Projects, projects everywhere

Welcome February and good riddance January. You had some nice points (it was 60 degrees in Chicago for one glorious day, that was a pleasant surprise), but I am more than ready to dig into a new month. So I’m starting with a clean slate–or at least a clean kitchen and four kitchen projects that pretty well establish that I am a total and complete nerd.


These projects really all came out of the same place, literally and figuratively: as part of Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, one of the tasks was to clean my kitchen and to really look at what I could do to make it more efficient and fun to work in. I may have gone a bit overboard from even what they were asking.

Every cabinet and drawer (and refrigerator shelf) was emptied and scrubbed, and before anything went back in, I actually took time to think about how I use the space. This led to the four projects: re-jarred and labeled spices in a dedicated drawer, a new recipe binder (with labels!), magnet strips to hang recipes while I cook, and a magnetic in-cabinet measuring cup and spoon hanging-y…thing. Ok, so the descriptions kind of fell apart there, but still, whee! Organizing!

So prettyRecipes and things

I told you: nerd. But I just can’t stop petting them all, they’re just so pretty and make me so happy. Each project was really inexpensive too, probably $30 or less, which is always nice. Here are the basics of each project:

Organized and Labeled Spice Jars
I’ve mentioned before that I do love my spices, but it turns out that the rotating spice organizers really don’t work well when you have more  spices than fit the available slots. If you need any more evidence that I am an academic at heart, I researched probably a dozen different sizes/styles/price-points of containers before deciding that my ideal jar would be:

  • Under $1.50 per jar
  • Glass, with a glass lid and air-tight seal (some people said metal containers rusted or spices stuck in the lids)
  • 3-4 ounces, the standard volume of most commercial spice jars
  • Square-shaped, ideal for space efficiency

Clear as day

I ended up finding these 3 ounce and 5 ounce jars from World Market that hit three out of my four requirements. While they were round instead of square, the fact that they were under $1 a jar made them absolutely worth it. The 3 ounce jars fit 95% of my spices perfectly, and the 5 ounce jars are just right for spices I buy in slightly larger quantities, like peppercorns, or whole spices like star anise that just take up more space. The lids are also the perfect size to use these clear labels ($10) on the top, making them easy to identify in their newly designated drawer.

Powders and piecesLarger jars

I love opening this drawer now and looking at the pretty array of colors in their clean, clear jars.

Sometimes I just open the drawer to peek at them

Recipe Binder
I have to give my dad credit for this idea originally, because he used this exact setup when I was growing up for handwritten recipes, newspaper clippings, etc. (though personally I think mine looks prettier; sorry Dad!). If you just want functional, get any old binder (free if you have one laying around), some clear plastic sheet protectors (maybe $8?), and slide your recipes in them. Quick, easy, done!

Pretty cover

If you want pretty (as I usually do), buy or use a binder that has clear pockets on the cover and sides and buy some fancy paper ($2-3). I cut out templates on some scrap paper to fit in these pockets then traced it onto the nice paper for the best fit without too much fussing around. Also, since I clearly have way too many recipes, I also bought some dividers with pockets ($6). The kind of dividers are important–regular dividers are only designed to be wide enough for standard 8.5×11 sheets after they are in the binder, and won’t be wide enough to see the tabs if you use sheet protectors. It took me three packs of dividers to figure this out, so learn from my mistake.

The tabs don’t actually stick out like this, the cover does, well, cover them, but they just look so colorful this way.

This is a great way not only to decrease the number of drips, splatters, and other flying food issues that inevitably come from being a not-exactly-meticulous cook, but also keep my huge stack of torn-out recipes organized. Plus they make really great, easy gifts for say, your mom or a wedding shower for a great friend who loves to cook.

Magnetic Board
In cleaning out the drawer to house my spices, I needed to find a new place for my measuring cups and spoons. I’ve been kind of obsessed with chalkboard and magnetic paint lately, and started trying to figure out how I could do something like that for my kitchen. I also wanted to keep the cups and spoons hidden, so the only logical place was inside a cabinet, but it had to be removable and/or not damage anything (ah the joys of renting).

