Monday, December 30, 2013

Supply Drawer Dividers.

You may have just finished reading about my lovely Supply Drawer Reface project.  If yes, thank you and please continue reading to see where the story leads.  If you have not, may I suggest following this link to do so in order to catch up.


After refacing.


When filling up all my newly refaced drawers I took care to maintain a comfortable level of organization that would enhance function yet not force rigid guidelines on precisely where items must be put back.  Let’s face it, sometimes we just dump things in drawers.  Even you.

The two deep bottom drawers mainly store bulky and less used items like stationary, old label makers and extra boxes of safety pins, tape, and the like.  They stay fairly organized on their own and are comfortably sitting this round out.

The three shallow drawers on top are used constantly because they hold the writing instruments, scissors, tape, rulers, sticky notes, and etcetera.  Now that the supply drawers live in a shared space (i.e. not my own separate office) my husband uses it almost as often as I do and I must learn how to share it needs to function for both of us.  

Most used of all five drawers is the top one.  I wish I took a “before” photo but surely you can picture a 10x12 inch drawer filled with a mixture of pens, pencils, markers, and miscellaneous writing utensils.  The thing is, it’s always been that way; any attempted organization eventually failed, reverting it back to a single dumping drawer.  Though not ideal, it worked.  But when I began dumping them in this time, after fixing it up, I stopped and said, “No, there must be a better way.”

Those who know me are aware of my obsession making and using organizers out of old boxes.  (I’m actually in the middle of yet another said project).  Sometimes I fear this may lean towards the hoarding spectrum.  At any time you can visit and see a couple small groupings of small and medium-sized empty boxes, but at the same time you can also see where and how I've used them in practical manners.  Here is one of those stories…


Stay hydrated. 


I began with a large, clean work surface; the empty drawer, freshly cleaned and refurbished; and all the needed supplies for the project.  The boxes I used came with a popular Scotch and are made of a great cardboard that is quite sturdy for its relative thinness with a smooth, white interior.


Length.

Depth.

Using a ruler that is exactly 12 inches (30.48cm) end-to-end I measured the length of the drawer.  The ruler actually fit at exactly that length at the shortest part so if I made the drawer dividers 30cm long they would fit at any point across the drawer comfortably.  The drawer height is 8.5 cm so I decided on 7cm for the divider height so it would be deep enough to hold a lot but not tall enough to impede opening the drawer (obviously).

Please be very careful using your cutting instrument of choice.

The original box is 33.5cm x 9-9.5cm (the sides have small size discrepancies common for mass-produced consumer product boxes) so I needed to trim it down.  Using the side with the longest end as the bottom of the divider (in this case, the side with the lid flap) I measured 7cm up from there on both sides.  I cut the small lid flaps off because they are not needed and just get in the way.  Then using a very sharp box cutter I very carefully cut along the 7cm marked line all the way around.  The excess just cut off is not needed in this project, I put it into recycling.


Snipping the bottom edge to make the flaps.

Now the divider is taking shape.  I measured 30cm along the bottom, marking a line there indicating where I wanted the end of the divider.  I then cut along the corners up to that line creating small flaps and folded them to the inside.  Holding them there I mustered all the dexterity I could and pulled the box up on its end in order to fold the bottom (roughly shown in the photo).  I marked a new line on the end where the side flaps came up and cut that extra part off.  At this point I pulled out the tape and started holding and taping everything together until I had the finished organizers that fit perfectly in the drawer.


A confusing photo for a confusing step.



When I started sorting the markers and pens into their new dividers I didn't like how items looked or felt in the middle space.  I worried that smaller objects may slide under the boxes and decided to make another, smaller box, to put in the middle.  Of course.


Oh, she's at it again.

Often when my husband finishes a box of cereal he will thoughtfully leave the empty box at the bottom of the pantry, next to the paper recycling, in case I want to use it.  So when I opened the pantry door that afternoon an empty box awaited me.  Destiny, it was, when I tested the size of the box and it fit absolutely perfect in that empty space.  I was so excited; it took me only a couple minutes to measure, cut, and tape the box for the middle as well as a slightly smaller one to put inside.  I was giddy at this point and couldn't wait to begin filling them.

