Organizing the Pile: Tray Dividers

Welcome to Part Dos of Organizing the Pile!   In this series, I will share with you  organizational strategies  and tools that actually work – even for the Chronically Disorganized (read:me).

I wont lie,  the idea of having vertical storage in the kitchen for baking sheets, cooling racks, cutting boards and the like is not a new idea.  In fact, when Russ built these cabinets, he built one expressly for that purpose.  Both of us just assumed that he’d build the dividers in later, when we figured out exactly how we wanted them configured.  We had other priorities at the time, like, oh, being able to use the sink…..

Well, a few months went by and what we ended up with in that cabinet was literally a pile. Here is most of what needs to be stored in that cabinet, minus a few things that were likely in the dishwasher at the time.

Yeah. That’s a tall order for any cabinet.

So, Russ ambles off to Home Depot to get all the stuff to build the dividers and I got to thinking about two things: 1.  I’m gonna have to paint all this and 2. Once installed, cleaning this cabinet could be a bit tricky (oh, and 3. We’ve got lots of other stuff to do!).  So I got my Google on and hit up the old internets to see what else was out there.  Lo and behold, this is what I found:

Tray  Dividers!

Viola! An inexpensive and ready made solution that would involve not cutting, nailing, priming or painting?  Sign me up!  Russ was less convinced, thinking that these would not be sturdy enough.  I persisted.

Unsurprisingly, I won. Home Depot is great about returns.

We had to install the racks opposite of the way they were intended.  The racks measure 20″ deep by 12″ high  – our cabs are not 20″ deep, but they were more than 20″ high.  Flipping them was the perfect solution. The racks pop in and out of the clips if necessary for cleaning the cabinet, but they are quite sturdy and they hold all my stuff securely.  Trust me, along with suffering from Chronic Disorganization I am also Not Gentile, so when I say they are sturdy, I mean it.

We actually just tested out the ability to pop them in and out of the clips as I wanted some shelf liner underneath.  My aluminum baking sheets are marking the base of the cabinet and I thought this would help protect it (and it looks cute too!).  Russ just unclipped them, slid them up, laid down the shelf liner and then replaced the screws.

Not only does Rev-a-shelf make nifty tray dividers, they make all sorts of clever things for organizing your cabinets and pantry.  Handy!  I found price and shipping varied quite a lot from website to website, so shop around if you are in the market.  I found the best price + shipping here: (note: I am not receiving any kickbacks from these folks, I’m just a satisfied customer).

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Talk is Cheap (and so is paint, thankfully)

Poor, sad, neglected little blog.

I should know better than to make proclamations like “I’m Baaaaaaaack”.  That’s apparently an excellent way to immediately disappear from the Internet altogether. So I’m not doing that today! I’ll just say “I’m here” and leave it at that.

We’ve covered Part One of the Great Paint Meltdown of 2010, and the subsequent victory over insanity, but there was another disaster going on that I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about. Until now.

The kitchen.

You see, I initially picked out the color for the kitchen in about 5 minutes. I saw the chip in a Sherwin Williams special “Carolina Low Country Colors” brochure and knew right away that I loved it and it would be miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.   Heck, even the name of the color (Sullivan’s Island) brought to mind warm blue skies and beaches in the midst of our horrible, snow-filled winter.  How could I lose?  Done and done.

So Russ and I did one coat and then the next morning my dear, sweet husband got up and painted the second coat before I was even awake (y’all, he gets up at 4 or 5, it’s not like I’m sleeping until noon!).  So I stumble into the kitchen at 7, rubbing my eyes and really touched to see that it was all finished, except for one tiny little problem.

I hated it. HATED IT.  I didn’t really like it after the first coat, but I know that sometimes the second coat makes all the difference.  In this case it did: I went from ‘not liking it so much’ to ‘DEAR LORD WHAT HAVE I DONE’ in the time it took to pour a glass of OJ.

Fortunately for me my dear, sweet husband was more than willing to repaint only moderately annoyed with me (truthfully, he was far, far less annoyed than I would have been had the tables been turned).   He urged me to live with it for a week to see if I changed my mind.


What was supposed to be a light and beachy color just looked anemic, sad, and frankly rather institutional.  Though I has admired similar colors in other places, it was clear it just wasn’t going to work here.

