Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ugly Closet Re-Do

Every house has one: the Ugly Closet. You know the one--where the water heater lurks. Where the heater roars. Where you hide the vacuum cleaner and that really crummy card table with the bent leg.

Our Ugly Closet is in our laundry room, and recently, the U.C. had a makeover. This is what it looks like now:

Ta-Daaaa! Beautiful, isn't it?

Seriously, there isn't much you can do to glam up this utilitarian area. But in its makeover, our Ugly Closet gained some serious new storage space. And who doesn't appreciate more storage space?

This space windfall happened during the overhaul of our heating and air conditioning systems. We bought two new heaters and relocated one of them to the attic in another part of the house. (Good move; it put the heater much closer to the part of the house it's responsible for warming.) That left a big space in the center third of our U.C. for more storage.

So we had a carpenter build us, essentially, a big box and fit it with adjustable shelves and a clothes rod across the top. He made it out of glossy white MDF because anything fancier would be a waste of money in such a hidden-away place. To make sure it wouldn't skitter around in our famous Southern California earthquakes, he anchored the storage unit to the base on which it sits.

Then I grabbed my Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons and got three of these:

Cute, inexpensive canvas storage bins. I took out the paper label that the manufacturer inserted...

...flipped it over, and used my label-maker to create some new placards:

Then I loaded each bin with non-laundry stuff that was crowding the laundry-room shelves: plant food and fertilizers, seldom-used kitchen items, and stuff I need to take out of the house on errands:

The storage unit is soooo deep, I can push the bins way back and still have room in front of them for other stuff:

And if I turn them the other way, I get more space still:

In the end, I turned the bins label-side out and designated the area in front of each one to storing clean, folded, non-hanging laundry for each of the three of us still living in the house full time:

When The Boy goes off to college (in less than a year--yikes!), I will remove the top shelf and use the clothes rod to hang all the clean laundry that's on hangers. (Right now stuff on hangers loiters in the laundry room doorway and on the leg of a folded-up ironing board: very awkward!).

Here's Mr. Rod, waiting for next September:

Our Ugly Closet hides behind louvered doors. The handles on the doors always drove me crazy because they were hard to grab and ugly, to boot. So I found these vintage-looking handles at Restoration Hardware for just $15 each and had the carpenter swap out the old ones for these:

I like how they echo the look of the legitimately old glass knob on the laundry room door:

With piles of clean clothes and non-laundry items tucked into the U.C., I have room to fold clothes on the counter again. And with no mess to distract me, I can enjoy how the northern light spills into this quiet place:

My next step? Tackling all the annoying little projects stuffed inside this bin!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Historic Heat Wave

Yesterday was the hottest day ever in Los Angeles. Seriously! Since folks started keeping weather records way back in 1887, yesterday was The Hottest Day Ever.

L.A.'s official temperature is recorded by a National Weather Service thermometer in the downtown area. At around 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon, the thermometer soared to 113 degrees Fahrenheit. And then the thermometer broke! By the time an electronics technician could repair the damage, several hours passed. Since temps here usually peak around mid-afternoon, it's entirely possible that the temperature actually roared past 113!

We'll never know for sure.

What we do know is that it was hot everywhere in the city. Where I live, it hit 108 degrees. Awful! I hid indoors with the pugs all day, trying to keep cool. We only scooted out for very quick potty breaks (for the dogs, obvy). At 6:30 p.m., we all ventured outside, with the temperature still blasting away at an incredible 104 degrees.

I wanted to give the dogs a little break and assess the damage in the garden. Our roses looked like they'd been blow-torched:

They were crispy:


Fried roses are actually eerily beautiful:

The lawn looked pretty awful:

But then, our lawn never looks as good in the summer as it does in winter. We have a "winter mix" lawn. It looks its greenest around December. Just in time for all the winter holidays!

