Friday, September 28, 2012

cleaning hand-me-down bath toys

My nephew and niece are a few years older than my kiddo, and so we sometimes get hand-me-downs that my sister-in-law passes along to us. We also visit a kids' consignment store every so often. Between the two sources, we ended up with a nifty little collection of Fisher Price Little People and animals.

Back in the day, these were solid plastic, so if we played with them in the tub they didn't collect water inside. But the new ones (from the last 10+ years) are hollow, soft plastic. And as a local news report pointed out awhile back, hollow bath toys collect water inside, and grow bacteria and mold. Ew. Double ew.

So when I bring this kind of toy into the house, I give them a pretty good cleaning with the only thing I know will kill mold: Bleach. I dilute it in water according to the directions on the bottle, and I pour the solution in a plugged bathroom sink. It's best to do this during nap time when kiddos aren't around, and then keep the bathroom door closed and locked, anyway.

I squeeze as much air out as I can, then dunk and fill with the water. I shake, then soak.

The real problem is getting the bleach water out afterward. Squeezing releases most of it, but not all.

For this, you'll need an awl. You can find one in most hardware stores or in an art supply store (with the bookbinding supplies). It's basically a sharp spike with a handle.

Turn over each toy, and identify what would be the lowest point (where all the water would settle) were the toy upright. Poke a nice hole with the awl. Be careful of hands! In fact, don't follow my example in the photographs; work on a solid surface.

When you turn the toy upright again, give it a second for the water to drain to the awl hole, then squeeze gently to get all the water out.

Repeat the process with clean water to rinse all of the bleach solution out. Voila! Clean toys, ready for playing in the bath tub without spreading germs.

Because of the nature of the plastic, the holes disguise themselves so you won't even notice them . . . until it's time to clean the toys again!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 21, 2012

that's how i roll: a skinny shelf for the bath / laundry room

I've mentioned before, I think, that we live in a little mid-century-era ranch-style house that measures under 1000 square feet. With a toddler. And some cats. Space gets a little tight sometimes, and creative storage ideas are always in high demand. So when, a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about the problem area that is our shared bathroom / laundry room, I did some storage brainstorming.

There's not much room in there, but there is a space about a foot wide next to the stacked washer and dryer where I'd been stashing extra boxes of detergent, catfood, bleach, and a wastebasket. These had to be moved whenever I needed to get the broom or mop out. Not very convenient.

I thought about building a narrow shelf for the space, but a trip to Bring for some useable lumber instead turned up this: a narrow shelf (probably part of a desk) with sliding drawers on either side. (Cat not included.)

I picked up this pile of old casters there, too. Knowing they wouldn't be visible, I didn't mind the rust; they were a buck each, and the shelf was $10 or $15 I think . . . less than I would have spent on lumber and drawer hardware, anyway, and since I don't have professional carpentry skills, anything I would have built wouldn't have looked as finished.

What I can do is attach casters with a hodge-podge of leftover wood screws. That's how I roll.

Honestly, the hardest part of this project was finding four matching casters in the pile. After all four casters were attached, I just stood the shelf on its end, and rolled it into the space.

It's a bit hard to photograph in the cramped quarters of my bathroom, but I took some shots head-on and from the hallway to give you a bit of an idea.

There's a storage bin on top, and the wood rectangle is the front of a nice, deep drawer for storing dryer sheets, bleach, extra soap, etc.).

The shelf is deep enough and tall enough that I was able to stack three boxes of detergent powder in the back, with the cat food and in-use detergent containers in front. The mop and broom still fit behind everything else, but the casters make it easy to roll everything out of the way first.

Right now, because the shelf is technically on its side, the drawers open on their sides, too . . . but I'm pretty much okay with that. What I would like to do soon though, is to add some drawer hardware to make it prettier. As soon as I find the right ones I'll take a little photo for you.

What have you been organizing or simplifying lately? I love visiting your (non-spam) links in my comments section, so feel free to tell me where to visit!

Thanks for reading.

p.s. you can make these photos larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

quick little industrial pendant light

With me, if it's not chairs, it's lights.

This one's a quick little pendant project that's very industrial chic. A few simple materials, too! I started with a clamp on lamp kit (a hanging lantern kit would be great, too, with the added benefit of longer cord length), and a low-wattage bulb.

The light cage came from Bring. It cost a buck. If you don't have one lying around from an old outdoor light fixture and you don't live in the Pacific Northwest (where salvaged building stores abound), you can try a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, or try searching for "light cage" on Amazon or eBay or Google. They run more in the 3-20 dollar range there. But they're still less expensive than the completed industrial pendants you'll find here, here, here, here, or here.

