Archive for the 'domicile' Category


Signs of the season

Aside from some Christmas-related stuff (lights and ornaments, mostly), we don’t have a lot of store-bought holiday decorations. Our holiday-themed decorating is pretty restrained–partly because we don’t want to have to store the stuff for the rest of the year, and partly because our quotidian stuff already takes up most of our space.

But we do like to make things, and now that Sylvia has become fairly adept with scissors, glue sticks, and crayons/pencils/markers, she likes to work on these crafts too.

First up this year, an autumn tree for our front door. (We actually did this one a few weeks ago, when the leaves first started to turn.) We did something like this two years ago, but at that time Sylvia’s only contribution was patting into place the leaves I had cut out and backed with rolled-up pieces of tape. (She was only two then–not quite ready for scissors.)

This year, however, she cut out all the leaves herself! (I made stencils for her to trace onto construction paper.) I cut out and taped up the trunk and branches, and she put all of the leaves exactly where she wanted them.


Next up: some mice for the steps! I did all the cutting for these, but Sylvia put (most of) them in place. (I did have to offer suggestions now and then, to ensure that we didn’t end up with six mice on one step.)


And of course we needed some bats! These are solar shades, which block harsh sunlight and UV light but don’t block all light and still allow visibility. (We prefer to have no curtains or shades on our windows, but this room gets bright morning light, and we need to protect the piano.) When they’ve been pulled down in the evening in anticipation of the morning sun, they provide a nice amber-hued, slightly glowing backdrop to the bats.


Here’s some more of Sylvia’s (mostly) solo work. The spiders were easy: one circle for the body, one circle for the head, and eight strips for the legs.

I made eye, beak, wing, and chest feather stencils for her to use for the owl parts. By the time she got to the third owl, she said, “I don’t feel like doing the chest feathers.” I told her that it was okay for the owls to be different–they didn’t all have to look the same. She wasn’t satisfied with this response, though, and scowled until a lightbulb went off in her head: “I know! This one can be a baby owl whose chest feathers haven’t grown yet!”


Our final project was this leaf garland. I made stencils of oak, maple, and birch leaves, then traced them (with tailor’s chalk) onto craft felt. Sylvia and I each cut out half of them (some of hers required a bit of “smoothing” on the edge by me afterward), she chose the order in which they should appear, and I sewed them together with invisible thread.



Let me help you organize your life

Back in January, I wrote about my own little IKEA hack: using IKEA’s giant blue tote bags as laundry baskets. I still have them scattered throughout the house, and I still love them.

One of the people who commented on that post, Frank, is a friend of mine from college who lives at least 300 miles from an IKEA. (Poor guy!) So I mailed a couple of the Big Blue Bags to him. (In lieu of cash repayment, I’ve asked him to send me a fridge magnet for my collection. Don’t forget, Frank: it’s gotta be the tackiest one you can find!)

But I am so bizarrely thrilled with these bags that I’ve decided I really need to spread the IKEA love. So I have three of these bags that I’ll send to someone. (And because these suckers don’t weight much at all, this contest, unlike my last one, is open to readers anywhere.) Just leave a comment to this post. And if you have a makes-life-easier hack of your own (no, it doesn’t have to involve an IKEA product), sharing it will get you a second entry.

I’ll choose one lucky winner at random one week from today (April 16)!


Happy with your current laundry-management system? No worries—these bags are useful for loads of other things, too. Grocery shopping! Yarn storage at home! Yarn shopping at the LYS! (Just think of how much yarn you could fit into one of these suckers…)


Laundry mystery solved

Note: This is another installment of my earth-shatteringly-important series about my laundry.

You know how socks sometimes go missing in the laundry? How you wind up with one sock of a pair and never see its mate again?

People often talk about how “socks disappear in the dryer.” But I’ve discovered that the washing machine, not the dryer, is where they go AWOL—at least in my house.

We have a front-loading, high-efficiency machine. The compartment where the clothes go is a horizontally-oriented drum that’s open on one end. Surrounding the open end of the drum is a huge, flexible, rubber ring that creates a tight seal with the porthole-like door.

While fishing wet clothes out of the machine recently, I happened to push my hand against the rubber ring…which moved aside to reveal the gap beneath it…which contained eight missing socks. I kid you not. Granted, some of them were toddler-sized socks. But eight—wow. And some of them had been missing for at least a year and a half.

Since then I’ve been checking the gap regularly. And of course I’ve found nothing. Now that I’ve discovered their secret, my socks are looking for a new hiding place, I’m sure.


Laundry revelation

Note: This post is about the oh-so-riveting topic of laundry. You have been warned.

I love IKEA. Yes, even when I’m grumbling because the assemble-it-yourself piece of furniture I’m trying to put together is missing a piece of hardware (usually one of those little stubby things that holds up adjustable shelves). We have a lot of IKEA stuff in our house—a gazillion bookshelves, storage units, our dining table, Sylvia’s bed, my bed, my bedside tables, an armoire, a computer desk, two armchairs, bed linens, towels, and lots of other things. We sometimes call our home “the house IKEA built.”

I also love IKEA hacker. I’ve been far too timid to attempt any radical modifications of IKEA stuff myself (who knows, though—maybe 2008 will be the year I dare to try this!), but I recently came up with my own hack. I’m sure lots of people have been doing this for a long time already, but it’s new to me and I’m pretty pleased with the result: I use IKEA’s giant blue plastic bags for my laundry.

Until a few months ago, we used a rectangular plastic laundry basket in our house—a pretty standard one that Jan bought long before we met. And then one day in October, one of my cats peed in the basket. Those of you who have been around cat pee know that it’s pretty nasty stuff, and it can be really difficult to remove all traces of it. With the laundry basket this proved to be impossible.

So I grabbed a blue IKEA bag that I’d bought recently and started using that for my laundry. Wow. I can’t believe I never thought of this before. It would not be an understatement to declare that this has changed my life.

Because the bags are so inexpensive (59 cents!), I have six of them now. Some are in the basement (never again will I find myself in the basement, ready to retrieve stuff from the dryer, only to realize that the one laundry-toting receptacle is up on the second floor somewhere), some are next to the upstairs laundry hamper, and some are holding yet-to-be-folded laundry. (Yeah, I’m one of those people who don’t put away clean clothes right away. I laugh in the face of wrinkles!) When going up and down narrow stairs, a full bag of squishable clothes is far easier to maneuver than a rigid basket any day. And those bags can be mashed or folded up when not in use, taking up very little space.

So I’m a mega-geek for getting all thrilled about IKEA’s blue plastic bags. What can I say? They make me happy.