Some things were happy in the intense heat. The Russian Sage looked just fine:

The hydrangeas survived the day surprisingly well. The big blossom heads were toast, but I also saw tight green buds and new, glossy leaves, proving that the old girls are hangin' in there:

And the pugs, who'd been cooped up all day because of the extreme heat, were bursting with energy:

Although it's possible there's been a little brain damage. But, how to tell for sure?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Yes, You Can!

A couple of good folks have expressed incredulity about my recent post regarding the items in my car's glove box.

Do I really have all that stuff in my glove box? Yes!

Could they do the same in their car's glove box? I don't know! Glove boxes vary so in dimensions.

But it made me curious: Exactly how big is my glove box? So I took every last thing out of mine:

L-R, top row: water, cameras, energy bars, pen/flashlight/tire gauge set.
L-R, middle row: Registration papers, "Need Service" placard, lint roller, polka-dot bag (filled with paper napkins), various meds, sunblock, "Need Help! banner.
L-R, bottom row: Maps and emergency-help brochures, sunglasses, wipes for hands and clothing, cassette adaptor to play The Boy's iPod, chewing gum.

Yup, that's all of it , except for the small smattering of beach sand at the very back of the box. I left that for the photos below because it actually helps you see the interior dimensions. (Sure, sure....)

Anyhow, my glove box's interior measures 14 inches wide...

By 9 inches deep at the deepest point...

and about 5 or 6 inches high, but it's not a rectangle at all. It's narrower at the back, bigger at the front. Which means...(counting furiously on her fingers)...uhh...I can't figure out how many cubic inches. I was a Lit. major, people!

I can say it's fairly generous, as glove boxes go, but not quite big enough to stuff a young pug in, as my lovely assistant Pao ("Vanna") Pug now demonstrates:

Uh-uh, lady, I ain't climbing in there!

If your glove box isn't this generous, don't give up. There may still be pockets of space around your driver's seat that you can use to store emergency items.

Like, in the console between the two front seats? Two bottles of water easily tuck into mine:

Or do you have room under the driver's seat? My under-seat area is pretty filled up with gizmos to raise, lower, and tilt the seat, but I could probably slip a map or two in there if I needed:

(My old Mommy Van had a huge space under the seat; I actually kept a plastic bin there, filled with snacks, juice boxes, and other things to keep the Car-Seat Set from having meltdowns.)

Or do you have a pocket built into the driver's door?

My door's pocket could probably take four or five bottles of water, total:

Is there space on your sun visor? It may be a little messy-looking, but the visor is a good place to store signs,, registration papers, and small maps. (And once you flip the visor up, this stuff hardly shows):

Look around; reachable storage might be behind you. Without twisting around at all, I can access a pocket behind my car's "shotgun" seat. If you can, too, then consider keeping emergency items there, as well:

So if you're thinking you can't tuck all this stuff into your car, maybe you really can.

Be resourceful. Think pro-actively. Think outside the [glove] box. What would you want to be able to reach in an emergency? What do you really need to squirrel away in your car?

Just please, no small dogs.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paint Can Giveaway

Do you have a bunch of half-used paint cans in your garage? We do. Or, we did, until today.

Earlier this month our contractor installed our new heating/air conditioning system. He had to tear up a bathroom wall as part of the installation. Then he asked me for the can of leftover paint so he could repaint the torn-up wall.

I couldn't find it in the mess of old, rusty cans in the garage. That paint job was only three years old, and yet I couldn't find the can!

It was embarrassing. It was annoying. It was wasting the contractor's time.

So after the contractor lectured me on keeping tabs on my paint, I bit the bullet. I pulled ALL my paint cans out of the garage for a good look-see.

It was shocking, people:

We had amassed 61 cans of paint! And 61 cans of paint takes up a lot of acreage:

(Cringe, cringe.)

But once they were all out on the garage floor, it was pretty easy to figure out what to do next.

