Update to “Accessible accessories” — Bring back the bling

This blog post falls under the category of “better late than never.”  By that, I mean that it’s taken me over a year to keep my promise of actually ditching my unsightly old jewelry cabinet in lieu of a more creative way to display my baubles.

The cabinet, which I referenced in my earlier post, “Accessible Accessories,” screamed ’80s country oak catastrophe, devoid of charm, taste, or beauty.  In fact, it was so ugly (“How ugly was it?”) that I draped linens on top of it and relegated it to hidden corner of my sitting room, as if I had put it in Timeout.  Then, because it was “out of sight, out of mind,” I never opened it up and stopped wearing jewelry!  You may think I’m kidding for comedic effect but, unfortunately, this is a true story of my decline from bling to boring — all because I procrastinated an easy project!

So this weekend, with a bit more time on my hands, I unloaded my jewelry cabinet, apologized to my long-neglected lovely things, and decided to proudly display them so they would be easy to see and select forevermore.  A wooden-framed chalkboard was the unlikely hero which came to the rescue and became the backdrop for my new arrangement.

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This was one of the easiest, most inexpensive projects I’ve ever done — merely using push pins at the top of the wooden frame and hanging my necklaces of varying lengths upon each pin.  Not only are the necklaces easy to see, but they look like an elegant tapestry of color and texture against the black background. And no more tangles!

I placed my bracelets, rings, and brooches in the small metal bins at the bottom of the chalkboard where you would normally find chalk and erasers.

Whatever happened to the Cabinet of Shame?  She currently sits curbside where, no doubt, some junk peddler will nab it in the night, thinking he’s found a gem…er…gem cabinet which will sell quickly at his store.  Meanwhile, my jewelry is happy and free from its confines, and I’m gonna bring the bling like never before. :-)

 

 

Cool organization solutions for cool-weather scarves

Fall is my favorite season. Crisp weather, hot coffee, vibrant trees… and lots and lots of scarves to add some fashion flair to our outfits! Over the years, my collection of scarves has grown, but my storage space hasn’t. So this year, with scarves literally hanging around (and all over) my bedroom, I researched some ways to organize them.

Over the door towel rack with shower curtain hooks

Over-the-door towel rack with shower curtain hooks

Coat hanger with shower curtain hooks

Coat hanger with shower curtain hooks

Tension rods in small space

Tension rods in small space

Upcycled ladder turned scarf rack

Upcycled ladder turned scarf rack

Drawer cubbies (even with cut PVC pipes!)

Drawer cubbies (even with cut PVC pipes!)

All of these methods are easy, inexpensive, and take little time. Have any other scarf organization ideas? Send them my way!
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Photos Credits: Towel rack; Hanger; Tension rods; Ladder; Drawer cubbies

Clutter chaos? Pick a pocket

A couple of years ago, I conducted a little domestic experiment. I decided to not “pick up” sundry items lying around the house and see how long they stayed there. You know, miscellaneous things left out on the kitchen counters… tables… floors. I could only stand it a week when I realized that if I wasn’t proactively being the Tidy Tyrant, I would quickly find myself living in Clutter Castle.

Tired of being the consummate pick-up artist, I figured out how to get my messy family members to “put away” before Mama became “put out.” Enter: Over-the-door pocket organizers.

Do I want these plastic contraptions hanging over ALL of my doors? No way. Do I want them in discreet locations to keep their socks and my sanity intact? Hell, yes!

And so it came to be.

MittensWant one inside a coat/shoe closet to house:

  • Winter gear (mittens, toboggans, scarves, earmuffs, ice scraper)
  • Small sports gear (volleyball knee pads, soccer socks, swim goggles, baseball caps) or
  • General outdoor gear (sunglasses, binoculars, camera, sunscreen, visors, bug spray)?

    Why, yes, please.

    Transformers stuffed animalsOr how about one on the back of the kids’ bedroom doors to organize Transformers or stuffed animals? Lovely. I’ll take two.

    Need a simple way to organize school supplies or craft/art paraphernalia? Boom! Slap one on the inside of a pantry door near a kitchen table and, voila — instant harmony in your humble abode.

    school stuff

  • So I say to all of you out there: Get it together! No, wait… correction: Let THEM get it together. Just buy the plastic pocketed “enablers” and make it easy for even the most rebellious of your lot to stay clean and clutter-free.