Spread out the prongs on your light kit a little. You want them to catch the edge of the light cage and support its weight.

Pass the cord through to see if it'll do its job.

Then, get out the 18-gague wire and pliers you should have thought of sooner. Silly you.

Two six-inch lengths, bent in the middle, ought to do it — one for each prong.

Thread a wire through each prong and wrap it securely around the top of the cage.

Here's a close-up from the side. Don't over think it.

Add a bulb! I'm considering adding some foil tape to the bulb to make it prettier, but it'll do for now. Mine is a torpedo bulb from Satco. I think it's a compact fluorescent. It's a 7 watt bulb with 40 watt output, and the base stays cool.

All done! Hang from a ceiling hook, or hardwire into the ceiling if that's your thing. If your cord is shorter than 8-feet, you can use a power brick hidden behind some stuff on a bookshelf or something, and plug your light into that. Voila!

Wheeee! I love it. It's hanging alongside my 5-cent pendant shade; the idea is to add one more for balance, but that can wait until I find my other piece (I hid is somewhere where it's really safe . . . even from me).

p.s. you can make these photos larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that. ;)

Linking up to:

Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday

Cap Creations Thrifty Love

Monday, September 17, 2012

woohoo! top-ten finish in the spoonflower fabric contest!

Seventh place finish in this week's Fabric of the Week contest over at Spoonflower! It's been awhile since I made it to the top ten. My Typewriter Ribbons fabric is now for sale. Thanks for voting!

one item in, one thousand items out

A lot of people are surprised by how much I can fit into my little Toyota. I've used it to haul lumber (most recently, all of the trim boards for the outside of our recently-painted house); ten storage containers full of books and three folding tables for Wordstock in Portland two years in a row; a flat pack Tromso loft bed, Poang chair, Lycksele Havet chair, and mattress from Ikea (in a single trip); and, of course, stuff I need to get rid of (like the collapsed canopy, glass bottles, cardboard, and bags of trash you can see in this picture, taken at the recycling center).

One thing I can't fit into my little Toyota is a piano. A 106-year-old piano from the charity store three blocks away, hypothetically speaking. No, to carry a heavy wood and brass upright piano three slightly hilly blocks, you need a piano expert who talks a good game and shows up with a buddy, a piano lift, and beat-up Datsun pick-up truck. And maybe you'll overpay for the privilege, but on the other hand, you won't herniate anything. Not that I'm writing from experience or anything. (Photos to come soon.)

Of course, a piano is rather large, and if, like me, you're not necessarily a minimalist (ha!), you'll need to make space for a huge piece of furniture.

My house: I cut down a corner bookshelf into a shoe rack, moved another bookshelf into the kitchen, gutted my magazine collection, donated a bunch of this and that. There's a lot more to do, and a ton more to get rid of. A constant struggle 'round these parts. But I'm getting better. After all, I only brought one item in, and got rid of thousands.

Monday, September 10, 2012

spoonflower typewriter-inspired fabric contest

Hey friends! This week's Spoonflower Fabric of the Week Contest is all about designing fabric with a typewriter theme.

I took it to the abstract side a bit (I like to think outside the box a little on these more-rigid contest themes) and created a pattern of typewriter ribbon reels. You can see it here, on my Spoonflower design page.

And if you like it, you can vote for it here, following the link at the bottom right. In the Spoonflower blog image, my design is the third from the left in the top row! First time that's happened in one of these contests since the very first one I entered, back in 2009. You know, back when Spoonflower was new, and there were only six entries per week, and no themes.

It seems like a really long time ago.

Anyway, give it a vote if you like! Then pop over to take a peek at my recently-added Lodge collection, inspired by our recent trip to Montana . . . you know, where I saw some beautiful mountain lodges and these guys:

(scrap metal statuary near the entrance to the Blackfeet Nation, East Glacier.)

I keep meaning to do a big ol' photo post about our trip; too beautiful.

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these images larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that!

Friday, September 7, 2012

4 simple goals (before 2013)

(photo credit: A Beautiful Mess)

I was reading A Beautiful Mess this afternoon. Elsie's latest post is all about setting achievable goals before the new year. Things that will make life richer and happier on a daily basis. Things that are more about process than results. Things that are personal.

She also blogs about rewarding yourself for your efforts, and celebrating (and blogging about) your goals at the end of the year. Sounds kinda good. I've been busy overwhelming myself lately, so maybe playing along with Elsie will be good for centering by busy mind and keeping me present in the moment. I'm discovering lately that, especially where my kiddo is concerned, time passes so quickly.

