax.

I was a bit nervous to test it.  I had such high hopes for this hack, and I really wanted it to work.  If it hadn’t worked I was going to be so disappointed.  Firebeard ended up getting some water when I wasn’t looking, some of which dripped into the sink.  It beaded up beautifully.  I spent the rest of the day rinsing things off in the sink and watching water and bits of food slide right down the drain without leaving a mark on the sink.  It was a beautiful thing to behold.

Step 4:  See how long it takes the filth to build back up again

And then I went on a business trip for 5 days.  Firebeard and the kids stayed home, and used the sink like they normally would.  It was rinsed out when dishes were done, but it was not cleaned or even wiped down.  This is what it looked like when I got back (and put the dishes in the washer):

After five days of use and no cleaning.

After five days of use and no cleaning.

Close up after 5 days of use with no cleaning.  

Close up after 5 days of use with no cleaning.  

Conclusion:

Holy Crap!  This is amazing.  I am never not going to do this ever again.  Five days after being cleaned and waxed it looks like it normally does five minutes after I clean it.  I don't know how this isn't standard Home Ec 101.  Really I could not be more pleased with how well this turned out.  You should definately give it a try!  I am heading off to wax the rest of the sinks in my house now.

 

To learn more about Spring Cleaning and cleaning Hacks check out Hang Your Hat Episode 8:  Wax on, Wax Off.  If you have a fantastic cleaning hack you would like to share, or have heard of one that might be worthy of a cleaning experiment, please let me know about it in the comments.

Ikea's New 2017 PS Collection

For the first time since 2014 there is a new Ikea PS Collection.  21 designers collaborated with Ikea to make 60 new products, ranging from furniture to drink mixes.

This collection targets Millennials, and other people that move a lot or live in transient or shared living situations.  The furniture tends to be small, light weight, portable and durable.  As a result, a lot of it looks a bit unconventional, and may not appeal to people living in more traditional circumstances.  However, I do think that for the most part, it does represent good design for the target audience.  For example:

2-seat Sofa with 36 cushions - $598

2-seat Sofa with 36 cushions - $598

This 2 seat sofa with 36 cushions looks a bit like lawn furniture covered in pointy clouds to me.  However the metal frame looks light weight and durable, and it separates into two pieces that make it easier to fit through small doors, carry up narrow stairways, and wedge into the corners of microscopic flats.  In other words - it is ideal for the intended audience.

This collection has several pieces like this sofa, that are great designs but don't fit my lifestyle, some designs that are right up my alley, and a few that just don't make any sense to me at all.  In my review of the new collection, I am going to break it up into these groups.


Good Designs that Don't Fit my Lifestyle

Valet Stand - $39

Valet Stand - $39

Valet stands are a great place to stage tomorrow's outfit.  This one is a great size for small spaces, and the wheels make it easy to move out of the way if it needs to share space with important things like doors; however, it's design is a bit too stark for me.  

Storage Unit - $129

Storage Unit - $129

This Ikea storage unit is fairly light weight, and the metal construction is durable, which makes it great for frequent movers.  It is also lockable, which is good for a shared housing situation (when roommates are not entirely trustworthy).  However, it feels a bit like garage storage to me.

Side Table on Castors - $139

Side Table on Castors - $139

This is just good design.  It is small enough to be a side table, portable enough to be used as a cart.  It can serve multiple functions which is key in a small space.  It's form just doesn't quite fit my taste.

Rocking Chair - $299

Rocking Chair - $299

This rocking chair will not find a place in my home, because it doesn't match ANY of my other decor, but I actually really love it.  It is such an unusual and inventive shape.  I feel like it would be a conversation starting piece.


Right Up my Alley

Throw - $34.95

Throw - $34.95

Who doesn't love a good throw?  This one is a beautiful emerald color with an interesting texture.

Vase, Set of 3 - $34.95

Vase, Set of 3 - $34.95

I am always on the look out for interesting containers that can be used in multiple ways and these fit the bill.  They are large enough to hold things like fruit, and pretty enough to hold flowers, or to be displayed on their own.  They also come in nearly opaque white.

Mug with Lid - $8.95

Mug with Lid - $8.95

I don't know why I like this mug so much.  I have plenty of mugs.  I don't need another mug, but I want this one.  I think it is again the shape that I find so appealing - I have never seen a mug this shape ever before.

Armchair - $299

Armchair - $299

This arm chair is one of the first things that caught my eye in this collection.  I love the sleek simple lines combined with the unusual mesh fabric.  Ikea seems to be envisioning these in a living room type of setting, but to me they look like an office guest chair that your guests might actually want to sit in.  It would also make a really good occasional chair in my home; however, I would have wanted it to be stackable for that use so I could fit multiples in a small space and drag them out as needed.  The only real problem I see with this chair is the price tag.  It is in the same price range as most of Ikea's large upholstered arm chairs, and it just doesn't look like it is in the same league as something like the Strandmon Wing Chair.  However, if it is as comfortable as one of the big arm chairs, then it would be a good choice for a living room that was very short on space.

3-piece self-watering plant pot set - $39.95

3-piece self-watering plant pot set - $39.95

This plant pot is my favorite piece in this collection hands down.  It is beautiful, and functional, and I need like 5 in my house right now.  I think the price is a little bit high when compared to Ikea's other pots and plant stands, but not excessively so.  Of all of the pieces in this collection, this is the one that I can say I will absolutely be putting in my home.  


What were they thinking?

Seat/Floor pad - $59

Seat/Floor pad - $59

This is a seat/floor pad, but why you would want it I don't know.  Ikea's picture of it has it on the floor like a yoga mat, but the surface is plush fabric, so you couldn't actually use it as a yoga mat, and it looks much too thin to sleep on.  Based on the velcro closures on the top it might work as a car seat cover, but it wouldn't fit well.  To top it all off it is $59.  Just think, all of this uselessness for less than $60.