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    Photograph credits: The Happy Housewife, Day Crafts, and Org Junkie

  • Nice flight to 40

    Recently, I hosted a 40th birthday party for my boyfriend, who loves airplanes — especially vintage ones.  I wanted to use this as a theme for his party but not in an overly cutesy way that is reserved for the toddler set.  With some Internet sleuthing and some ingenuity, I think I earned my wings on this one. :-)

    First, I created the invitation in the style of a vintage airplane ticket. Sealed in a “Par Avion” envelope with a vintage biplane stamp, what better way to set the stage or the… er… runway?

    InvitationThen, it was all about creating a party atmosphere to drive home the theme.  Having a photo booth area in the garage (“hangar”) labeled, “Passport Photos,” with some great travel-related props was a great way to get everyone in the mood… AND provide some mementos from the evening.  Props included a plane propeller, world map poster, actual vintage airplane seats (for only $35 off Craigslist!), a globe, a steamer trunk, bomber jackets, and goggles.

    Photo BoothPassport Photos

    Signs also added some whimsy — “Welcome Aboard,” “Baggage Claim Area” (for coats and purses), and “In-Flight Snacks” for food and beverages.  I also used a “Lavatory” sign for the bathroom, as well as “Authorized Personnel Only” for areas of the home I wanted to keep private.

    Welcome SignPlanning the menu was so much fun and gave way to lots of creativity — including Soda Suitcase (a vintage one bought at Goodwill for $2), Cumulus Cupcakes, Jet Fuel (pumpkin pie martini), and Air-Devil Eggs, just to name a few.

    Soda SuitcaseCumulus CupcakesJet FuelAir-Devil Eggs

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I had planned to use mini-laminated map luggage tags for parting gifts, but they did not arrive in time.  Instead, I had a door-prize drawing for a basket filled with travel-sized items and an “In-Flight Movie” (DVD).

    Travel Size Gifts & In Flight MovieWhen it was all said and done, I think everyone had a good time. All items were purchased or made on a minimal budget, and clean-up was a breeze.  A good take-off… a flight without turbulence… and definitely a happy landing. I’m ready for my next adventure.

     

     

    Thinking outside the box: Homemade gift-wrapping

    Since stores have showcased Christmas decorations since the end of their “Back-to-School” promotions (ugh!), I’m giving myself permission to post a blog about Christmas/Hanukkah crafting pre-Halloween.  And this time, I’m asking you to think outside the box.  Literally.

    Years ago, I had a friend who gave me the most amazing homemade gifts. What impressed me the most, however — and has stayed with me all this time — is how she packaged everything:  With hand-crafted wrapping paper and embellishments.

    She was my Secret Santa at work and, each day, I found a uniquely wrapped box on my desk.  One day, it was a box wrapped in plain brown paper, with white snowflake stenciling and a sprig of evergreen tucked neatly under a ribbon. Another day, it was a package in white, with cut-outs of words and pictures from newspapers and magazines.  My favorite was one in which she took three heart doilies and stacked them, with the largest on the bottom, to resemble a Christmas tree; she used different-colored buttons for the ornaments!

    This “special treatment” is an inexpensive and creative way to show your thoughtfulness and stand out during this giving season.  Below are some great ideas to consider.

    Snowflake or folded-paper cut-outs and doilies make for easy designs.  Use a piece of twine or string in place of a ribbon for an old-fashioned look.

    DIY Paper flowers     doilies-loves-kraftpaper_free-printable_wrapping-paper_simpletwine

    How cool would it be for your family members to identify their gifts by the photos you used to tag them?  (And the photos are gifts, too!)

    Photocopy photos and use in place of gift tags

    What about a collage of color photos?  Take your design to a copy center to print it on larger sheets of paper.

    Homeade wrapping paper. Just made this for my boyfriend's birthday!

    Why not be silly?  Clip images from magazines or use stamps to make a repeating design.  Perfect for kids and teens.

       StampedPaper

    Give yourself license to do something different this holiday season and wrap your gifts in style.  There’s nothing like a “grand opening.” :-)

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    Photo credits:  DIY Pinterest; Daily Suze; Our Suburban Farm; Originals; Top Inspired; Sweet Paul Mag

     

     

    Old Maid new

    OldMaidCardWhen my sister and I were kids, we spent countless hours playing cards with our grandmother, affectionately called “Gaga” (long before the pop-star made the name fashionable!).  Our favorite game, bar none, was “Old Maid,” and oh how we cackled when our worthy opponent drew the unenviable card!

    This week, my sis turned 40, and I wanted to give her something special — a nostalgic present that meant something to just the two of us.  What better gift than a set of those vintage 1970s Whitman playing cards from our past, in all their whimsical (albeit, now non-PC!) Old Maid glory.

