All In! (For Real, This Time)

The Gingerbread Diaries

So, remember when I said the big move had happened and there were just a few things left at the rental to deal with?

I’m so eating those words–can they at least be covered in chocolate sauce? Wine? Choco-vine?!

We have spent the last month (with the exception of the weekend we were out of town for Ancient City Con) chipping away at those few loose ends at the rental. But on Tuesday I was able to hand in the keys and walk away from the property manager’s office with a spring in my step: no matter what, we are no longer under their thumb!

Of course, it wasn’t exactly simple getting this far (again, is it ever?).

Knowing we were seriously running out of time, each afternoon last week I was going to the rental on my way home, loading up my car with as much as could fit (mostly from the garage) and trucking it up to Thomasville to unload. Mostly onto the back porch because we lack the easy storage of a garage, here. More’s the pity.

What the back porch currently looks like. Storage solutions are definitely needed!

What the back porch currently looks like. Storage solutions are definitely needed!

Still, on Saturday, it took

  • 3 carloads by me
  • 2 carloads by Lyssa
  • and 1 carload by Todd
  • with a trip to Goodwill to drop off some old clothes in between

before we had everything except the cleaning supplies out of the rental. I met Lyssa at the house at 11 am and we didn’t end our day collapsed at home until after 6pm.

Now, Todd might seem a little light on that list, but he’d gotten called into the office that morning, so missed the first run Lyssa and I made. Then the plan was that he was going to mow the grass while we made our second run, only to find out that running was the farthest thing from the lawnmower’s mind. Todd spent the majority of his day trying to get it to crank, achieved that, but couldn’t get it to stay on.

So, tired, hot, and frustrated, we left the mower to sit and think about what it (hadn’t) done with the plan to try again Sunday.

Three guesses how you think that went?

Yeah, it wouldn’t run then, either, and Todd had tried every trick he knew. So we concentrated on cleaning the rest of the house (the hall bathroom, the tile flooring, and the kitchen) and still didn’t get done until after 6pm. This left two areas to address: the lawn and the living room carpet.

We ended up being able to borrow a lawn mower Monday night and Todd mowed until near-dark, not getting home until 9pm. Meanwhile, I met the carpet guy for round 2 of cleaning Monday afternoon.

The property manager requires you get the carpet steam cleaned by a pro and provide a receipt. I’d found a Living Social deal for $69.95 that would cover up to 5 rooms and a hallway. We only had 3 carpeted rooms and it was the first deal to come along in a while for carpets, so I snatched it up and made the appointment for mid-month.

Unfortunately, after 3.5 years of wear on top of not being great carpet to begin with (and us never moving the furniture to see the extent of the “traffic patterns”) there were some stains to deal with and some scrubbing to do. To the tune of an addition $150! Knowing we’d just get dinged for it after the fact, I went ahead and signed the quote and paid for the service by phone when it was done.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the rental after work that day and the living room carpet looked like it had barely been touched! And the cleaner had left 2 jugs of chemicals in the next room. Now, the 2 bedrooms looked great, but I not pleased with the living room and I might have unloaded on the owner’s voicemail a bit. I believe my exact words were

Yeah, I’m definitely going to need that detailed invoice because there’s no way the property manager is going to believe I spent over $200 for that!

Not my finest hour…

My ire was vindicated, though, on Monday when the owner came to try and fix the mess and agreed that it looked like his worker-bee hadn’t finished the job for some reason unbeknownst to us all (an aberration, he assured me, especially for that employee). An hour and a bit later he’d scrubbed and steamed that carpet into much better shape. The stains were gone and the traffic patterns were much improved. He said it’d take replacing the pad underneath to get the rest out, but that’s for the property owner to decide to do or not.

So, if anyone in the Tallahassee area is looking for conscientious carpet cleaning, I heartily recommend J&A Restoration. He could have just as easily told me it was too bad, there wasn’t anything he could do, I’d already paid and it was too late, but he was adamant about getting a chance to make it good and he did. Thank you, Josh!

And now that everything’s truly in, we can start to get it sorted and unpacked. Here’s what the dining room and library (aka the main holding areas) look like as of this morning:

The library is really our toss-room at the moment. It also has our dining room set in the corner off to the right that we can't exactly get to at the moment.

The library is really our toss-room at the moment. It also has our dining room set in the corner off to the right that we can’t exactly get to at the moment.

The dining room is holding most of the kitchen stuff that we can't unpack until I give the lower shelves a coat of Kilz and some new liners.

The dining room is holding most of the kitchen stuff that we can’t unpack until I give the lower cabinets a coat of Kilz and some new liners.