Coffee Table - $59

Coffee Table - $59

This coffee table is less than 2 feet by 2 feet, and looks like a short TV tray table.  It is at best a side table, and not a particularly good looking one at that.

LED multi-use lighting - $34.95

LED multi-use lighting - $34.95

This is a flashlight that has to be plugged in and lives in a cage.  Someone please enlighten me on why anyone would want this.  Why wouldn't you just use a flashlight?  Half of the purpose of a flashlight is that it is portable, and this isn't.  To top it off it is $34.95.  I could get a flashlight and some good rechargeable batteries for much less than this.  I just don't get it.

Throw with zipper - $49.95

Throw with zipper - $49.95

This one was so incomprehensible to me I had to include two pictures.  It is called a throw, but looks like a quilted vest.  Without the person in it it looks like a normal size vest, with the person in it, it looks like a vest that was made for a giant.

I guess it is supposed to be like a snuggie, but somehow it is even less attractive than a snuggle (and I didn't think that was possible). Then there is the price - $50 - for this.... this.... thing. 


If you would like to learn more about Ikea, check out this week's episode of Hang Your Hat,  How is the Kullen Coming Along.  I go into the history of Ikea, including some troubling past events that I am sure Ikea would rather keep buried, as well as how they are working toward sustainability and social justice now.

The Bathroom Reveal

The blog has been a bit neglected lately since I don’t have a lot of spare time, and I have been spending most of the time I do have on the podcast (which is getting better and better each week – check it out!).  It hit me the other day that I had never officially revealed how the bathroom looks now that we are finished with our mini remodel.  Let's remedy that now. 

Before I reveal how good it looks now, I want to remind you how it looked when we started.  Our house was built in 1977, and while it had been well maintained, maintenance was about all that had been done to it.  The late 70’s and early 80’s were still alive and well in our home.  The hall bathroom was a 1970’s builder’s special – basic, beige, and boring.  It was serviceable, there was nothing really “wrong” with it, but it felt dingy no matter how much you scrubbed it and the atmosphere was far from relaxing.

After the shower doors were removed.

After the shower doors were removed.

We started the bathroom’s transformation, with removing the stuff that couldn’t be salvaged.  The Shower doors were the first to go.  It felt SOOO good to get those out – they were gross, and no amount of bleach and scrubbing would get the parts under the door seals clean!  Next we removed all of the caulk ….. the ridiculously bad, hideous caulk.  It was really terrible.  It was like they had a bad caulk, and decided to cover it up with more bad caulk – repeatedly.  It looked like an incredibly cheap hack job.  If we had done nothing in the bathroom but replacing the bad caulk, it still would have been a huge improvement in the appearance of the whole bathroom. 

Significantly Cleaner Looking after painting.

Significantly Cleaner Looking after painting.

Next we decided to cool things down a bit.  We painted the walls in BM Paper White, a cool, almost white grey, and the trim in BM Simply White.  This left the tiles in the bathtub surround looking distinctly pink.  Since new tile was not in the budget, we painted the tile using Rust-oleum tub and tile paint.  I admit the tile looked great, but if I had it to do again I don't think I would paint the tile, I just don't think it will be very durable.  

The bathroom cabinet after a coat of paint, new hardware, and a refinished countertop.

The bathroom cabinet after a coat of paint, new hardware, and a refinished countertop.

Cabinet interior after paint and new flooring.

Cabinet interior after paint and new flooring.

Next, we completely refinished the cabinet, inside and out.  It received a new paint job, and hardware.  The countertop was also refinished.

Floor Tile:  Before decades of dirt, after nearly new!

Floor Tile:  Before decades of dirt, after nearly new!

We even made the tile look nearly new by refreshing the grout.

While there are still a few things we would love to update as time and budget allow (like the mirror), the end result of this mini makeover was even better than we expected.  The bathroom looks fresh and clean, and it has a bit of personality now.  Something that was really lacking previously.

The beautiful Danica Odyssey shower curtain, that was the inspiration for the entire bathroom transformation.  I still love it and think it was a great choice.  It really makes the bathroom feel like a kid friendly space, without being a kid's space.

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To finish off the look I added a neon pothos in an aqua orchid pot, and some beautiful photos of the ocean.  The photos were given to Firebeard and I by the photographer, Joe Boris, for our wedding, and they are beautiful.  If you are looking for a photographer in the Atlanta area he is your man.  He does everything from lifestyle photography to corporate photography, and his work is impeccable.  

I think the most shocking thing about these before and after pictures is that one of the few things we didn't change in this bathroom was the lighting.  Initially we had fully intended to change out the lighting, because the bathroom just seemed SOO yellow when we started the makeover, but once we removed the yellowy beige paint from the walls and ceiling the room transformed.  Without yellow reflecting everywhere the room suddenly seemed bright, white, and cool.  It was an amazing visual transformation that we really didn't expect.  

To see all of the details of the bathroom transformation, including our many trials and tribulations, you can find them all here.

Stay turned for additional mini remodels!

DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook

Recently, my friend the Good Doctor directed me to the Darbin Orvar You Tube Channel, and I fell in love.   It is filled with DIY ideas, and building projects that are simple, creative, and beautiful.  One of the projects that immediately caught my attention was their DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook, and I knew I had to make it.  Unfortunately, the Darbin Orvar Tutorial was a bit light on measurements, so I had to figure out a few things as I went along.  It really wasn't a problem, because the notebook is really very simple, but I thought I would share the measurements I used, in case it helps out anyone in the future.

Cover:  A sheet of 8.5" x 11" leather by ArtMinds

Cover:  A sheet of 8.5" x 11" leather by ArtMinds

I started with an 8.5" x 11" piece of thick yet flexible leather (215.9mm x 279.4mm) by ArtMinds found at my local Michaels.  It is sold out online as of my writing this, but it is really similar to this leather sold by Amazon.  I used it as my cover, and it really dictated the dimensions of the rest of the journal, including the paper inserts.  Had I had a larger piece of leather available initially, I think I probably would have let the paper inserts determine the size of the notebook, but in the end I am very happy with the size of my finished product, and I am not sure that I would change the size if I make another.

