Well, That Was a Piss Poor Idea

I don't just put curse words in my blog titles because I love cursing. Which I do - it's fun for all ages! In this case the swear word in question is relevant to the topic at hand: pee. Cat pee, to be specific.

Remember when the hubby and I thought really, really hard about the best possible way to keep stray litter and that ever-so-pleasant litter box smell from overwhelming our house? Our solution was a cheap DIY project that solved all of our problems and then some.

Or so we thought. What we actually accomplished was a connected series of litter boxes. Who loves hiding their pee in tiny, cave-like places? Cats do! The fact that we didn't realize this sooner is hugely embarrassing.

Not long after we installed the litter box we discovered one or both of them were peeing in the vanity, right in front of the litter box. We couldn't figure out how to stop them, but we put down a plastic mat to protect the vanity cabinet. You see, my lovely husband has a stubborn streak and instead of giving up on the idea, he was GOING TO MAKE IT WORK, DAMMIT. So we forged ahead, determined to salvage the seemingly-awesome hidden litter box idea.

While cleaning the litter box last night the hubby noticed the smell was much worse than usual. Come to find out, the reason it smelled so bad - SO, SO BAD - was because the cats had also been peeing in the linen closet and the pee had SOAKED INTO OUR WOOD FLOORS. Which we now get to rip out and replace with something water-repellant pee-resistant. Just typing that makes me feel gross. The whole time he was cleaning up he kept muttering under his breath. I couldn't hear all of it, but what I could catch made a compelling argument that our next pet should be a dog.

As an added bonus, the linen closet got a complete organizational overhaul. Apparently the smell of cat urine is so strong that it permeates everything around it. In this case, in was wafting up the linen closet and made all my clean linens and towels smell like piss. So everything had to be removed, washed, folded and moved to another location. Now the no-longer-aptly-named linen closet only holds paper towels, toilet tissue, first aid supplies and other things that nobody will put their face on.

The current plan is to leave the cat door into the linen closet, block the tunnel between the closet and the vanity and place a plain litter tray on the floor of the closet. It will still contain the smell (somewhat) and the litter (somewhat) but at least they'll stop pissing on my damn floors. But yeah, cats are still awesome. Adopt a kitten today!

[Insert Austin Powers joke here]

Why Austin Powers? Because I've lost my blogging mojo, that's why.

At least that's my excuse for my lack of blogging lately. I've been hard at the job search - had an interview today,actually - which seems to have sapped me of all my blog writing powers. Seriously, job searching is the pits. The hubby and I actually just over-hauled our junk storage facility office and turned it into a guest room and play room for my newly mobile toddler. Sadly, I can't work up the energy to photograph and write about it. Maybe this weekend, because let's face it, I got to organize and label things and I want someone to know about it.

Also, to fill my time (and make a little cash) I've been doing some freelance design work for a local restaurant. Mostly menu design for now, but I've been told there are other projects coming down the pipeline.

Funny story: last weekend the restaurant's electrical meter caught fire, causing a power outage, and the restaurant had to close and they lost $20,000 in business and product. OK, ok, I know that's not funny. At all. I'm getting to the funny part. After the fire my (conservative) father-in-law proclaimed me a jinx and ordered me to go get a job in Washington, DC. Heh.

Fun With Sun Prints

Almost two years ago my sister-in-law gave me a sunprint kit. It took me a while to get up the nerve to use it because I was afraid I would waste it, but I finally started playing with it. I'm in love!

The instructions are fairly simple:

My first subject was a fern frond from my yard.

I accidentally moved the fern while I was exposing the paper, but I actually liked the offset result.

Too bad I over-exposed the paper and ruined the image. Also I allowed the rinse water to pond on the paper leaving a horrible water spot.

I tried the fern again but the second time around I made sure to remove excess water before I set it out to dry.

My next subject was a cluster of pine needles, also from my yard. I loved how the dimensionality of the needles caused a shadow, gradient effect.

I still didn't like the little bit of water staining, so I decided to dry the next batch face down.

Speaking of the next batch, it included carrot leaves (from my garden!), some baby toys, our house key and a fruit basket. I tried to branch out and find interesting shapes and textures that weren't necessarily identifiable in print.

What do you think? I haven't decided how to mount them or where to display them, but you know I'll keep you in the loop when I do!

Finally, A Project That Doesn't Involve Trash

But it does involve free stuff.

Let's talk about my new bag. It was posted on Freecycle and described as "military style, but not camo, messenger bag." I can always use an extra bag or two and it was free so I figured "why not."

As soon as I picked it up I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was in good shape and not ugly - always a risk when someone gives something away for free. It's definitely on the military/utilitarian end of the style spectrum but that suits me fine for a day-to-day, not-going-out-for-drinks bag. As you can see it has a handle so that it can be carried like a briefcase.

It also has this handy wrap zipper thing going on so that you can keep it slim...

... or open the zipper and make it nice and roomy. I am all about organizational flexibility.

I kept thinking "Who wouldn't want this bag? Why was this free?" My answer came when I discovered that the clips for the detachable strap were missing. The previous owner had "solved" this by tying the strap to the bag with some sad little rusted wire. That just won't do. Luckily I know my way around a hardware store* so this would be an easy fix.
*That sounds dirty, doesn't it?

All I had to do was buy some new clips so that my strap, now freed from it's wire shackles, could be clipped to the sides for a messenger bag...

... or to the back to get some backpack action going on. Oh, and it's also missing a D-ring delta ring whatever that metal triangle is called. I can fix that too.