A week went by and I still hated it. Problem was, I had descended right back into paint chip hell and was in a nearly catatonic state.  I was so terrified of painting it the wrong color AGAIN that I couldn’t move forward.  Just for reference, the state of Catatonic is a very unpleasant state indeed.  Do not visit.

I made the rounds of every store with paint chips (even Restoration Hardware), collected approximately 4,000 more chips, debated their various merits and flaws for literally hours on end and then I gave up and did the one thing I knew I would like:

Our Old Kitchen - NOT OPB!

Painted my new kitchen the same color as my old kitchen. SW Halcyon Green for anyone curious.

Bingo baby!  It’s perfect.  Strangely, the color doesn’t look the same here as it did in the old space (it looks more green here, more blue in the old space), but I love it just as much as I did before.

Thank goodness. It only took 3 months to paint one room twice! That’s not so bad, right? Right? Russ seems to think that’s a painfully excruciatingly very long time.

Russ repainting the room with GREAT ENTHUSIASM!

And yes, he is still speaking to me, why do you ask?

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Sealing the deal – should you seal your granite?

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, OPB came to us with a big old honkin’ oil stain on the granite counter tops, which we were able to remove with a fairly easy but stinky process. Like so.

Since then we’ve sealed the counters 4 times. Has it worked?

Well, yes and no.  Even the best sealers are only able to reduce the absorbency of a stone, not make it completely impervious.  Granite Guy said a sealer will buy you 20 minutes.  So now that I’ve lived with these counters for a few months, I think that sounds about right. Even after all the sealing, water that stands on the counters for a long period of time will leave a dark mark (which will mostly fade as it dries) but oil or, more recently, a blob of red sauce  that sits for a while (whoops!) leaves a permanent mark (though they are quite faint and small and the random pattern of the counter hides them well).

We’ll keep engaging in periodic re-sealing because I do think it helps, but it isn’t a total fix if you have a very absorbent type of granite.  I have a feeling that, eventually, we’ll be breaking out the baby powder and acetone.  Two scents I’d be just as happy to never, ever smell again. Joy.

So how do you know if you are doomed to a life of sealing and stain removal?  Should you seal your stone or not? If your are shopping for granite, what should you avoid?

During my internet research on this subject, one quick and easy way (that came up over and over again) to tell if you counter needed sealing was the lemon juice test. Note: please use a scrap of your counter to do this or do it in an inconspicuous place as it could etch your stone if it has calcite in it.  If you are still shopping for granite, use a sample of the same slab you’ll be buying.

The test is simple: drop a few drops of lemon juice on your counter.  If they are absorbed immediately and form dark spots, you have a really absorbent stone that need to be sealed RIGHT AWAY and probably repeatedly (note: if I were still looking for granite, I’d move on RUN AWAY).  If it takes a minute or so, you probably have a medium absorbency stone that needs to be sealed, but can be managed well with regular applications of the sealer.  If after five minutes, nothing happens to the lemon juice, well, WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! you don’t need to seal your counters at all!

Out of lemons?  Want some science to go with the fruit?  Then check out this handy site (make sure to look at the tables linked towards the top of the page).  Aside from a lot of interesting info about what makes granite, well, granite, the tables list the 180 most common granites and their absorbency rates.  Why is this interesting? (I can feel y’all glazing over on me!)

Apparently, a good rule of thumb is that if you’re granite is less than .25%, sealing s not necessary, and in fact can be undesirable (it can create streaks and haze on the stone).  More than .25% and you should seal that sucker.  Maybe a few times.

In my mind, the real answer to the problem is not to use absorbent stones for kitchen counters, or at the very least, not the portions of kitchen counters that get heavy use.  You can be sure when I’m doing the picking of a new counter, I’ll be armed with lemon juice and a copy of those tables!

Public Service Announcement: Thanks so much to all five of you who made it through this (WHAT? NO PICTURES?) -I know it’s a bit dull, but I really hope that this info is helpful to someone out there – I don’t want anyone to be unwittingly trapped in the endless cycle of maintaining something they were lead to believe would be hassle-free. Especially after they spent thousands of dollars for the privilege.

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New Series: Organizing the Pile

One of the things I swore I’d do when we moved here (after moving 4 times in the previous 4 years) was get organized, once and for all. Mama! Stop laughing!