Prepare Cover

You have to create holes in the cover to connect the cover to the paper inserts that you put inside it.  The holes need to be big enough to stick a piece of round elastic through them.  In the original tutorial Lin from Darbin Orvar used what I think was a leather hole punch like these.  I did not have a leather hole punch, so I used this sewing awl (on a side note, I use this tool ALL the time, it has been especially useful in the kitchen, and I highly recommend it).  I think Lin's leather punched holes look a bit neater than mine do, but I think mine still look pretty darn good.

I placed my holes 5.5" (139.7mm) from each short side of the leather, and then on that axis I placed holes 1" (25.4mm) from each long side, then 2" (50.8mm) from each long side, and then one hole 4.25" (107.9mm)  from each long side.  I made five holes total.  If this is hard to visualize, check out the picture of the leather after I had made the holes.

Create Inserts

Gather Paper and Prepare for Sewing

For my inserts I used 15 sheets of standard 8.5" by 11" (215.9mm x 279.4mm) paper for the interior and a piece of heavier weight craft paper for the cover.  I started by folding the paper short sides together in bunches of three pieces (it helps to crease the folded edge with a straight edge, like a ruler), and put the bunches together to form a book.  Since I wanted the height of my inserts to be slightly less than the height of my notebook, I then reduced the height of the insert by cutting off .5" (12.7mm) with an xacto knife (the total size of the paper being inserted was now 8" by 11" or 203.2mm by 279.4mm).  In retrospect it may have been easier to cut the paper prior to folding it. 

To make it easier to sew the paper together I punched holes along the fold as well.  First I unfolded all of the sheets and clipped them together with large paper clips to keep all the pieces in place.  Then I marked where my holes would go along the fold line every half inch.  Finally I used the same awl from earlier to punch the holes where I had marked.  

Sewing the Insert

To sew the insert I chose some variegated plied embroidery thread that I already had in my stash, because it was the thickest thread I had, and I thought it would be pretty.  I sewed using a large embroidery needle.

I sewed a running stitch, starting in the middle inside of the insert, and worked my way to one edge of the insert, turned around and sewed back to the other edge of the insert overlapping my previous stitches, and then turned around again and sewed back to the middle.  This left me with two tails in the middle of the insert which I knotted together using a square knot.  

Cutting the Insert to Fit

Your insert will now be too wide for your cover, so it will need to be cut down.  I cut mine down by .5" or 12.7mm (making the total paper size 8" x 10" or 203.2mm x 254mm).  With three inserts in my notebook, my cover is just big enough to cover my inserts.  If you wanted a little extra overlap by your notebook cover you might want to cut the inserts down by .75" (19.05mm); however, if you were using fewer inserts you might need to cut the insert down by only .25" (6.36mm).

Adding the Elastic and One Insert

To attach the inserts to the notebook cover and to keep the notebook closed, I used this round elastic from Dritz.  Start by cutting the elastic down to size - I cut a 36" (914.4mm) piece.  Then fold the elastic in half.  the folded part of elastic should be inserted into the middle hole in the notebook cover from back to front.  The elastic should then be pulled through so that it makes a loop that is the same length that the cover is wide (5.5" or 139.7mm).  

At this point, the remaining portion of the elastic will be two tails on the inside of the cover.  One tail should be inserted in the next closest hole toward the top of the cover, and the other in the next closest hole toward the bottom of the cover.  The insertion direction is from the inside to the outside of the cover.  The loop that was made earlier should remain.

Turn the cover over so that the outside of the cover is facing up.  The elastic tails should be coming out of the second holes from the bottom and top of the cover, respectively.  Insert the top tail in the hole closest to the top of the cover, inserting from front to back.  Do the same for the bottom tail, in the bottom hole.

Turn the cover over once again so that the inside of the cover is facing up.  The elastic tails should be coming out of the upper and lower-most holes in the cover.  Open one insert to the middle page and place the spine of the insert over the spine of the cover.  Now gather the two elastic tails over the insert and tie them in a knot, holding the insert in place.

Adding Additional Inserts

To add additional inserts, gather two inserts and a piece of round elastic about 20" (508mm) long.  Open the inserts to the middle pages, wrap the elastic around the middle of each insert, and tie the elastic in a knot.  This will connect the two new inserts.

Next slot one of the two new inserts underneath the insert that is already attached to the notebook cover, leaving the second of the new inserts on the opposite side of the original insert.  The elastic holding together the two new inserts will be held in the notebook by the elastic holding the original insert in place.

Finished

Thats it!  Enjoy your new notebook, and let me know about all of the places you travel with it!

 

This post contained affiliate links.  All opinions are my own.

Why I switched to a Lego Christmas Village

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In our last house we stored our Christmas decorations in the attic, the opening to which was in the middle of the garage about 14 feet from the floor.  We used a winch system to get things into and out of it – including ourselves occasionally.  Using a ladder with a large box that high up was just terrifying.  One day, as we were getting the Christmas boxes down from the attic for the season, one of the boxes slipped from the winch harness a foot or two from the floor.  That box happened to contain my fragile glass Christmas village.

The damage really wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I was still pretty upset.  I glued the houses back together, telling myself the cracks gave them character (like they had been through the blitz).  That year, and for several years after, I displayed the houses on a high shelf, far out of the reach of kid’s hands, and dog tails, and even me.  And then one year, after the kids asked to play with the little houses for what seemed like the 400th time, and I had said no for the 400th time, I realized that the Christmas village had become something that caused me stress rather than joy during the holiday season, and I wanted to change that.  I still wanted a Christmas village, I had fond memories of my Grandmother’s Christmas villages and tiny train sets from my own childhood, but I wanted one that I could let the kids play with and didn’t have to worry about them breaking.