    When I first saw a set for sale on eBay, I was ecstatic.  The colorful playing card “characters,” including Diver Dan, Fifi Fluff, and Postman Pete, jumped right off the screen and instantly summoned all my preschool memories of careless days, passing time on my grandmother’s screened-in porch. What a bargain for only $6.00, plus shipping & handling!

    DiverDan   FifiFluff   PostManPete

    But rather than simply give my sister the deck in its original plastic case, I wanted to display the individual cards as wall art.  After considering a multi-baseball trading card frame (trading cards are the exact size as playing cards), I chose a collage frame which was originally intended for 3×5 photos.  Naturally, I made the Old Maid card the centerpiece.

    ArtWhile good ol’ Gaga passed away many years ago, her memory lives on with us in numerous ways — and now, through this loving keepsake. Maybe this idea has inspired you to take some other retro playing cards and frame them for a child’s room, a family game room, or a gift for a childhood friend.  Regardless, it’s a great way to celebrate a meaningful, perhaps-waning, American pastime in a simple, creative manner.

    P.S. Sis — I promise the Old Maid theme was not a jab at your single status on this milestone birthday!  Hope you had a great one! :-)

    Open Sesame! Cabinets exposed

    There it was before me — my undeniable mess of “stuff” shoved in my kitchen cabinets, seemingly taunting me for my inadequacies:  Chipped bowls which didn’t match; a few nice glasses amidst cheap, neon plastic ones of the “Big Gulp” variety; and miscellaneous cake mixes and baking ingredients which mysteriously migrated from their proper place in the pantry to go slumming with my disorderly dishes.

    Ah, but there was one saving grace:  Cabinet doors, which I could close at any time — lovely Doors of Denial, safeguarding my peace of mind and fooling my house guests into thinking I had it altogether. Bwah ha ha!

    Kitchen243But, of course, there was a problem. There’s always a problem.  I have a small kitchen and a very open mind. My cabinet doors began to make me feel more boxed in than my free spirit demanded.  I found myself in my kitchen, late at night, wanting to tear the doors off their hinges and shout, “Be free my dishes!  Be proud of who you are (you Big Hot Mess!) and let the world embrace your uniqueness and diversity!”

    Well, maybe that’s a bit too strong, but you get the picture.  I was compelled to find a way to make the Open Cabinet concept work for me, come hell or high water.

     

    Much to my surprise, this was not an unsurpassable challenge. For me, the first realization was that I needed a compromise.  I may still need to keep the cabinet doors on some of my shelving, but I could open up a few — the select, chosen ones. The second realization was that I needed to do a bit of triage:  Get rid of the worst of the worst; keep the workable; and buy some new pieces to pull it altogether.

    Additionally, as I surfed the Internet for inspiration and validation, one rule-of-thumb seemed to prevail:  Color coordination.  Whether you opt for a neutral color scheme or one with color, you need some sort of consistency and pattern so that it looks like there’s at least a method to your madness.

    imageI opted for a neutral palette of white and clear dishes, intermixed with some browns and stainless steel.  Woven baskets are always a great way to collect a few things that may be too hard to display openly (e.g., I used mine to contain my small baking ingredients, which I can now pull down easily in one fell-swoop).

    Most of my new items were purchased very inexpensively at Big Lots and The Dollar Tree. I’m aways amazed at the decent pieces of stoneware and glassware at rock-bottom prices at these discount or closeout stores.

     

    spring 11 029I love the idea of using a contrasting paint color or material on the backside of the cabinets to really make the dishes and other contents pop. Here, chalkboard paint was used, which complements the black granite countertop below.  A few personal items such as plaques and photos add interest.

     

    opencabinets2[6]If you opt for using colorful pieces, you can find plenty of ways to make them look lovely without sacrificing functionality. Glass-front cabinet doors can add a little more formality to the look but still allow your dishes to peer through. Bonus: a bit more protection against dust.

    While you don’t have to use all one color, make sure the colors you choose work in harmony, as opposed to a chaotic assortment which will only make your shelves appear… well, disheveled. :-)

    Start with a small section of your kitchen (or bathroom, for that matter).  Clear your cabinets and your mind.  Add items one piece at a time, subtracting away when it begins to look too cluttered. Add a small plant… a clock… or anything else which might add some variety without transgressing to the Land of Knickknacks.  Your kitchen will look brighter, lighter, and more open.  Your cabinets will be functional pieces of art, with little to no maintenance. And you will feel like a Dish Display Diva, ready to grace the pages of Architectural Digest.

    C’mon, you can do it!  Take those cabinet doors and let ‘er rip!

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    Photo credits:  Black cabinets – Inspiration For Decoration. White and clear dishes – Pretty Easy Living.  Chalkboard-backed open cabinets – Creatively Living Blog. Yellow dishes display – Pinterest post.