But first, the weekend off that I promised myself. I’m going to have a mani-pedi I’ve been putting off for too long then go to lunch with a friend I see not nearly enough. After that I have some quality time with art supplies lined up. I really hope Todd will take advantage of the downtime as well. The to-do list is looming but the worst it can do is give him a paper cut!

DIY Storage for the Long Haul

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

One of the benefits of a long engagement is the ability to spread out some of those diy projects that, otherwise, have the potential to stress a bride out.

When deciding to do paper flowers, etc. I did run into one potential snag: how to store the bounty of blossoms so that they won’t take up inordinate amounts of space but remain crush-free until it’s time to bundle them up into their final forms?

Enter my not-so-elegant but oh-so-economical solution:

crush-proof storage for delicate diy | personal photo

crush-proof storage for delicate diy | personal photo

Egg cartons.

What better to hold precious cargo? They stack easily, come in various configurations, and are something most of us have around. When I realized they’d be perfect for this sort of thing I started saving them up and one holiday’s baking netted several large and regular cartons to fit my storage needs.

A normal-sized bloom will take up a single well, while buds and smaller accents can  cozy up together, up to 6 in 1, depending on their size. As you can see by my samples, above, this works well for both paper and ribbon roses. Break down a couple of the dividers between the wells and you could also store completed corsages and boutonnieres in them, too.

As for the rest of your decorations:

  • If you’re collecting glass bottles, jars, vases, or other cylindrical objects, glass-pack kits from the moving center of your choice make storing, stacking, and transporting them nearly break-proof.
  • If you’re collecting plates or other dishware, felt plate spacers are inexpensive as-is, and even more so if you buy a few yards of felt from the craft store and cut them up yourself. Bonus: no ink transfer like with newsprint.
  • If you have standing decorations in mind, design them component-wise (think IKEA flat-pack heaven) so that you can store them stacked or standing someplace out of the way but quickly assemble them the week or day of the wedding.

What’s your storage solution for DIY projects look like?

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Shoe Storage

64 Arts

If you’re going to indulge in a lot of anything, you’ve got to be able to store it so you can use it and not waste your time or money. The Art of Dressing continues, below…


Remember the opening scenes from Overboard (start about the 9:00 mark if you’re in a hurry), where Kurt Russell builds Goldie Hahn an amazing shoe closet? I love that shoe closet (more than I loved the movie) and I absolutely lust after the walk-in closets with the wall-o-shoes feature that are in so many movies and television shows. Oh, to have the space for that!

Instead, this girl’s gotta economize on space just like she does her shoes.

The Good

Did you know the best container (in my mind) for shoes is the box they came in? It’s true! Not only is it perfectly sized for the style of shoe, it even has the color, description and (sometimes) drawing on the outside to let us find them when they’re stacked up neat and pretty. I keep as many shoes as possible in their original boxes stacked no more than 4-boxes-high to avoid an avalanche when I want that one particular pair on the bottom.

Slippers and Tennis Shoes in a Basket

Soft shoes in a soft spot

But, wait, what about shoes whose boxes become damaged or, worse, bought at an outlet center without a box of any kind?

For boxless pairs I prefer modular racks or shelves. The ones from most big-box home stores work fine but usually need some extra shoring-up as the connections will fail without much effort. Some poster putty or hot glue in the wells will help keep the metal rods in place. Cubbies are great if you prefer flats or flip-flops but large shoes can get scrunched in such a confined space, wearing them out and damaging their structure.

For slippers and other soft, seldom-worn shoes (for me, this includes tennis shoes) I like a big basket that can comfortably contain them and looks prettier than a jumble of soft shoes in the bottom corner of the closet.

The Bad

Shoes Under Storage

Shoes Under Storage Unit

A thousand curses upon the As Seen on TV Shoes Under Space-Saving Shoe Organizer. Oh, it looks great on that commercial, sliding out from under the bed with no problems whatsoever. Admire the strong, sturdy-looking sides and dividers.


First, it comes in a very small box (relative to it’s unfolded size). Second, there’s nothing sturdy or stiff about it: it’s a floppy box that takes ever ounce of it’s structure from the shoes placed inside it. Third, while you can certainly pull it out from under the bed, pushing it under to begin with involved much shoving and smashing–espcially if you use a basic metal bed-frame that isn’t quite as tall as the Shoes Under would prefer.

I, being an optimistic fool, bought two of these “gems” when Todd and I moved in together and I lost my walk-in closet. Imagine my disappointment.

And, yet, I didn’t return them (for one thing, I hate returning purchases). With all their faults, they are better than nothing and I had a lot of shoes that were sans box and not a lot of space in the new closet. So I made do. The interior dividers are flimsy but that does take care of the pesky squish-factor for larger-than-flats pairs, you can just slip the tops of ankle boots under the divider. It now occurs to me that sheets of plastic canvas cut to fit the bottom and sides of the organizer, tacked with a few stitches along the edges, could provide the needed support.