The boy’s Christmas time Lego catalogue provided the answer – a Lego Christmas village.  I had seen the Lego Christmas houses previously and thought they were adorable, but it suddenly hit me what a good idea they were.  If they fell out of the attic, they could be rebuilt.  If the kids broke them they could be rebuilt.  If the dog knocked them off the table they could be rebuilt.  I could let my kids play with the Lego Christmas village, and the tiny houses, and people, and cars could become fond Christmas memories.  And it was just so cute! My Christmas village could again become part of the joy of the holiday season, rather than a source of stress.

 

Now I have several pieces from the rather small Lego Winter Village collection.  They come out with a new model every year, and every year I look forward to adding to my little village and sitting with my kids and putting the pieces together.  The only stressful part is making sure that I place my order before they all sell out.

Consumable Christmas Gifts

On Episode 2 of Hang your Hat, Firebeard and I did a segment on consumable christmas gift ideas.  These are gifts that are meant to be used up, so they don't hang around cluttering up the house.  Since then I was asked if I might be able to do a visual version of the list perhaps with  links to some of the products we mentioned, and I am happy to oblige.  

Note:  This list contains gifts big and small.  While some would be appropiate for the year's "big" gift, there are also several that would make great stocking stuffers. 

Consumable Gift Ideas

Bath/Body/Grooming (many of these are easy to DIY):

Food (Most of these are easy to DIY):

  • Candy, Cookies, or Carmel
  • Hot Cocoa Mix (Single servings are good presents for office mates).  Add some homemade marshmallows to make it really special.
  • Flavored Sugars or Salts
  • Infused Liquors or Vinegars
  • DIY Vanilla
  • Flavored Simple Syrups (great for drinks)
  • Good Quality Olive Oil
  • Bottle of Wine
  • Meal Kit 
  • Fancy Coffee
  • Local Honey
  • Drinks Kits (ex. Cocktail kit)
  • Special Snacks (that are not normally on the menu)

Services: (Think Gift Certificates)

  • Massage
  • Facials
  •  Mani/Pedis
  • High End Barber Shops / Hair Dressers
  • Oil Change or Car servicing (especially if the person you are giving the gift to normally does these things themselves)
  • Baby Sitting
  • House Cleaning
  • Photographer

Subscriptions:

Gift Cards:

  • Any Favorite Retail Store the recipient is likely to shop at (maybe somewhere that is normally too pricy for the recipient – just make sure that the gift card could cover the cost of an item at the store)
  • Itunes
  • Grocery or Gas Cards (good for college students or recent grads)
  • Coffee Shop
  • Book Store

Entertainment/Events:

  • Burlesque Shows or Vaudeville Performances
  • Sporting Event.  Of course Football and  basketball games come to mind first- but why not a fencing or ballroom dance competition
  • Tickets to the Movies 
  • Tickets to an Amusement Park, Museum, or zoo
  • Fancy Tea Party
  • Concerts or Plays

 

Active Pursuits:

  • Pay for a Goruck Challenge
  • Gym Membership (Think outside the box and go for something like a rock climbing or cross fit gym rather than the standard gym)
  • Sporty Classes (like belly dancing class)
  • Goods that are consumed while participating in a sport (ex. Bike tubes for a cyclist, chalk for a rock climber or gymnast, and dehydrated food for campers)

Miscellaneous:  

  • Hobby or Craft Supplies (ex. Scrapbooking paper or stickers, yarn, paint)
  • Kids Craft Supplies (ex. tape, stickers, erasers, glue, pipe cleaners, pompoms, googly eyes)
  • Fireplace Supplies (ex. Wood, fire starters, matches, bundles of dried herbs, pinecones dipped in wax)
  • Personalized Photo Calendar
  • Starting a 529 College Savings Plan

Hang Your Hat

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I have been MIA for a little while but I have a good reason.  I have been working on a new project, and I am finally ready to reveal it.  I would like to introduce a brand new podcast, Hang Your Hat.

Hang Your Hat is a research based podcast that combines my tendency to rabidly devour knowledge, and my love for the home.  Essentially, I am taking all of the research I already do on home based topics for my person edification, and sharing the results of that research with the world. 

I plan to release a new episode of Hang your Hat every two weeks, and there is an introductory episode available now.  You can find it on itunes, or download it directly from the website.  I hope you enjoy it.

Halloween Playlist

Halloween season is back, and I am ready to set the mood.  I have created a Halloween playlist that is suitable for the whole family (although it may be a bit spooky for very young children).  If you are a member of Spotify simply click below to gain access.  If you are not a member of Spotify, you can still make your own version - all of the songs in the playlist are listed below.

Enjoy!

Coat Closet Mini Makeover

We took a quick break from our bathroom remodel, to get some perspective before putting on the finishing touches.  During that break we tackled a quick and easy project - our hall closet.

In a tiny hallway type area, just off our foyer we have a small coat closet.  It is about 24 inches by 34 inches with 8 foot tall ceilings.  On the right side of the closet there is a large wooden box in the closet that forms a low shelf.   It houses our A/C intake vent and cannot be removed.  Prior to this mini makeover, the closet had a single hanging bar for coats, and a shelf that was so deep only Firebeard could reach things on the back of the shelf without a step stool.  Soon after moving into this house the closet was regulated to storage closet status, because it was so impractical to use, and I began to research alternatives.

In a previous post I shared the inspiration for our hall closet makeover.  We were inspired by several of the beautiful and functional coat closet makeovers on pinterest, particularly those that used hooks for hanging coats and bags rather than hangers.  We put that inspiration to use, and here is the result.

 

What was involved in the transformation?