First, I grabbed a screwdriver (to pry open the cans), some trash-able paint stirrers (I used shish kebab skewers), a hammer (to bang the cans shut), a piece of wood (to keep the lids from warping when you bang on them), and some latex gloves (because this is dirty work, people!) :

(You may ask, Why do I have a snow/ice remover in this collection? Because I couldn't find a scrap piece of wood hanging around, so I made do with the handle of the de-icer.)

But anyway...

I also pulled together some stuff to properly label the cans: 1)Rags for wiping dirt off the cans so they're read-able, 2)Scissors, felt markers, and paper for making labels, and 3)Tape for affixing the labels to the cans:

After I collected together all the paint cans, I held each one firmly in two hands and gave it a shake. If the can made a "thud-thud" sound--or no sound at all--I knew I had a dud. Just to make sure, though, I pried open each dud with the screwdriver. Here's what I found:



Oh, lordy. Sorta pretty, in a totally, not-good-for-anything kind of way.

So put these dried-out cans aside. (More on them in a bit.)

Next, I used a rag to wipe the dirt off my "sloshing" cans. I looked for anything to identify what's in the can. It's not always obvious what color is in a paint can these days. That's because, paint stores don't stock all the colors they offer. Sure, they keep some of the big sellers on their shelves. But nine times out of ten, when you buy paint now, the paint store takes a can of basic white and mixes in the pigment only when you buy the paint. So the pre-printed label on the can often just says "Tintable White" and that's it.


But a good house painter will usually put some identification on the can at the end of the job. Typically your painter will write 1)where in your home the paint was used and 2)when it was used. If not, look for a hint of the color on the outside of the can. Sometimes it's just a dried drip down the side; sometimes the painter will put a dab of color on the lid for color ID purposes.

If so, thank your painter.

Next, I made big labels to stick on each can. I made them large enough to be seen across the garage, or in low-light situations. No more peering and squinting at dingy labels for me!

I used see-through packing tape to stick on the labels. That way I didn't cover up important information on the labels, like what type of finish, or whether the paint was for interiors or exteriors. When possible, I wrote what room the paint is for, what part of the room, and when it was applied:

I found two cans of paint that have been used in multiple rooms in my house. In that case, it made more sense just to write the paint's color on the label. "Swiss Coffee"and "Indian Legend" (which used to be called "Navajo White") are two of the most common shades of white used by painters and contractors.

I betcha you have a can of one of these in your garage, too:

At the end of my organizing, I had 30 cans of good, well-labeled paint:

I also found 10 completely dried-up cans:

...and 21 cans for giveaway:

Who would want old paint? You'd be surprised!

Put out your leftover paint at your next garage sale. It's amazing what people will buy.

Or, did you know your local chapter of Habitat for Humanity Re-Store will take used paint? They accept any shade of water-based paint, as long as the can is at least half full (even if it's a quart-sized can).

Or give your paint to a friend who's a die-hard junk-shop junkie, to slap on the next curbside treasure or garage-sale steal.

Or do what I did: donate the paint to your local school. I had a hunch the public elementary school down the street might welcome the paint. It's a happy place with all sorts of hand-painted things:

Sure enough, with one phone call, I found they were thrilled to have my leftovers. The ladies in the office said their teachers like to repaint their bookshelves and such.

So Pao the Pug and I filled up the red wagon with our leftovers and trotted right over to the school. I was so tickled with the arrangement, I forgot to take a photo of the wagon loaded to the brim with cans. Instead, on the way out, Pao kindly sat in the wagon in front of the school:

[Did you notice the "No Dogs Allowed" sign? Heh.]

As for the dried-up cans of paint, they'll go to my city's next hazardous household-waste (HHW) roundup. To find out where and when your local HHW roundup is, Google "Household Hazardous Waste" followed by your city or county name. You should quickly find all you need to know about where, when, and how to dispose of leftover paint.

Whatever you decide to do, PLEASE don't pour paint down the storm drain, onto bare ground, or toss it in your regular trash.