Markers, pencils and miscellaneous, and pens.

The resulting drawer organizers are exactly what I wanted.  If the outside designs on the boxes bother me I can easily trim them down more or cover them with white paper to unify the look.  I’ll wait and see.

Top drawer.

To satisfy your curiosity, the second drawer holds scissors, rulers, tapes, and few other things.  In the center is a clear divider cut from a large Q-Tip box.

Second drawer.

The third drawer utilizes some plastic dividers I found at a thrift store many years ago and contain various things that don’t categorize well.

Third drawer.

Sharing this project seems a bit personal, as if you are pilfering through my drawers and fingering my eclectic mixture of pens (which all work well, by the way).  At least you know who you can always borrow a pen from though.



Supply Drawer Reface.

Last October I completed setup of my office space which occupies half our formal dining room (that is never used for formal dining) as shown in that story.  Though I considered my office essentially done I knew a few minor projects remained; Isn't that always the case though?

“Shoved in the right corner (under the heating/cooling unit) are my old, busted up, plastic Rubbermaid storage drawers for my office supplies.”  They sat in that same condition until recently.  I pretty much knew how I wanted to fix them up but did not yet have a clear plan.  My first thought was Con-Tac paper, but the biggest name in self-adhesive paper also seemed to be the biggest priced and online prices didn't differ much from the local selection.  At that point the project moved to the back-burner until a better solution arose.



Before: Rough shape.

Before.


After: Wow, how did this happen?

After.




A couple weeks ago my husband and I went to a Japanese home store called Super Viva Home that carries almost everything you would use at home and then some.  While wandering around curtains and carpeting I noticed a section with self-adhesive paper and instinctively looked directly at a small stash of bits and pieces rolled up individually and priced very, very low.  I selected a small roll of white paper with a subtle wood grain-like texture for ¥39!  That’s about 39₵ if you remember that 1 yen is about 1 penny, give or take a fraction with currency fluctuation.  That tiny purchase instigated my supply drawer refurbishment.





First things always first: Clean!  I emptied the drawers and carefully wiped them completely out.  This included the laborious chore of using Goo-Gone to remove tape residue from packers who practically mummified the unit with packing tape.  After that I had to use isopropyl alcohol to remove that residue.   For certain cleaning tasks lately I've been using grease-cutting disinfectant wipes.  I know, I know, not the most environmentally sound but one wipe will outlast several paper towels and the cloth-like texture seems to clean surfaces better and dries quickly.  (I work very hard making conscious decisions regarding the environment but no one is 100% earth-friendly, we just try to do our part best we can.)  The grease cleaning capability of the wipes also helped prepare the plastic for the adhesive paper to stick thoroughly after the extensive Goo-Gone treatment.


With the hard part over the fun can commence: Time to “measure twice and cut once” as my handyman-skilled Grandpa Jack always said.  He passed that to my crafty Mom and she passed it to me.  Using a flexible measuring tape I followed the width of the curved drawer fa├žade with a little overhang on each side, 31.5cm.  Why not 32cm?  I like the challenge.  Then I measured the height from the bottom up to the drawer pull indentation with a straight ruler, 5.5cm for the shallow drawers and 9.5cm for the deep drawers.  Before cutting the paper for each drawer I double checked the measurements.


Notice the tiny square design on the front, I'll use that later.


The adhesive paper is from a German company, d-c-fix, so the grid on the back used metric measurements making cutting (after re-checking my numbers) a breeze. 


I did not use the paper trimmer to cut, it would gum up the blade.  I set it on top to prevent the paper from rolling up.

Using my acute attention to detail I found a method to adhere the paper as centered as humanly possible.  I cut a small strip from the middle of the measured and cut piece and lined it up with a small, square design element on the front center of every drawer.  After lightly placing the sticky portion on the center I leveled the paper near the bottom of the drawer, leaving a small space to prevent accidental unpeeling over time.  When it looked straight and even I firmly pressed the middle to secure it.