Preparing the flooring for hardwood

We are slowly replacing the flooring in most of the house with engineered hardwood, so we decided that since we were already doing some work in the closet we would do some of the prep work for the new flooring.  We pulled up the carpet (but didn't cut it out), removed the tack strips and baseboards, and cleaned the sub floor.  The carpet stayed peeled up while we painted and was laid back in the closet when we were done to help protect the subfloor from wear and tear until we can install the new flooring.  We decided not to reinstall the baseboards since we would need to pull them back out when it was time for the new flooring.

Painting

We tried a couple of different colors in the closet before settling on Soft Mint by Behr.  In the tiny dark closet most of the mints we tried looked too dark.  Soft Mint is a really pale mint, but in the dark closet it looks much more vibrant than it does on the paint sample.

All of the trim, the shelf, and the ceiling is painted in BM Simply White.

Adding Support and Reducing the Shelf Depth

I wanted hooks installed along two walls in the closet, so we added an extra board along the back wall to screw the hooks into.  We were able to nail the additional board into the studs, so the hooks, being screwed into the board, will be able to hold more weight than if we had simply used a molly to screw them into the drywall.  It also adds an additional measure of support for the shelf.

We reduced the depth of the shelf by about 6 inches, so that I could reach the back of it.  It also makes it easier to step into the closet to hang things up.

Installing Hooks

The hooks, which are gold colored metal with a pretty decorated ceramic ball at the top, were from World Market.  I found them for only $2 a piece.

We decided to install the hooks on only two sides of the closet, leaving the right side of the closet (where the box for the air vent juts into the closet) free.  This gave us room for 5 hooks, each spaced about 6 inches apart.

Adding Mini Shelves

On the right side, above the air vent box we decided to install mini shelves to hold small items like sunglasses, and mail.  We used Ikea's Bekvam Spice Racks ($4 a piece), which we had originally gotten for a different project, but didn't end up using.  They were a great size for the closet, because they are only about 4 inches deep and don't project very far into the tiny room.  We painted them BM Simply White to match the rest of the trim in the closet.

We had a hard time finding anchors that would fit the built in hangers on the back of the spice rack.  We finally found that 50 pound EZ Anchor drywall anchors fit perfectly.

The Door

We decided to add a few special touches to the door as well.  The edge of the door was painted in Folk Art Chalk Paint in Vintage Mustard.  I love the little peek of color when we open the door.

We also decided to try our hand at painting the hardware rather than replacing it.  We used Rust-Oleum Universal spray paint in oil rubbed bronze.  If the finish holds up pretty well, we will use the same technique for the hardware in our hallway, and I will create a tutorial.

Finishing Touches

Now:  Clean, neat, and a place for everything.

Now:  Clean, neat, and a place for everything.

We added a basket for shoes at the bottom of the closet, and a small basket for dog things on the "shelf" formed by the air vent's box.

At the moment we have a small basket on the upper shelf holding umbrellas and rain jackets.  I'm hoping to find two taller baskets that can fit in the closet side by side to make better use of the space.

We have left the baseboards out of the closet for now, since the new flooring will be going in soon.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Hurricane Preparation

Every Floridian knows how to prepare for a hurricane; gather food, hoard water, and seriously consider buying a generator for twice as much as they normally cost.

After hurricane Hermine came through last week, I realized that my hurricane preparation game was a bit lacking.  I have since updated my hurricane preparation list.  The updated list is below, and I hope it helps everyone who uses it to be a bit more comfortable after the storm.

Preparing for a Hurricane

The Basics

  • Gather Water:  If you rely on a well for water, the power to the well, and therefore the water from the well is likely to go out in a bad storm, so having extra water on hand is a must.  While municipal water is less likely to stop due to a storm, it can be contaminated, in which case bottled water is still a must.  While you can certainly go out and buy a bunch of bottled water, you can save a bit by filling up the drink bottles you already have.  Bonus Tip:  If you freeze your bottled water before the storm, the frozen bottles can be used to keep perishable food cool a little longer, and when the ice melts you will have a cool drink.
  • Buy Food that doesn't need to be refrigerated or cooked:  I am not a huge granola bar fan, but when you have no power and no refrigeration they suddenly become surprisingly tasty, and they are better for you than most of the junk food that doesn't need refrigeration or cooking.
  • Ready a Cooler for Perishable Food:  A cooler with a bunch of ice or ice packs will probably keep your perishable food cooler longer than a fridge without power.  Prior to the storm make or buy extra ice or freeze a bunch of ice packs to stick in the cooler with your most precious perishable foods so they can survive a little longer.  Bonus Tip:  Really nice coolers actually keep food cooler longer.  We have a Yeti that we put through it's paces when our fridge broke a few months ago.  It kept ice frozen for 3 days.
  • Gather Candles, Matches, Flashlights, and Batteries:  Again, the power is likely to go out, but we still need to see.  I was shocked to see just how dark some areas in my house were without electricity, even in the middle of the day.
  • Ready the Get-a-way Car:  If it gets really bad you might need to get out of dodge (or, participate in an evacuation when the local authorities indicate to do so).  Make sure at least one car is in good working order and fueled up.

Stepping up the Prep

  • Have cash on hand:  When stores open up after a hurricane they may still not have any way to run credit cards (power may have been restored, but phone or cable lines used by credit card processors might still be down).
  • Do laundry and wash dishes prior to the storm:  You don't want to be caught the day after storm with no power and no water, with a sink full of dirty dishes and no clean underwear.  What would your mom say?
  • Charge Phones/any other rechargeable electronic device you might need:  The ability to call out and check the news in an emergency is priceless.  Bonus Tip:  Check out solar charged battery backups for small electronics (like this one from Amazon).  They allow you to keep your phone charged even when the power is out, and are surprisingly inexpensive.  
  • Stock up the First Aid Kit:  In a bad emergency getting to the hospital may not be immediately possible.  Make sure to have at least basic first aid supplies on hand in case of illness or injury.  My basic list includes;  bandages, antibiotic ointment, pain killer, and anti nausea/diarrheal meds.
  • Pick up prescription meds:  If you have been prescribed prescription medication you should probably keep taking it even after a hurricane, but the pharmacy may not be open for pick up.  Think ahead and pick them up early.
  • Have an established plan that everyone is on-board with:  This is especially helpful for making small children feel prepared and confident when the power goes out.  Sharing dialogue about what will happen and why can give participants in your plan a psychological boost because they're not victims of the weather, they're actively addressing the weather and taking control of the situation.

