Monthly Archives: May 2011

Reclaiming the Pantry

We’ve known from day one that we needed to fix the pantry, but we hadn’t really planned to work on it any time soon. But for some reason on Friday night I suddenly couldn’t stand it any more, so we threw our other house plans out of the window and instead crafted a master plan to fix the pantry.

Here’s the problem. One of the past owners of this house installed an extra-deep media cabinet in the living room, complete with a little switch board.

(It used to have some weird-looking trim around the outside that we took off when we painted the walls.) I think it would have been really slick to put our media stuff there if we had decided to mount the TV over the fireplace. But since the TV is on a different wall, and especially since this is the first thing you see when you walk in the front door, setting up a lot of sound equipment there didn’t make much sense. We were just storing random stuff there in the meantime. What was really killing me though, was the amount of space it took up in the pantry. Since that wall is the back of the pantry, the fact that the media cabinet was over a foot deep meant that it claimed more than half of the actual pantry depth. And the existing shelves in the pantry made the extra space underneath the media cabinet largely inaccessible.

So bright and early on Saturday we started ripping stuff out. Since everything was bolted together, it was easier to remove the media cabinet first. It was a tight fit: the most effective method ended up being Dave bracing himself against the counter and launching side kicks at it. That thing is built like a rock! i think we’ll paint it and turn it into some sort of shelving for the office. 🙂

That’s the new window from the living room to the kitchen. We found some secret speaker wire hanging down from the attic, plus some loose insulation from who-knows-where. Here’s the view from the kitchen to the living room, once we removed the pantry shelves:

Please excuse the perpetual mess that is our living room.

We had already decided that we wanted to still have some built-in shelves to fill that hole in the wall, we just didn’t want them so deep. But pretty much as soon as we removed the existing cabinet we realized that it wouldn’t make sense to try to disassemble it, cut it down, and reassemble. So off to the hardware store we went to collect our building supplies.

That’s right, 8-ft boards fit in our little car… barely. Anyway, cutting and assembling went fairly quickly, though we were wishing for something besides a little hand-held circular saw, and we definitely need to use a flatter surface for assembly in the future.

I did help, by the way. I’m just not going to be able to be in the pictures if I’m the one taking them. 🙂 Anyway, after much frowning at the wall and glaring suspiciously at our level, we ended up with this:

And then we went to the hardware store and got a bunch of shims and did it over, but you get the idea. While we were out, we found some trim that matched the existing trim on our doors. Annnd we picked up some paint. Sadly we ran out of time this weekend since we also needed to put the pantry back together, but here is how the shelves look today:

We still need to attach trim to the front of the actual shelves, and then we just need to touch them up and paint them white. But this is a decent stopping point for the time being, and they’re already looking pretty darn cool.

Meanwhile, our food and paper products were forlornly waiting for a new and improved home…

We definitely wanted adjustable shelves, so after a little price comparison we settled on the “classic” metal track thingies:

Then we just cut some 1×12 boards down to size and loaded them up!

The best part is that’s only one side of the pantry. here’s the other side:

Finally! A space for the vacuum and broom. I’m probably going to add hanging baskets on the walls that are currently blank. We might even get around to painting the back “wall” (aka the back of the new living room shelves, only peeking out a tiny bit) eventually. I was originally planning to paint the pantry shelves, but they look fine the way they are for now… And the spices are moving somewhere closer to the stove once we get around to figuring out a better storage solution for them. Once that happens, maybe we’ll replace the pantry door with a bi-fold or something, because that door is just constantly in the way as it is right now.

All in all, I think it ended up being a pretty awesome Memorial Day weekend.


Standing Desk

After a few years at a desk job, something happened that I didn’t think was possible: I got tired of sitting. I have a nice little cubicle and all, but I felt like I was developing a permanent bent shape from the amount of time I was spending in the chair. Here’s how my desk used to look:

Lucky me my company is really supportive of new and interesting things, so I got a lot of help setting up a standing workstation. Iteration one was just stacks and stacks of books. Here’s how it looked:

After a week or so, I added even more books under the monitors and some books under the keyboard as well. I rocked that setup for about a month. Once I was confident that it wasn’t just a phase I was going through, the IT guys with the tools came in and raised the entire desk:

It turns out that attaching the horizontal surface on the highest available setting on the cubicle walls ended up being perfect standing height. They found a monitor attachment for me that clamps onto the back of the desk and allows me to vary the height of the screens. I love the extra desk space it opens up underneath the monitors. And raising the desk opened up some extra storage space underneath it as well.

I thought I might get tired of standing, but really my back and legs just feel so much happier now. I pace around a lot more when I’m thinking about a problem, and I find that I walk around and talk with my officemates a bit more rather than just always sending emails. (My boss tells me this is a good thing.) The bottoms of my feet get tired by the end of the day, even with my comfy shoes, so I’m thinking of getting one of those gel mats to stand on. Even when I was really sore from running around all weekend, it felt great to be able to stand and shift and walk about when my legs were feeling stiff.

The only thing that remains really is to get a counter-height chair or stool just in case I sprain an ankle or something and really do need to sit for a while.

Sorry the pictures are kinda boring. They differences would probably be more clear if I was in the picture too or something. At least I remembered to take pictures at all…

Switching up the dining room light

We’ll probably end up switching out several light fixtures in the house, (especially the hideous fluorescent light in the 3rd bedroom) but for now we just really needed to trade out the light hanging over the dining room table. It looked about ready to fall off anyway, and really didn’t match anything else in the house.

It doesn’t help that it’s off center from where we have the table. We’re planning on making built-in benches so that we can keep the table closer to the corner and not lose the walking space between it and the fireplace.