So here are my four:

1) Remember what's important, and make those things your priorities. I recently accepted an offer from my old job to start doing book cover design again part time from home. I've had a lot of worries about it; part of the reason I left back in January was that I felt I was focusing more on my work than I should have been, and not paying enough attention to my kiddo. Who is two years old now, and desperate for it. So my first goal is to just keep things in perspective. The kid comes first. Always. Everything else is the background music supporting that particular soloist.

2) Keep blogging twice or three times a week. Because it's for me. It's the selfish thing I do to feel like I'm part of a community and to share my projects, thoughts, and ideas. And it's important. No matter how many or how few people read, it's important because it's mine.

3) Keep trying. Finish what you start. I'm great at coming up with ideas and getting things going. What I'm terrible at is following through. If I hit a bumpy patch or things aren't turning out right, I move on to something else, intending to come back "some day". The blog is pretty good for keeping me on task (I need "After" photos!) but I still get flaky sometimes. I need to focus on getting all those starts finished.

4) Practice patience. Every day. I need to count to ten, lower my voice, make myself be calm. Because getting worked up doesn't help me, and it doesn't help anyone else around here either.

5) Bonus Goal: Keep moving. Be active every day. I need to remember that if I want my kid to grow up and not be a couch potato, I have to be out there showing him how. Because kids take after their adults, more often than not.

So there are mine! Thanks for the inspiration, Elsie! I look forward to checking back in over at A Beautiful Mess in a few months to see how everyone's goals help them through the fall and winter.

So, what are your goals for the next quarter of this year?

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

happy labor day!

We spent the recent Labor Day holiday taking turns masking off the windows and priming/painting the first two sides of the house. Even more exhausting with a toddler!

We used this primer and paint in Sweet Corn Yellow. We'll let you know how it holds up! This is our first experience painting with recycled paint; the price is good, and the paint coverage is pretty decent.

What did you keep busy doing over the long weekend?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

so far so good: using handmade plate hangers

You're going to see some primer starting to cover the yellow milk paint on my kitchen wall in these photos, but this post isn't about paint (that'll have to wait); it's about hanging things on the wall (fish, in this case) using handmade wire plate hangers.

I have a ceramic fish on my wall that we picked up at Jeff Chang Pottery on a trip to Oahu when we were twenty-one. It's a pretty blue, tropical thing I don't know the name of, and it hangs from a hook applied to the back by the artist.

The plan for awhile has been to add some additional fish as time went by. At my niece and nephew's birthday party in 2008, I painted the little blue fish spoon rest at a "paint your own pottery" studio, intending to hang him on the wall with his Hawaiian friend. But I couldn't track down a plate hanger small enough, so I put him to use as an actual spoon rest instead.

Finally, the large fish dish was a summer piece from Target . . . thankfully discounted after weeks of stalking it, waiting for the price to drop. It came home with us, then sat on the counter for a week while I researched how to make my own plate hangers, since nothing short of a miracle was going to turn up anything heavy-duty enough to securely hold this heavy dish on the wall.

So there you have it; two common plate hanging problems: the dish is too big, and the dish is too small. The solution is a $3 spool of wire, a pair of needle-nose pliers/wire cutters, and some help from good ol' Martha Stewart.

Martha's instructions recommend 18 gauge annealed iron wire, which I'm totally sure is an actual thing, but I couldn't find it in three different local places, or Amazon. So I looked for a good alternative, something a similar gauge (thickness) that bends easily enough with pliers and fingers, but stiff enough to keep its shape when holding a heavy plate.

I tried a couple of different things, but ended up settling on this one: plastic coated 18 gauge steel wire.

I ended up choosing the plastic-coated steel to solve another common plate hanging problem: chipping plates. The plastic coating on the wire is transparent and subtle (on my blue fish, anyway) and protects the ceramic from the hard edges of the wire.

Cut two pieces that are longer than your plate (I used three for the big fish).

Twist a loop in the middle of one piece, and make a "v" shape in the middle of the other.

Connect on the back of your plate, then wrap the wires tightly (but not too tightly) around your plate.

On the front, use the pliers to twist little loops at the ends of the wire. Make sure your plate is held securely before hanging. If any part is loose, your plate could slip and break!

Use the hoop on the back to hang your dish on a picture hanger that's rated to hold the right weight . . . or a little more. I used a 3-pound hanger for the small dish, but a 50-pound hanger nailed into a wall stud for the big dish. Better to go for a little overkill, I think.

A simple little project, cheaper than buying readymade hangers, and more versatile, too.

What have you been saving to hang on the wall? What's your obstacle?

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that.