Hard Core Prepping

  • Buy a Camp Stove and Fuel:  With a camp stove you can cook food and boil potentially contaminated water, solving part of the lack of power or clean water issue.
  • Buy a Camping Water Filter and iodine tablets:  Unlike the water filer you probably have in your fridge right now that just makes your water taste better, a camping water filer will actually filter out many contaminates.  When combined with iodine tables unboiled water becomes relatively safe to drink (although boiling is still recommended if possible).
  • Actually buy that generator you keep talking about:  While a $3000 whole house automatic backup generator may be tempting, a considerably smaller and less expensive one can still keep your fridge running, power a few fans, and run a hotplate (although maybe not all at once).  It can help make the time after the storm considerably more bearable, and if you buy one when there isn't a hurricane bearing down it might even be reasonably priced.

Do you have any other hurricane preparation tips.  Please share them in the comments.

(This post contains affiliate links, all opinions are my own.)

We got hit by Hurricane Hermine

Very early Friday morning, Tallahassee, FL, where I live, was hit by hurricane Hermine, a category 1 (weak) hurricane.  Since then I have heard it described as "devastating," and compared to hurricane Katrina (the 2005 hurricane that leveled immense damage on Louisiana).  I have seen pictures of boats tossed up on shore, and houses waist deep in water.  I have also heard the question "Why would anyone live in a state that is constantly being destroyed by hurricanes?"  

While Hermine certainly caused flooding and destruction, I don't feel that the media's depiction of Hermine is consistent with the experience of most of the people that lived through the hurricane.  Hurricane destruction tends to be worst right on the coast, and in flood zones, and thats is were the media takes all of their aftermath photos - where the destruction is worst.  Most Floridians don't live in those areas.   I would like to give a less sensational perspective.

Hermine was the first hurricane to hit Tallahassee directly in about 30 years.  Tropical storms are fairly common, but direct hits from hurricanes - not so much.  Local schools were closed on Thursday and most businesses closed around noon on Thursday in preparation for the hurricane.  Only a few costal areas were evacuated.  We didn't start to get wind or rain until Thursday night, and went to bed like normal that night expecting minimal damage from a storm with such low magnitude.  The kids slept through the hurricane.  Firebird and I got up to check on things a few times, but for the most part we also slept through it.  When we woke the following morning we had no power, and this was the view outside our bedroom window;

Limbs down in the backyard after Hermine

Limbs down in the backyard after Hermine

Some of the limbs in the yard were pretty large.

Some of the limbs in the yard were pretty large.

We had a lot of fallen tree limbs in the yard, some quite large, and small twigs and leaf litter everywhere.  Initially it seemed like the damage was pretty minimal.  It wasn't until we went in the front yard that we started to understand the extent of the damage.  This was the view from our front yard;

Tree on my neighbor's roof

Tree on my neighbor's roof

Then we went online (thanks cellular data service), and this is what the power outage map looked like;

Power Outage Map - the red areas are without power

Power Outage Map - the red areas are without power

More than 70,000 people were without electricity, and those with wells (rather than municipal water supply) were without water too (the well pumps need electricity to work).  Trees were laying on power lines and across roads.  Electric poles had been toppled, and live power lines were laying in the street.  The city was projecting that it might take days to restore everyone's power.  

We ventured out of the house the day after the storm to get some food, and stopped at the first place we came across with power - Walmart.   None of their refrigerated or frozen food was for sale - the backup generator to keep the refrigeration going had failed, and a ton of food was wasted.  Likely hundreds of thousands of dollars of inventory.  We grabbed some food that didn't need cooking or refrigeration and headed straight back home.  

Refrigerated food goes to waste after power outage.

Refrigerated food goes to waste after power outage.

In our neighborhood and around the town we found that the damage from the storm was extremely variable.  Some houses looked like they suffered from nothing more than a thunderstorm, and some, like our neighbor's, looked like they had been hit by a hurricane far stronger than Hermine.

Some houses looked untouched by the storm.

Some houses looked untouched by the storm.

Others just needed a bit of cleanup 

Others just needed a bit of cleanup 

Some homes had serious damage.  This house had two large fallen trees that blocked the road

Some homes had serious damage.  This house had two large fallen trees that blocked the road

We counted at least 4 fallen trees in this yard.

We counted at least 4 fallen trees in this yard.

As of this writing it is Monday night, about 4 days after the storm, and 18,000 people are still without power (down from 70,000).  Some wells were damaged or are still without power and as a result those residents are still without water.  My family was one of the lucky ones - we regained power about 24 hours after the storm, and we are doing fine, but for others, recovery from the storm could take weeks or months.

So, was Hermine "devastating"?  Should we be comparing it to Katrina?  No and no.  For a category 1 hurricane Hermine caused a surprising amount of damage.  Category 1 hurricanes are not much stronger than tropical storms, which are not much stronger than bad thunderstorms.  I expected Hermine to cause the kind of damage that we saw in our own yard - lots of broken and fallen limbs.  Herman caused a lot more trees and power lines to fall than her category would have suggested, and I believe as a result, we (meaning the residents of Tallahassee) were not as prepared for the extent of the damage as we could have been, and neither was the city itself.  That being said, comparing it to Katrina is completely inappropriate - Katrina was truly devastating, it, and the flooding that resulted from it destroyed the homes of thousands of people and came close to destroying one of our country's oldest cities.  Hermine knocked down a lot of trees, damaged several homes, and made us lose power for a couple of days.  While it will probably take several months for Tallahassee to fully recover from Hermine, the damage from the storm is ultimately temporary.  