Stuck on the middle square.


Taking a deep breath I entered the point of no return: the final peel-and-stick.  This is not a strength of mine, evidenced by the countless screen protectors I have ruined over the years by poor application attempts on multiple electronic devices.  The odds here leaned slightly in my favor though as the adhesive paper is flexible and doesn't easily slip from your fingers and slap down on the surface.  Using a small, stiff ruler (yes, I have many rulers) and beginning from the center cut I made previously I slowly peeled back the paper while using the ruler’s edge to lay it flat.  I repeated this process for each drawer and ne'er an air bubble in sight.





As I mentioned previously, this drawer unit is old, well used, and injured after a few long-distance moves.  Some of the drawers have damage, some repaired, some not.  I still had adhesive paper left so I measured and cut pieces to cover both sides of the damaged spots, hopefully adding some reinforcement as well.  Since these areas are on the sides I was not overly concerned about perfect aesthetics but simply made sure they were covered and protected adequately.


This fix is years old and still holding.

New damage.  I stuck paper on both sides, staying a bit from the edge to prevent peeling.


Finally the time came to re-fill the drawers.  This process was fairly simple because before we moved I carefully went through them, removing items unnecessary to bring with us and discarding those not worthy of storage.  This time, however, I realized that one drawer in particular needed organization so I left that one empty to begin my next endeavor, Supply Drawer Dividers.  Stay tuned.


Finished drawer.  Notice the slight over hang on the side an the tiny space left at the bottom.

Close up of wood-grain embossing.






Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Eggnog.

My Christmas enthusiasm diminishes a little each year; my love of eggnog however, does not.  In the States I seek out locally-made eggnog because it is generally better than the mass-produced, bland eggnog distributed at great distances, including overseas to military commissaries.  I am thankful it is available here at all, as many other people probably are too, but I do not settle for Darigold eggnog.

Around Thanksgiving I began researching eggnog recipes, looking for traditional and unique flavors.  I found three.



The first batch of eggnog I made was from a New York Times recipe, Nog: The Hard Way, and I followed it exactly with delicious success.  The consistency was smooth and satiny, not too heavy, and the sweetness and the dark rum hit you at once.  My husband selected Coruba Jamaican Rum that happens to harbor incredible brown sugar qualities that marry so well with the creamy nog.  I did not find fault anywhere with this recipe, it is an excellent, classic eggnog.

Calder Dairy, whose farm is located between Detroit and Toledo, has a storefront in Lincoln Park, a downriver suburb of Detroit.  If you are familiar with the area then you may know about their eggnog and may love it as so many people do.  A few years have passed since tasting it last so I forget its unique nuances, my husband remembers better.  Therefore the second recipe I made was one claiming to be theirs.

Calder Dairy’s eggnog differs in its preparation from other traditional recipes because it includes gelatin instead of egg whites to gain the thick, velvety texture.  I assume this is due to packaging, distribution and freshness retention.  It also only includes enough rum to flavor, not enough to sufficiently booze it up for a party.  Even though our Oster blender’s glass container proved a bit small for the job, I easily followed the directions.  Well, I thought I followed directions.

After chilling in the refrigerator overnight I removed the eggnog for finishing.  When I tried to stir it, however, the wire whisk merely bounced off the top.  It solidified entirely.  I must have added two tablespoons of gelatin instead of two teaspoons.  Determined, wooden spoon in hand, I continued with the recipe hoping the vanilla and rum would add some moisture.



I knew drinkable eggnog was out of the question but why should eggnog live solely in one category?  I stirred and stirred and stirred until it resembled tapioca pudding.  I laughed when scooping some into a small dish, finding the situation hilarious, and then brought it to my husband to taste.  He was really looking forward to eggnog as he remembered it so he didn't find it nearly as funny as I did.  But he approved, the sweetness and the flavor were very similar.  I plan on making it again, but probably halving the recipe and paying closer attention to the gelatin.

Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog.  Got your attention, right?  Another NYTimes recipe, this certainly looked like unique eggnog.  I prepared the first half of the recipe the evening before Christmas but the amount of eggnog in my fridge concerned me so I delayed finishing it.  A Christmas dinner invitation spurred completion of the recipe, which I followed very closely.  The only change was using 1 cup of Brandy and ½ cup of Scotch because there was not enough Scotch left.  I used a Japanese grape brandy, Dompierre by Nikka, and Balvenie Doublewood 12-year Scotch.



The recipe specifically states to use an electric mixer (which I did) and when to beat and when to whip.  Following these instructions led to lots of foam that didn't quickly dissipate, though the feedback from others was definitely positive on flavor.  This evening when I pulled the bowl of eggnog from the refrigerator the foam had floated to the top and seemed to have gone down just a bit, so I gently stirred it together.  It is still very foamy but delicious and drinkable, the Brandy and Scotch add a woody-quality that is divine.  Next time I make this I will use the regular beaters instead of the whisk.

After making the different eggnog recipes I learned that eggnog is not difficult to make.  Sure, just opening a carton is easier but for true nog joy you should really consider making it yourself.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gift Box Trick.

Genius.

Absolutely, creatively genius.

I have been volunteering at a fundraising gift wrap table recently and this incredible trick was shared by a customer to another volunteer who then passed it to me.  Since then I have shared it with every other volunteer and numerous customers because of its sheer simplicity and practicality.

This is how to get twice as many gift boxes out of your current supply and/or create new sizes from what you already have.

Step one: Get a box top or bottom.




Step two: Fold one end to up to the opposite flap edge.




Step three: Fold the other side to the opposite flap edge.




Step four: Using scissors cut the creases to the box edge.




Step five: It's ready to use.  Just open it up.  To close, tuck the small, square flaps that you cut to the inside of the box.  It's really easier done than said.




This trick works great with gift boxes that get partially crunched or scarred with a tape rip.  If you do not already reuse gift boxes then I really hope you at least recycle them.  If not, shame on you please reconsider.  It takes minimal effort to reduce your consumption, reuse what you already have, and recycle what you can.  Honestly, my main reason for using these guidelines is financial because economically it just makes sense.  It just so happens that these practices are also smart for the environment.  Win-win.




(These photos were taken with an iPhone and are by no means intended to be "real" photos, just snapshots of where I was and what I saw.)


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Not So "Mega" Anymore.

Our household is loyal to Charmin Ultra Strong bathroom tissue, or as I refer to it, "Charmin-in-the-red".  When ever I try to save a little money and buy something else I regret it.  Once I even left a horrible 12 pack, less one roll, by the trash bins at our apartment complex.

Last night when I switched out a roll in the bathroom I noticed that it didn't fit in the holder anymore.  I compared it to a roll from the previous package that was stowed on an upper shelf and, low and behold, they were different sizes.  I really wish I noticed sooner and saved the old packaging.  I might go back and see if there are any older ones at the back of the shelf; I'm not sure if they practice product rotation on paper goods.




The grocery shrink ray is constantly at work, making products smaller through the guise of a "new look!" then charging the same, or more.  I accept this.  However, we live in overseas military housing and cannot change our built-in bathroom tissue holder that does not accept shorter rolls.




The little pegs at the end flip up and then rest inside the cardboard tube.  The upper flap lowers to keep just enough pressure on the roll to allow an easy tear of the sheet.  It's a great little unit, however it is a bit strange that the Japanese (who are incredibly practical and clever in design) didn't allow for a shrinking product.




As a quick remedy I shoved the old, empty cardboard tube inside the new one.  I may cut a paper towel tube as a better short-term fix but I will certainly be keeping my eyes open for a more sturdy core made of plastic that will last a bit longer.




Darn it, Charmin.  Why did you have to go and mess with a great thing?  We have a very small selection of bathroom tissue over here and, though I am grateful to find Charmin-in-the-red, I am very disappointed in the product shrinkage.