That's illegal in most places. And insensitive everywhere.

And it's so much fun to imagine that, down the street, the Kindergartners are pulling books off a shelf that's the same color as our powder room!

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's in Your Car's Glove Box?

The glove box isn't much used for its namesake any more, but it is a terrific place to stash indispensable stuff within fingertip reach when you are in your car.

Recently, I rummaged through my car's glove box looking for something or other. I realized with a shock that almost everything in there was out of date: expired medicines, ancient school directories, maps so old that major freeways have been built since.

No bueno! So I went to my local chain drugstore and corrected the situation.

Here's what's in my glove box now.

Pain killers, just 12 tablets per box (because space is at a premium):

Stuff for calming upset tummies (chewable versions, so water isn't needed):

Antibacterial wipes and a small package of adhesive bandages for cuts or scrapes:

Nutrient-packed protein bars to stave off Junk Food Mania when I'm forced to grocery-shop on an empty stomach. Also, these are part of my car's emergency-preparedness supplies:

Several plastic bottles of water (I use a stainless-steel Kleen Kanteen for my normal on-the-go sipping; these are for emergencies):

Regular ol' wipes for cleaning up skin, and spot-treatment wipes for stains on clothing:

Dramamine for car-sick passengers (this happens less as my children have grown older), and some zinc lozenges to take at the first sign of a cold:

A tire-pressure gauge and pocket flashlight:

A bumper-sticker-sized emergency sign (available through your local Automobile Club) and a disposable camera to take pictures for your insurance company, should you have a car accident (Heaven forbid!)

I know y'all are thinking, "Yeah, but I'd just use my cell phone to take some pictures." Well, I would, too, but cell phones go dead if you forgot to recharge them overnight. Also, in a city-wide emergency, cell phone service can die. So I always make sure to have a disposable just in case:

A small, easy-to-understand map of your area. (Again, map services on your cell phone or BlackBerry will be unavailable in case of an emergency, and you may need the ol' paper kind to make your way home):

Maps like this are another nifty little tool available through your local Auto Club:

Some things in your glove box will be tailored to your age, the age of your children (if any), and what part of the country you live in. When my kids were little, there was always a pacifier in the glove box to avert a meltdown.

Now, our meltdowns tend to be driven by the gorgeous Southern California sun. So I make sure to carry some non-leaky type of sunblock:

and an extra pair of inexpensive sunglasses. And a lint roller, because living with three dogs virtually guarantees I will have dog hair on me at all times:

One last thing: Usually I have a space blanket in the glove box. I didn't realize until I got home from the drugstore that mine was missing. They are a great item to keep in the car. You can buy them at most large drugstores and at wilderness and outdoor-adventure stores. Extremely lightweight, the silvery blankets come in a little box or pouch all folded up, so they take up very little space.

These little blankets can really be a lifesaver if you're stranded in the cold, or if you need to keep an accident victim warm until the paramedics arrive. (Yikes!) My daughter used hers to keep a fellow camp counselor warm when one of their kids forgot to bring a sleeping bag on an overnight trip.

Plus, you'll be cozy if you visit Stonehenge on a cold day:

image from vintagedept

So, I'll add "space blanket" to my shopping list for the next drugstore run.

One last thing (I learned this one on the "Oprah" show):

It's important to keep water and nutrient-rich food in your glove box, not just in the trunk or the back of the car. Some car-accident victims find themselves trapped in their seats, unable to get out or maneuver around inside their car. On a lonely road, it might be hours--I hope not!--before anybody even passes by to notice you've crashed. If this ever happens to you (Heaven forbid!), you want to have food and water within reach to sustain you until help comes.

So, I say all this not to freak you out, but to help us all summon the Inner Boy or Girl Scout within and to "Be Prepared."

Plus, I don't want to lose a single "Teapots" reader, ever. You are all too important to us here at T&P!


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