New Ikea Favorites

The new 2017 Ikea catalog is out and as always there are a few gems hidden among the plastic bins (who am I kidding - I love Ikea).  Here is a sample of a few of my new Ikea favorites.  Bonus:  They are all under $30.

Enighet Candlestick - $12.99

Enighet Candlestick - $12.99

The Enighet Candlestick is beautiful, simple, and classic.  It would look great on a table by itself, but also lends itself to decoration.  The bottom tray would be a great place to arrange a few holiday decorations.

Harliga Glass Dome with base - $9.99 (Multiple Sizes Available)

Harliga Glass Dome with base - $9.99 (Multiple Sizes Available)

We are planning a Harry Potter themed party for the Girl's birthday this year.  The Harliga Glass dome would be perfect for a spooky specimen in a potions display, and at $9.99 a piece, I might actually be able to afford presents after paying for the decor.

Viktigt Carafe with glass - $14.99

Viktigt Carafe with glass - $14.99

When I saw the Viktigt Carafe I immediately thought "nightstand water dispenser".  I think it would be especially nice in a guest bedroom.

Gladom Tray Table - $29.99

Gladom Tray Table - $29.99

It is a table, it is a tray, it is perfect for the small seating arrangement on my front porch.  I love that it is not only a great size for a side table, it can also be used to easily bring stuff into and out of the house like snacks or drinks.  Also, I am a sucker for multiple purpose furniture.

Have you spotted a new favorite in the Ikea catalog?  Let me know about it in the comments.

 

WIP: Ginny's Cardigan

 

You might think that with all of the work I have been doing on the house that I have been neglecting my other pursuits, like sewing and knitting.  The truth is that I still try to sneak these in whenever I have a bit of downtime (e.g. when I am too exhausted to stand).  Ginny’s Cardigan if from the Unofficial Harry Potter Knits Special issue of Interview Knits that was published in 2013.  The issue features several great looking patters inspired by the Harry Potter books, and even has a few good patterns for men.  

Ginny’s Cardigan is a DK weight stocking knit cardigan with a lace owl motif on the back. I have been knitting it for a few months now, and I am finally nearing the sleeve.  So far the knitting has gone very well, and I have found the pattern well written and easy to understand.  The designer has also written a few helpful blog posts to assist in altering it.  The only alterations I have made so far are changing my needle size to get gauge, adding a few extra short rows to the bust shaping, and lowering the bust shaping slightly to accommodate my curves.  I really love how it is turning out so far, and I am excited to finish it. 

 

Miracle Grout Renewal

When we first started our mini bathroom remodel we decided not to replace the flooring.  Retiling an entire bathroom, even a small one, isn’t really in keeping with a “mini” remodel.  For the most part I have been pretty happy with that decision.  Our tile is white, so it actually goes with our new décor pretty well (even if the scale of the tile is way too big for the small bathroom).  The one thing about the floor that has been nagging at me is the state of the grout.  Next to all of our clean white surfaces, the grout was looking pretty dingy.

Before:  Clean but stained and dingy looking

Before:  Clean but stained and dingy looking

At first I tried to clean the grout with standard floor cleaner.  When that didn’t work I switched to bleach.  When that didn’t work I switched to serious scrubbing with abrasive cleanser and a toothbrush.  I tried everything, but the very clean grout remained stubbornly stained.  Finally I gave up on removing the stains, and moved on to covering them up.  There are several methods and products available to cover grout stains, some with better reviews than others.  I decided to go with a product that had both rave reviews and a reasonable price tag, Polyblend Grout Renew.

Polyblend Grout Renew is an epoxy stain and sealer made specifically for grout.  I got it at my local Home Depot for about $13.  It looks a lot like paint, smells a lot like paint, and can be applied like paint.  The directions recommend using a toothbrush to apply product to the grout, but most of the reviews I read recommended a small paint brush, so that is what I used.  The difference in the color of the grout before and after the Grout Renew was applied was like night and day.  After just one coat there was a significant improvement, and after the 2nd coat it looked brand new.  It took me about an hour per coat, and when I was done I had enough product left over to do at least one more bathroom of the same size.

Before:  20+ years of discoloration 

Before:  20+ years of discoloration 

Half way through the application of the first coat.  The difference is startling. 

Half way through the application of the first coat.  The difference is startling. 

Polyblend Grout Renew comes in about 35 colors.  The color I used was Snow White, which dries a very light grey, but when wet was almost exactly the same color as my tile.  Despite my best efforts to get the product on only the grout, and trying very hard to remove all that I got on the tile immediately with a wet rag, the fact that I couldn’t see the product on the tile while it was wet means that I missed a bunch of it.  When it dried it became visible on the tile, and looked pretty messy.  I was able to get it off my hard slick tile with two Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and a lot of scrubbing , but I don’t think it would come off of porous tile as easily (this is your warning). 

Grout Renew dried on the edges of the tile.

Grout Renew dried on the edges of the tile.

After the tile clean up, looking brand new!

After the tile clean up, looking brand new!

Bottom-line, would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!  I got grout that looks brand new for $13 and a couple of hours of work.  I would recommend it to anyone that has stained or discolored grout that is otherwise in good shape.

After:  The grout looks brand new!

After:  The grout looks brand new!

As a finishing touch, we added a new bath rug.  We found this one for only $8 at TJ Maxx.

This post contains affiliate links.  All opinions are my own.

Unappreciated Details: Cabinet Interior

After we finished making the outside of our bathroom cabinet beautiful the inside looked a little, well, gross.  The paint was yellow, there were stains, and the floor of the cabinet had some previous water damage.  So we decided to give the inside a makeover as well.  