“Piles” is probably an appropriate descriptor of my cluttered condition. It’s true, I’m not one of those people who are genetically predisposed to great organization. I envy their neatly labeled baskets and tins, and marvel at their clever solutions.  I look at the contents of my junk drawers (yes, that’s plural) and wonder where the chronically organized put their European plug adapter, pad of Yahtzee score sheets, Saddam Hussein matchbook (not making this up), and lifetime supply of pencil lead. Sigh.

You just never know when you’ll need a match.

So, from time to time I’ll be approaching this topic from this perspective: I’m not an organization expert, nor will I ever be one.  For an idea to work for me (and thus make it here) its got to be 1. Easy and 2. Easy.  If an organization system requires too much fiddling or too many steps, well, let’s be honest:

Not gonna happen.

One of my sweet friends, Christine, authors the PT Happy Homemaker blog. She’s fantastic, one of those ladies who has a fabulous style she imparts into everything she does (and wears!).  Also, she suffers from chronic organization.

I’m jealous.

Anywho, she posted a few months ago about reorganizing her linen closet and I thought her use of over-the-door shoe bags was pretty genius.

And then I got to thinking about the possibilities.

Russ, as I mentioned before, is an avid cyclist. And, probably just like all folks who are avid anything, he’s got a lot of stuff.  Bits and bobs – small and large – that have a way of spreading themselves throughout the house. When we moved here, I surprised him one day by giving him an entire closet to house said stuff  (I KNOW. I AM WIFE OF THE YEAR. First a liquor cabinet and now a closet?).  The closet worked great for hanging his jerseys and other attire, but all the (many) other pieces were stuffed in a box on the shelf.  Not so helpful. Enter Christine’s great idea with the shoe bags:

Perfect!  Love the clear pockets so small objects are immediately visible.  Russ, who is the complete opposite of my general rolling chaos, was thrilled with the idea. I can (EASILY) put stuff away after it gets washed and don’t have to worry he’ll root around for it for an hour. He can grab what he needs quickly, no digging around required. WIN!

I can totally see this working well for a wide variety of situations- any kind of craft, like scrapbooking, sewing, or quilting. Toys. Cleaning stuff.  Baby stuff. Office supplies for your home office.  The list is endless.

One closet down. Approximately 456,000 other items to go. Progress, right?

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Believe It or Not

Quite some time ago, I mentioned the breakdown I had regarding a certain pile of paint chips and choosing a paint color for the living room.

I am pleased to tell you that the crisis has passed and no professional intervention had to be staged (though there’s still time for that, I am quite certain).  We DID actually manage to both choose a color and paint the living room. AND, we like the results! Shocking!

So what did we choose?

I We The men in white coats The Committee picked Sherwin Williams Believable Buff, which is a really nice not-too-yellow/goldy  (spell-check tells me ‘goldy’ is not a word but I beg to differ) camel color with one very important characteristic: it IS NOT PEACHY PINK.  Now I like peach and pink both –  preferably in a summer top (cute!) or a fizzy drink (with umbrella please) or especially in the form of nail polish for a pedicure (which I sorely need, btw).  But I DO NOT like these colors as undertones for a beige/buff paint on my walls.

Extreme reaction there, much, Becky? I mean really, it’s just paint.  Of course, it goes without saying that paint looks different in different houses and even in different rooms within the same house – all because of the light. But there’s more to it than that.

Ahh, but I have been down this peachy pink road before.  In our last house, we painted the dining room and office both with a very popular color, Powell Buff.  Evey afternoon, those rooms (they were adjoining) glowed with a peachy pink aura that would make any 6 year old princess-obsessed girl squeal with glee.  I hated it. I thought I was painting my room a nice shade of beige.  Whoops!  I did not know thing one about undertones in paint and how light can really bring out those undertones, for better or worse.* When the undertone is wrong, the whole thing just looks off.  This was quite a revelation to me!

Something else I hadn’t ever really considered (but my ever-wise Mama pointed out) about paint color was how different it looks in your house as the seasons change.  We put this color on the walls back before the trees leafed out, and at first I thought we should have gone down a notch or two on the chip (to SW Whole Wheat or even Camelback) but now that there are loads of leaves on the trees (and this room is a bit darker), I think the color is perfect. Any darker would be too dark. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can switch the color with the seasons (I’m pretty sure I know how that idea would go over with my husband!) so it’s staying just like it is.