     

     

     

     

     

    No downside to easy upside down pineapple mini-cakes

    I have always loved pineapple upside-down cakes, ever since I was a little girl and my grandmother made them.  But this recipe below adds a great twist — making individual mini-cakes in a muffin pan!  What a great solution for parties when guests can simply grab a mini-cake and go, without all the cake-slicing and mess that often deters people from even making the effort. This recipe will make a batch of 6 jumbo size or 8 muffin size cakes.

    Cake Ingredients:

    • 2 eggs
    • 2/3 C white sugar
    • 4 Tbsp pineapple juice
    • 2/3 C all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt

    Topping:

    • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick or 4 Tbsp)
    • 2/3 C brown sugar
    • 1 can pineapple rings
    • 6 maraschino cherries

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, add eggs, white sugar, and pineapple juice.  Beat for 2 minutes.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and turn mixer back on for 2 minutes.

    In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar.  Stir on low heat for one minute. Spoon a layer of the warm brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin tin. Then place a pineapple ring on top. Add a cherry in the middle of each pineapple.   Pour cake mixture over to fill muffin tin 3/4 of the way full.  If you are using regular muffin tins, you will need to cut down the rings to fit or just use pineapple tidbits.

    Bake jumbo cakes for 25 minutes.  Bake regular cakes for 20 minutes.  If you choose to make a large cake, bake for 22-25 minutes in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. The cake is done with a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

    Remove from the oven.  Let cool in pan for 3 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of each cake to help loosen in case it sticks a little.  Place a wire cooling rack on top, and quickly flip over on top of sheet tray to catch extra drippings. Place wire rack of cakes on sheet tray to cool.

    Enjoy!

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    Credits:  This recipe comes from Rhondi at Big Mama’s Home Kitchen.

    A doggone good time (a tribute to my grandmother)

    When I was a child, I was a notoriously picky eater.  I routinely hid food in Kleenexes under the dinner table, later flushing the little “care packages” down the toilet.

    I became a mastermind at distracting my kid sister while simultaneously transporting food from my plate to hers when she wasn’t looking.  And my relatives, to this day, talk about the time when they visited and found sausage links behind our living room couch that I’d apparently ditched from my morning breakfast.  I had no appetite, and I had no shame.

    My parents worried about me constantly. What were they going to do with this skinny, little child who didn’t want to eat?  They tried everything — bribes, rewards, pleads… the starving children pitch.  Nothing seemed to work.  Nothing, until my grandmother happened upon a miracle food that you’d never guess if I didn’t tell you:  A&W chili hot dogs.

    Hot_Dog_Chili-1

    I know what you’re thinking.  How in the world did anyone convince me to take that first bite?  After all, a chili hot dog is not exactly bland and hardly what you would think a finicky eater would agree to try without serious duress.

    To understand this, you have to know something about my grandmother and her special charm with children.  This was the woman who kicked my grandfather out of their king-size bed so I could sleep with her and get special attention when I spent the night.  This was also the woman who taught me how to play poker at the age of 5 and insisted that I was grown-up enough to sit with the adults at family dinners instead of being relegated to the “kiddie table.”  I was the apple of her eye, and I knew it. So when she asked me to accompany her to A&W to try a chili dog and root beer, I felt it was the least I could do.

    When she came to pick me up for lunch, I was dressed in a pretty, frilly pink dress, white tights, and patent leather shoes (like most grandmothers of little girls, she also spoiled me with clothes).  When we arrived at the restaurant, I immediately opened the car door and began to hop out.  “Where do you think you’re going, young lady?” she asked me. “Inside the restaurant,” I flippantly responded, thinking she’d lost her mind.

    She then proceeded to tell me that, at A&W, you could order from your car, via an intercom, and a bell-hop would bring your order.  This was the coolest thing I’d ever heard — not having to leave your car!  I remember her letting me flip the intercom switch on the speaker box to let them know we were ready.  I couldn’t imagine why other restaurants hadn’t picked up on this ingenious method of food service.

    I was feeling pretty good as we awaited the chili hot dog delivery — until my grandmother pulled out the heavy artillery.  You see, another thing you have to know about my grandmother is that she always came prepared.  Knowing a chili hot dog, a 5-year-old, and a pink dress were a hazardous combination, she’d packed a bib, cloth napkin, baby wipes, and a towel for me to sit on.  I began to have serious doubts if I was going to enjoy the experience.