Again with the research–turns out Home Depot etc. sells small pieces of sheet metal that will hold magnets (bring a magnet to check! I had to return one piece) for about $6. A few Velcro Command strips ($5), some magnetic hooks ($5), and voila!

Measuring up

If I really get ambitious, I can take it down, paint it with chalkboard paint, and stick it back up in the cabinet. And as my dad has warned me at least twice already, please do be aware that the edges of the sheet metal are sharp so you may want to cover them with something.

Recipe Strips
While I was playing with magnets, it occurred to me that it would be really nice if I could somehow get my recipes off of my limited counter space and protect them from the aforementioned flying food issues in my kitchen.

So much easier to see!

Re-enter the Command strips (or other double-sided tape) and these small magnetic strips from The Container Store (but you can really find something similar anywhere for about $5). I temporarily taped a recipe to the cabinet to figure the correct height, marked it, and then centered and leveled the magnet strip. I ended putting one up on the cabinet over my cutting board next to my stove, where I do most of my “regular” cooking, and another on the cabinet over my mixer, where I do most of my baking. It has worked fantastically so far!

So with those four projects done to make cooking a bit easier, and my kitchen spotless, I’m back to making a mess of things–recipes to come soon!


Figuring out fall–and printing photos

Fall always seems to catch me off guard. I feel it coming weeks ahead so I make pies, I eat apples, I can things in jars…and then it’s 40 degrees and my brain freezes and all I can think to cook are pork chops and potatoes and eggs–not all at the same time, mind you, but I’m in withdrawal from fresh greens and raw vegetables and dinners that take under 20 minutes to put together and eat while it’s still light outside. I’m struggling with my usual fall cooking inspiration, trying to figure out what my body wants other than to simply start hibernating. In the meantime, though, I found another really cool art project. Maybe I’ll actually hang some of the art I’ve made this summer soon!

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Clockwise from top: black and white image with an inkjet, color copy with an inkjet, color image on a laserjet

While I’m dealing with the change to fall, every store I walk into seems hellbent on insisting that Christmas is right around the corner. I will fight them until December 1, but if you’re the type to think that far ahead, this project would make a great Christmas gift–it’s easy to make very personal but it’s also inexpensive if you want to make several to give to friends and family.

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More easy (and cheap) art

I think the idea of “making art” is intimidating to a lot of people—myself included, as I’ve said before. But I just couldn’t take looking at the big, bare wall in my living room any longer, and I am too cheap to spend the exorbitant amount that it would cost to buy a piece to fill the space. And so, necessity, invention, etc.IMG_0014 (12)

This project is even easier than the gelatin prints, and it’s infinitely customizable: any size, any style, to fit any space that just needs a little pick-me-up. Continue reading

Art for the non-artist

If I’m honest, I don’t consider myself particularly artistic–my sisters both are “legitimate” artists as photographers and jewelers. Maybe it’s my tendency to overthink my efforts or my preference towards order and symmetry; maybe I just found a different creative outlet in literature and writing.


That said, I don’t even consider this an art project because it’s so easy and takes so little effort or thought–and therefore there is very little for me to over-think. It was also incredibly inexpensive for the results. I think all the supplies, minus the frames, cost less than $20. I really encourage anyone (especially those who don’t think they’re artistic) to try this; it’s a lot of fun, it would be great for kids, and the end results look store (or independent-artist)-bought. Continue reading

Best laid plans

I had a grand idea. A few weeks ago I was in a cute new-to-me vintage/antique store that I’d driven past a million times (Praha). First of all, this store is amazing and it is an outright SIN that I haven’t stopped in before. They had a 1940’s edition of a Nancy Drew book. Swoon. Added to my collection.

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Project supplies assembled: old window, giant picture

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