Yeah, yeah, yeah just get to the pictures already::

You might notice in the pictures that we have no window trim including window sills (or, more correctly, window stools).  Let’s just say that maybe, perhaps, quite possibly my dear husband we might have have been a teensy tiny bit too enthusiastic during this little demo session. Maybe.

Not that I’m suggesting anything, mind you.  I would never do that.

Believe it or not!

*If you are really interested in color theory and paint colors, I strongly recommend reading this entry at Color Me Happy (note: this blog is addictive).  I wish I had found this blog last year, it would have saved me a lot of grief. A LOT.

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Out of Focus

Where’d whooooooooooooooooo go?

(Bonus points for anyone who can name the movie! Anyone?)

Oh, hi!  Remember me?

I didn’t exactly intend on taking an extended Spring Break, but somehow the month of April whizzed by with nary an entry.  What happened?

I had to quiet the noise in my head, I guess.  Notice I said NOISE, not VOICES.  Please don’t send the men in white coats (yet, anyway!)  After 6 months of non-stop renovations, burn-out started to creep in.  It’s easy to keep going when you see major changes daily, like when we tiled the kitchen or built the new cabs, but at some point those major changes stop happening (um, thank goodness!) and you’re left with a big pile of leftover stuff that still needs doing but isn’t quite as interesting (or, truth be told, exciting)*.  It’s just the nature of the beast.

I also got to a point where I was just loathe to make one.more.decision.  I know this frustrated my husband to no end, but months of this color or that finish and what the heck are we going to do about window treatments (I suddenly understand why our next door neighbors have not one single window covering and they’ve lived in their house for more than 2 years!) and I became mentally exhausted.  I’d go to the computer, open wordpress and just stare at the screen.  I’d write a sentence, or maybe two, and then the VERY LOUD whirling sound in my head would ramp up again -what about the electric bill, running to Home Despot for a switch, that load of laundry, what’s for dinner (Hey! We can cook again!), and oh, my gosh I’ve got to get to the gym (another thing that fell off the radar in the lat 6 months) and not one room in this house is done. I’ve got at least three half-finished entries sitting in the drafts folder, but I could never get still enough in my own head to find words to complete any of them.

Totally out of focus.

If this sounds whiny, I don’t mean for it to.  I know my husband we wouldn’t have it any other way then knee-deep in our own DIY mess project list.  But there comes a point when Doing It Yourself becomes Doing IN Yourself and I think I (we?) was right there.  So I offer this up in case anyone else out there is feeling the same in their own project – hang in there. Take a break. Do something else for a while – Russ got back on his bike and rode a hundred miles.  It’s good for the body and the soul.

As for me, it turned out to be the strangest thing that finally quieted the noise: curtains.  Inexpensive curtains from the fancy French department store Tar-jay.  Curtains I already owned, at that.

Really Becky, Curtains?……y’all hang in there with me. I’m getting there, I promise.

You see, since we moved in, our bedroom windows (which have casings that are too shallow to accommodate inside mounted anything, grrrr – an unhappy surprise I discovered after we moved in) have been covered by a white sheet and a beach towel.

Not a particularly chic look. Also, not easy to open and close!

I had curtains and curtain rods from our last house that went with our bedding and would fit the windows, but I hadn’t hung them as I hadn’t found the brackets for the rods.  Lo and behold, while in search of something else THERE THEY WERE.  I can’t even tell you what I was looking for because when I found the brackets, I squealed like a little girl at a Hanna Montana concert and ran right out to the garage to find my professional Curtain Hanger Russ, who kindly came right away to take care of what was CLEARLY a Curtain Emergency.   I needed them to be put up RIGHT THEN or they would just get added to the seemingly infinite list of

They’re not fancy, they’re not expensive, hell they’re not even new but somehow having real working window treatments in ONE room of my house made it finally seem like we are not living in a never-ending project house. We are living in our home.

And then the noise just stopped. Weird, huh?

So that was April. And now it’s May and I can tell things are falling into place both in my head and, slowly, in the house. I’ve got lots to show you, so if anyone is still reading (are those crickets I hear?) thanks for hanging in there & stay tuned.  Also, thank you everyone so much for the comments!  It is so cool to know people (who are not contractually obligated to read this, Hi Mama & Dad) are reading this!

*If anyone out there thinks that I am somehow insinuating that we are done renovating, or even close to being done, let me quickly disabuse you of that notion.  I actually had the thought one day – what will I blog about when we are finished?  And then I looked around at the house and then at the yard (oh the yard, someone please save me from it) and I realized that I’m good to go here for a LONG, LONG time.