The main issue with finding a new light fixture was pretty much our unwillingness to spend very much money. Sigh. I guess I’m beginning to learn the high cost of home decor. Anyway, we had almost decided on getting a very boring drum shade (that still seemed to cost too much in my view…) when I found this funny looking oil-rubbed bronze thingy…

I’m not feeling very brave yet when it comes to decor, but my “this looks stupid”-o-meter (aka Dave) thought it looked pretty cool, so we bought it.

For now we screwed a hook into the ceiling so that we could center the light over the table and adjust the length of the chain. Anyway, to me it doesn’t look as nice in pictures as it does in person… I’m liking it a whole lot every time I walk by it. The only thing I’m a little undecided on is the color of the inner light shade… it’s almost a little too yellow when the light is on.

But I think it’s growing on me. And the whole procedure was pretty straightforward, the only bummer was that the dining room is on the same circuit as the TV, making it more challenging for me to goof off and watch TV while Dave worked. 🙂 Luckily the router was on a different circuit so I was still able to get to the internet!

And please excuse the creased tablecloth, paint swatches on the walls, vacuum cleaner in the corner, and lack of decorations. I’m just amazed that we managed to clear the table off to take the pictures.


Unfortunately the previously neglected rose bushes are taking a hit. I first noticed the rust on the red rose bush about a month or so ago- bright orange powdery spots on the underside of the leaves. I had to prune it down so much that there were barely any leaves left. I thought it was going to just die and was too depressed to blog about it. However, I just came back from a 5-day trip to discover it was covered in new growth!

(The reddish leaves are new growth.) Some of the older leaves, and all of the blooms, showed more rust spores though. I pruned away, but at least I have some confidence that the bush will live and I can take a more drastic strategy once it’s dormant.

Here’s what the rust looks like… kinda looks like I caught the plant right after it had been sticking its leaves in a bag of cheetos:

Unfortunately the pink roses are looking much more sickly (very little new growth) and now show definite signs of rust. I pruned all the visibly diseased stuff off, but they’re less mature so maybe they just don’t have as good of a  chance. I wasn’t going to even post a picture because it makes me sad, but here they are:

I need to figure out why there’s some sort of tree/shrub growing inches behind the one on the right, that seems odd to me.

In more inspiring news, the behemoth rose finally pushed out some flowers! They’re white. And there are NO signs of rust on this guy, so I pruned him first with a separate set of shears and gloves.

Worst “Before and After” Ever?

Our garage has been full of random stuff–pretty much the last few loads we brought after finally cleaning out the old place–for a month now. We’ve finally reached an organizational point on the inside of the house that I felt comfortable taking a swat at organizing the garage. Here’s how it looked when we started:

There’s still a ton of stuff without a permanent place to live, but we made a lot of progress. We made a decent pile of stuff to donate and recycle. We cleared a path to the stack of plywood on the righthand side, and we organized most of the tools onto the shelf on the left. There’s even room on the left to actually start working on making our bed frame, and I’m really hoping to at least start cutting the plywood sometime this month. (Shooting for the stars, that’s me…)

but then I went to take the “after” picture.

Yes, that’s really the “after” shot. In my defense, that pile of stuff front and center is the donate/recycle pile. And we didn’t bother to move the mattress, washer/dryer, or table since we’re going to be craigslisting those things. And we cleaned a lot of stuff out of the back of the garage, which you can’t really tell from the pictures. But in the end, yes, the garage is still a mess.

Hanging Stuff

No, we still haven’t gotten around to hanging pictures or wall art, but we did finally manage to hang the pot rack and knife holder, immediately making the kitchen way more storage-friendly.

I’ve been very leery of hanging our pots and pans out in the open, because I’ve just never been particularly fond of the aesthetic even when the cookware is all shiny and nice, and our stuff is a rather old and motley-looking bunch. But I can’t deny the organizational appeal, since I’ve spent far too much time crouched in front of the pot/pan cabinet cursing as I attempt to pull out the pot I need, which is invariably behind and/or under every other item in the cabinet. I had originally thought that we could hang the cookware Julia Child-style on the wall, but we’ve decided that we want to put open shelves on the one spot where that would made sense.

So I ordered the cheapest pot rack I could find, and we hung it this weekend. We doubled over the chains on the first try, but that left the pans hanging at my eye-level, which kinda defeats the purpose of an open kitchen.

We finally ended up getting rid of the chains entirely and hanging the rack hooks directly from the ceiling hooks. This means I have to be a little more coordinated when hanging the pans, but I can still reach them just fine. We weren’t planning on hanging any cast iron cookware anyway, so my weak shoulder girdles can handle the load of anything that we’d be hanging up there.

And surprisingly I actually am really liking the look. We may eventually make our own rack out of wood and brass since we’re slowly moving toward brass details elsewhere in the kitchen and dining room, but for now, even with the beat up cookware, it really isn’t the eyesore I was expecting at all.

Since I’m talking about hanging stuff, we ended up sticking the magnetic knife holder on the side of the refrigerator. It was seriously the only place to put it. It actually  makes a lot of sense from a functional point of view, since our cutting boards spend their free time leaning against the refrigerator right below the knife holder, and we do most of our cutting on the counter right there anyway.

As you may have gathered from the pictures, we still haven’t gotten around to painting the kitchen walls. who knows, maybe we’ll get to it before summer is over. Taking pictures of the pot rack really highlights the glossy paint on the kitchen ceiling though, which makes my eye twitch with hate ever time I see it. Seriously, if you need your ceiling to be extra wipeable then you really should be rethinking your cooking habits. I honestly don’t really see us getting around to ceiling paint at any point in 2011, but if my eye keeps twitching it may just make its way onto the todo list after all.