    But shortly, the chili hot dogs arrived, and history was about to be made.  For the first time in my life, I took a bite out of something without poking it, prodding it, sniffing it, or picking it to death.  I just picked it up and started eating it!  My grandmother was so shocked and mesmerized at the sight of me eating that she spilled chili sauce down the front of her HER blouse.  She got a kick when I matter-of-factly asked her if she’d like to borrow my bib.

    This became the first of many trips to A&W with my grandmother over the years. I eventually graduated from a regular to a foot-long chili dog and from a baby root beer mug to a standard size.  I also began giving hitherto vetoed foods a chance.  My grandmother was happy; my parents were ecstatic; and I had a new appetite and wonderful memories of special days with my grandmother that I will never forget.

    A kid, a cap, and a car ride

    My son, Jack, is 11.  He is sociable, sweet, and silly.  I enjoy his company every day, and he enjoys mine.  He has not hit puberty.

    I know it’s coming.  Soon I fear.  The day when he wants me to disappear into the background… or off the face of the earth.  The day when his bedroom door, and his heart, will be more closed than open.  The day when he prefers his friends to family and, in the famous words of Kurt Cobain, makes my house smell more like “Teen Spirit” than Tutti-Frutti.

    But today is not that day.  Not yet.

    Not long ago, when visiting a store in the mall which sells baseball caps, I was privvy to witness “Childhood Present,” although “Childhood Past” was lurking right around the corner.  Jack was deliberating — intensely I might add — about a purchase that would deplete his hard-earned allowance in one-fell swoop.  More specifically, he was perplexed about what to have emblazened on his hat.

    After a few moments, he confidently walked over to the store manager and placed his order.  “I Love Kitties,” he said.

    “What?” asked the manager.

    “That’s what I want on my cap — ‘I Love Kitties,'” he repeated.

    We looked at each other for a bit, the store manager and I.  It was an unexpected request for monogramming — a genuine reflection of the moment (and Jack’s true love of… well, kitties) — but I had to help him turn the corner.

    Knowing the short-lived nature of such a cap, which would surely summon taunts and teasing from his fellow fifth-graders, I smiled and complimented him on his great idea, all the while encouraging him to consider some alternatives.

    “Hmm… you’re right, Mom.  That’s probably too many letters.”

    “Exactly,” I said.

    Next up, his initials — “JC” — he suggested.  Not bad, I thought.  We’re getting there.  But he quickly pointed out that this might be mistaken for “Jesus Christ,” prompting him to add his middle initial (so as not to confuse the masses).  Again, I chuckled, loving his naivete and uncorrupted thinking, and said, “Yes, that will fit better on your cap.”

    So we left the store with a red-and-white hat, “JWC” centered, prime and proper.  He wore it proudly to the car, although it was not yet adjusted to fit his head and conjured images more akin to Elmer Fudd than a burgeoning hipster.

    baseball capWithout any prodding, he thanked me for taking him to the mall, and we held hands in the car all the way home.  We sang songs on the radio, stopped to get icecream, and talked about the new “world” he was creating on his X-box game, Minecraft.  I listened intently, as he explained all the architectural details of his buildings and towers in his make-believe digital city.

    Yes, this was most definitely the kid who came out of the womb a born-engineer — curious, clever, creative.  That had not changed one bit in 11 years. He was still the master of his universe.  But a new world was on the horizon.  And the cap, the first item he’d EVER wanted simply because all his friends had one, was just the beginning.

    We pulled into our driveway, him – oblivious to my pondering the day as a milestone moment.  I looked over at my child, anxious to hop out of the car and show off his new purchase to anyone who would bear witness.  His cap was still a little mismatched for his small head, but I knew he’d grow into it.  His monogram fit him better — not overly cutesy but bearing his initials, plain and proud, but leaving something to the imagination.  That would work for now.

    I sat in the car for a few minutes after he leapt out, wiping the tears I’d stifled for 20 minutes.  The tears that every mother has when her boy is on the brink of in-betweenness.  Maternal tears that would surely be shed many times, in different ways, over the coming years — to express frustration with a kid whose “smart” mouth says things you never want to hear… and to mark each heartbreak from a failed teenage romance or friendship turned sour.

    “Hey, mom!” he shouted from the open window inside the house.  “Can we get a hat for Coco, too?  I think ‘I Love Kitties’ might work better for her, don’t you?”

    “Absolutely!” I shouted back from the car.  Was he being thoughtful toward his little sister?  Or, with his newfound insight, anxious for kids to make fun of her instead of him?  Hmm….

    Regardless, his comment captured the beauty of in-betweenness and the day I will savor for a long time.  Jack will wear a lot of hats, in time, but today — today, he will wear one that perfectly caps off his childhood and gives him plenty of room to grow.  Time will tell how he fills it out.