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Vlad, The Impaler.

Story time at OPB!  Everybody got a tasty beverage and something to munch?  Excellent. Get comfy.

Ten years ago (seriously, y’all, where does the time go?) when we were newly married, we had the very good fortune to spend a few years hanging out in Germany courtesy of Uncle Sam.  The U.S. military has quite an extensive support network overseas (for those not familiar) designed to make families feel (more or less) like they have the comforts of home available.  These include Exchanges (think Wal-Mart), Commissaries (American groceries), movie theaters, The Stars and Stripes (newspaper), and the very special Armed Forces Network.   AFN started  many moons ago during World War II as the Armed Forces Radio Service and has been around ever since, providing valuable information and morale-boosting entertainment wherever our military goes.  Remember Good Morning Vietnam?  Like that, except Robin Williams is not giving you the weather, instead it’s Technical Sergent John Doe and he’s really not funny about it (but you do get to hear about the weather in Souda Bay daily. Click here if you want the full goofy experience).   Eventually radio also gave way to television and this is where we come in.

It’s different now, but back when we were in Germany we got ONE AFN television station.  One. Uno. Eins.  The signal wasn’t very strong as we were at a rather remote base from the main American Military Machine over there, and our picture was frequently not great. BUT!  It was the only American TV we had, so we watched it, dadgumit, because it was in English.  AFN had no budget to buy programming like the networks here do – it’s not-for-profit of course, being part of the DOD-so what we saw was donated by the TV industry.   Bless those folks at AFN, I know they tried their hardest to find decent programming and then make a mix so that there was a little something for everyone during the day.  And they did, by and large, a good job. Sesame Street came on every morning, the Today show at 1 pm (it was live) and at night we’d get ER and other popular shows – just one season behind.   But some of the shows?  Well, they were just weird.

Enter Battle Bots.  I don’t know why we ever watched it, because now, today, 10 years older, with high speed internet (did not have then), Netflix, and a gazillion cable channels, I wouldn’t even glance at the screen.  But somehow, during the very rainy and dark German winter, when isolation and homesickness set in, well, all you’ve got is AFN.  And AFN had Battle Bots, a strange campy show where people built robots and then put them into a ring to see which one could disable the other first – usually by flipping it over or otherwise making it immobile- had something of a cult following among some of our friends.  Anyway, my favorite robot was, of course, Vlad the Impaler.  He was rather squat but had these two long planks built for, well, impaling his opponents (actually more like lifting them and flipping them over).  Also, the very corny announcer had this overly-dramatic affect when he announced Vlad that I, for some reason, found incredibly amusing. VLAD! The IMPAAAAAALER!

Yes, I know I just lost most of my readers right there.

Apparently, aside from really bad television, Vlad The Impaler was also a real dude!  Looky here, and note the spear on the helmet.  You will see it again:

I know, I know.  You’re wondering what in the wide world of sports does this quite lengthy and not terribly interesting story have to do with home improvement?  It occurred to me not long after we bought OPB that is came with it’s very own Vlad, The Impaler.  Although, the thought probably occured to Russ quite a bit sooner (as he is a good 6″ taller than I am).

Vlad,  as seen here, during the Great Blizzard of ’10:

Or, more normally, here:

If you are a tall fellow, much like my husband, you might even have had an encounter with Vlad on our porch.  Maybe. Perhaps.  At any rate, it was fairly obvious to me that eventually somebody was going to get hurt.  Not really wanting to test out the parameters of our homeowners policy (does it cover impalement?) we decided Vlad’s reign of terror was over.  And really, nothing says “Welcome to Our Home” like a bleeding head wound.

So long, you pointy menace.

Unfortunately, Vlad was originally suspended from a hook mounted in the attic over the porch – no electrical box existed.   We had to retrofit one.  Fun times!  Here’s the jigsaw blade at work.

Aaand I managed not take any more pictures because I was busy doing my favorite job (Hold this right here. Don’t move.)  until we got to this point:

This nifty light comes on at dusk at a dim setting, then kicks over to bright when it senses motion. Groovy!

The porch: no longer a hazard to your head.

And yes, I could have just said, “Hey, we put up a new light fixture! Look!”  but that wouldn’t be very much fun, now would it?

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