I’ll let you know if that works.

The Ugly

Now, this last one is a bit controversial because I know a lot of people use it and some big names had promoted it as a very good solution to shoe clutter:

Clear plastic shoe boxes.

First, the good points: clear plastic means you can see the shoes inside and their uniform size means they will stack well on shelves.

Unfortunately, all I can see are the down sides.

Uniform size is not ideal for women’s shoes that can range from ballerina flats to ankle boots with varying heel heights. One size does not fit all.

Plastic doesn’t breathe. Getting uncomfortably real for a minute, here: feet sweat. In shoes all day an unpleasant odor can develop. Yes, there are sprays and powders and sachets and perfumes, but all a plastic container is going to do is lock all that inside until you open it again and, well, it’s not going to be pleasant. Not only that, the moisture that gets trapped in the box with the shoes (whether from sweat or rain) could damage the shoe’s materials.

    IF you choose to go this route, save those little packages of desiccants that come with new shoes, purses and other goods of this ilk. Those little packets will absorb any moisture in the plastic shoe boxes for quite some time (you can also find the material in bulk at the hardware store in the dehumidifiers section). Pieces of (clean!) panty hose filled with baking soda or activated charcoal and tied up tight can help alleviate odors.

    I prefer to save the plastic boxes of any sort for organizing my craft supplies.

    (Dis)Honorable Mention

    Hanging Shoe Organizer

    Hanging Shoe Organizer

    Hanging shoe organizers can be useful when you’ve got a bit of spare closet space but no ready shelf space, true. But a few caveats when looking at these for your shoe-organization salvation:

    • Look for canvas or mesh pockets over clear plastic–what you lose in a bit of visibility you’ll gain in breathablity.
    • The sturdier the hook, the better–especially when you’re holding 2 sides worth of shoes. A single hook may stretch out over time and you’ll find your shoes slipped out and scattered on the floor. Look for a double hook, a sturdy sleeve or reinforce that single hook with some extra bungee-cord support.
    • Load it carefully and only once it’s hanging up in the spot you intend for it to stay. These pouch-style organizers depend on gravity and balance to keep the shoes in place and when that’s tampered with the shoes tend to go flying. (As we experienced most recently during the move.)

    And if you have one of those stellar shoe closets you see in movies and model homes?

    I’m totally jealous.


    Next week we’ll be tackling how to walk in heels and revisiting closet issues in our search for a stylish and creative life.

    *Disclaimer: If you purchase anything from the links in this post or any other on the site I get a whopping $0.04 on the dollar (or something like that). Can’t blame a girl for trying!

    The Question of Leftovers


    I love leftovers. Leftovers, for me, mean

    • I don’t have to cook the next day.
    • I don’t have to do dishes the next day.
    • I don’t have to go out for lunch or pick-up take-out that comes in super-sized portions (and calories) and less-than-stellar taste.

    Leftovers are also inevitable when you’re only cooking for 1 or 2. Veggies are easy to find in single-serving sizes but most grocery stores frequently package meat in quantities fit for 4 or more–same for many other goods. Cooking for 4 takes the same amount of effort that cooking for 1 does and results in more prepared meals instead partial bits of boxes and cans.

    Some folks, though–and I fail to comprehend the why–have a real issue with leftovers. As in, they can’t stand them, won’t touch them much less eat them and regard this as trash. My friend’s dad was this way. Serve it once and if it wasn’t finished at that meal he didn’t ever want to see it again, even used in a new dish.

    This baffles me because I know several dishes–everything from a seafood dip to a good marinara–can be improved by a night in the fridge. This happens because the flavors have time to really hang out and mingle, they spread through the dish and permeate every corner.

    Sure, there’s a limit to the lifespan of a pork chop under refrigeration–after 4 days or so I wouldn’t suggest anyone eat it. But a meatloaf sandwich the next day or a pot of soup that gets you through the week, that’s a deliciously beautiful thing! [Caveat: all leftovers should be reheated properly to a temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit–165 is a safer best–before being consumed. Safety first!]

    True, some things don’t reheat well. Rice and pasta–dry things–tend to need a little help. Sprinkling either with water before popping into the microwave or toaster oven help hydrate the drier parts during reheating. Breads should never be put into the microwave for more then, say, 20 seconds or you’re going to end up with a brick about 10 seconds after it cools.

    But why the lack of love towards the leftover? Seriously, if you don’t like leftovers please leave me a comment and try to help me understand. It might not be solvable, but I really would like to understand.


    This year’s fundraiser for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk has begun. Check out my Cocktails for a Cure page if you’d like to find out how to help.