Before:  Yellow, stained, and water damaged

Before:  Yellow, stained, and water damaged

After:  Clean and Bright

After:  Clean and Bright

First we pulled up the water damaged floor of the cabinet, and discovered that the AC duct simply let out under the cabinet.  The air wasn’t shunted toward the vent at the front of the cabinet at all.    The floor of the cabinet also had VERY little support from underneath.  Firebeard fixed both of those problems by installing floor supports on either side of the open duct and vent, reducing the space that the air could fan out.

Removing the floor of the cabinet 

Removing the floor of the cabinet 

Discovering the open duct and lack of floor support

Discovering the open duct and lack of floor support

We decided to replace the very thin floor with slightly thicker plywood, but that gave us another problem.  The new thicker flooring didn’t bend.  We had to cut it into 3 pieces to fit it into the cabinet.  Fortunately we had already planned to cover up the plywood flooring with vinyl, click together “wood” flooring that would protect from future minor water leaks better than wood alone.  My parents had given us some or their left over vinyl flooring so this part was free.  Since the new plywood floor and vinyl flooring was thicker than the previous flooring the cabinet lip no longer covered it.  We installed some quarter round shoe molding to take up the additional space.  We also painted the inside of the cabinet to freshen it up, and cover a few stains.  

Installing the New Cabinet Floor

Installing the New Cabinet Floor

Since we don’t have a lot of floor space in this bathroom, I placed a small laundry basket inside the cabinet to collect clothes after bath time, and I still had enough room under the cabinet for extra towels and a few supplies.  I will admit I had to get rid of a lot of older towels to make everything fit, but it was worth it.   If you are looking for a place to donate your gently used towels, shelters (either human or animal) are often in need of them.

Stocked with Supplies

Stocked with Supplies

Converting a False Drawer Front

Over a month ago we started to give the cabinet a little facelift.  We planned to paint it, and change out the hardware- nothing serious.  It should have been a weekend’s work at the most, and had we stopped there it would have been, but instead, we decided to be clever.

When I was little, my sister and I shared a fairly small bathroom with very little countertop space, and no drawers.  At some point my Dad installed a tilt out drawer behind the false drawer front in front of the sink to add a bit of storage, and since then, every time I see a false drawer front (like the large one on the kid’s bathroom vanity)  I feel like it is a waste of valuable storage space.  It seemed like an ideal time to remedy the wasted false drawer front space when we began working on the bathroom vanity.  We bought a kit by Rev-A-Shelf on Amazon that could convert false drawer fronts into tilt out drawers for $20 (enough for two), and that is where the trouble began. 

While we were waiting for the kit to arrive we got ready  for it.  Removing the false drawer front from the cabinet was surprisingly easy.  I expected it to be securely attached to the vanity, but when I got under there  wasn’t much holding it in at all, just a couple of pieces of wood screwed to false front that fit snugly against the cabinet frame.  The wood swiveled out of the way releasing the front.

The false front had been painted to the front of the cabinet at some point, so I also had to use a razor blade to separate the false front’s paint from the rest of the cabinet.  Then the front popped off – easy as pie.  Note the raised bit of wood on the back of the false front, that will become important later.

When the tilt out drawer kit arrived the cabinet was otherwise ready to go.  We thought it would take 30 minutes to an hour to install the kit, and then we would be done.  Hubris, pure hubris. 

I calculated the placement of the tilt out hinges to within 1/32 of an inch based on the instructions provided with the kit, then, being very confident of my measurements, we quickly screwed everything in and closed the door ready to start on our next project.  The drawer front was too high, much too high.  We were a full 1/4 of an inch off (enough that it was noticeable), despite very careful measurement and direction following.

We took everything off, repositioned, reinstalled, and reclosed.  This time the drawer front was the correct height, but the raised piece of wood on the drawer front hit the cabinet frame before it closed.  The next time the hinges hit the raised piece of wood on the back of the drawer front.  We had to cut off a chunk of the raised portion to make the hinges fit correctly.  After several more attempts our cabinet was doing a very good impression of Swiss cheese, and the drawer front was no longer hitting the frame, the hinges were no longer hitting the drawer front, and everything was at the correct height, but the drawer did not close all of the way, it stood out from the cabinet about as far as the raised portion on the back of the drawer front was thick.

It was now obvious that the makers of this kit had assumed that the false drawer front that the hinges are attached to would be flat.  To compensate for the raised portion of our cabinet front we needed to install the hinges father back in our cabinet than the instructions indicated.  However, there was no space to install them further back, so we had to improvise.  I came up with the plan, and Firebeard implemented it.  The basic idea was to attach additional blocks of wood to the drawer glides to either side of the tilt drawer opening that could then be used to screw the hinges in place.  We got two lengths of 2x4, approximately 6 inches long, routered out a channel on the backs of each block that would fit over the drawer glides (and still allow the drawers to slide in and out) and allow the wood to sit flush with the cabinet opening, and then glued (and Screwed) the wood blocks in place.  We were then able to install the hinges farther back in the cabinet, allowing the drawer to close all of the way.

So now we finally have the new tilt drawer in place, and I will admit I really like having it.  It is a great place to hide the toothpaste and toothbrushes, it can be taken out easily and washed, and the countertop is less cluttered as a result.  Would I put another one in?  Even though I have another kit ready to be installed I haven’t decided if I will actually install it yet.  It was just such a giant waste of time and energy that I am not sure if it was worth it.  If you decide to put one in yourself, here is my advice;

  • Use the instructions to get a general idea of how everything is installed and where everything should go
  • Don’t use the actual measurements in the instructions, there is just too much variations in cabinets for the measurements to be completely accurate
  • Get a helper (or two) to hold things in place while you mark where all the holes need to go
  • Expect to install the hinges more than once, and for the installation to be a far bigger pain in the butt than the helpful kit indicates

If you have any helpful tilt drawer installation tips, or just want to share an installation horror story tell me about it in the comments.

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