My original plan was just to replace the one missing triangle, but I couldn't find them anywhere. So I bought 6 old school D-rings (for 55 cents each) and replaced them all.

Let me tell you, that part was not fun. It wasn't impossible but it required almost more strength than my dainty little hands could muster. But I did it. Bonus: I got to play with 2 SETS OF CALIPERS. AT ONCE. Go me.

I also bought 2 new clip rings to replace whatever used to hold the strap to the bag. I didn't intend to buy something quite so bulky, but I also didn't want to drive to every hardware store in town so I bought the best option Lowe's had to offer.

You may notice the tag is still on that clip. That is because when I got home I found 2 of these guys that have a smaller profile and look less obtrusive, so the other ones are going back to the store.

After I got all my hardware replaced and my bag hung up to photograph, I saw one last adjustment that needed to be made. Can you spot it?

If you guessed the floppy strap, you win 10,000 gold stars.* I photographed the bag with one side as it was and one side fixed so you can see the difference.
*Gold stars not redeemable for cash, design services or anything of value.

And, just for fun, here's a shot with both sides fixed. Ahh, much better.

I guess the only thing I haven't talked about is what I plan to use the bag for. It's a little too rugged for me to use as a purse, but it makes a perfect laptop bag. The main pocket holds my neoprene laptop sleeve. The right front pocket is the perfect size for thumb drives, camera cords, etc and the left pocket holds the strap when I'm not using it.

What do you think? Not bad for a $3.30 bag, right?

I Can't Catch A Break

I try not to overwhelm you readers with my personal life. I know you're here for DIY craftiness and sarcastic rants. HOWEVER, it's about to get personal.

By now you're all well aware that I am unemployed and pathetic. Architecture isn't exactly recession-proof. Every time I feel like things are looking up, I just get knocked back down yet again. You've already read about my (seemingly) positive interview last month - only interviewed 2 candidates, referred by my cousin - that turned out to be a dud. But hey, on the bright side, it got me a Pity Kindle.
P.S. Kelly arrived in the mail this week. She and Kendall are BFFs already.

Jump to last Thursday afternoon: my old boss (2 lay offs ago) e-mailed me out of the blue to ask what my employment situation was. He said the firm is desperate to hire people and my name came up in a team meeting. I called him back IMMEDIATELY and he asked me to come in the next morning. I showed up on Friday wearing my most kick-ass interview outfit, portfolio in-hand. He barely flipped through my portfolio because "we already hired you once and we know we like you." Also, in addition to architecture, he was looking for someone that can take on some interiors work. I can TOTALLY do that. After a quick run-down of the projects they had on the table he offered me a job. On the spot. It was only a 3 month contract job, but he was optimistic they would extend it if the work was there. He had to run some numbers by his accountant but I could expect a formal job offer early the following week. I headed off for my beach vacation on cloud nine.

Meanwhile back at the ranch... ECONOMIC TURMOIL! Debt ceilings, and stock markets and national credit ratings, oh my!

It is now the following Friday and I still haven't heard anything. I call my neighbors who have been checking my mail; I haven't received anything from Supposedly Awesome Architecture Firm, LLC. I call my old boss "just to check in" and try not to sound too desperate as I leave him a voice mail. Two hours later I get an e-mail...

"I am sorry to communicate back to you so late in the week... Several things have occurred this week... I regret telling you to expect an offer... There is just too much volatility in the economy... I wish you success in you continued search for a position... blah blah blah"

So yeah, this isn't my week month year.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not mad at my old boss. At all. Our economy is turning to shit and there's nothing he can do to stop it. He's doing the best he can to protect the employees he's already got. But, guys, THIS BLOWS SO HARD. Also, after this many lay offs and almost-hires you would think I would be immune to it. But no, I still cry like a little bitch. Every. Single. Time.

So, uh, what's up with you?

Is it so wrong to take color inspiration from a bruise?

Because I totally did.

belt from J Crew / dress from Old Navy / bruise from a life of spastic tripping

Jewelry Storage Gets An Upgrade

I've talked about my jewelry storage already - here, here and here - but as usual, I have re-organized it. Again. Also as usual, I took on multiple tangent projects at the same time which makes it REALLY HARD to write a cohesive post about it. This is me trying my best.


When we moved into our house I basically duplicated the exact set-up I had at our apartment: necklaces on the branch or the board, rings in my industrial jewelry holder. Or at least that was the plan.

You guys remember my cheap yet awesome industrial jewelry holder, right? Wasn't it cool? I thought so, too, unfortunately the movers didn't realize it was delicate and so it got damaged when we moved. So sad. It's not entirely ruined, and I might fix it someday, but for now I have learned to live without it.

Rest In Peace, my friend
at least until I re-purpose you

So what does that mean to you? It means my rings went back to being stored in my hideous, dying-to-get-rid-of-it jewelry armoire. Remember this. It will be on the quiz come up later.


Another unfortunate incident: I broke my necklace branch. But I was able to repair it with some [alleged] quick-dry epoxy and now it's almost as good as new.


I have this tendency to fixate on things. Like, the second I decide I want something I have to have it YESTERDAY. It's a sickness, I know, but sadly I have no intentions to deal with it.

So, when Sherry from Young House Love tweeted that West Elm had ceramic egg crates on clearance for $5 the wheels started turning. "Some ceramic egg crates would be perfect for storing my rings. They'd be so pretty sitting on my vanity." When she posted a follow-up tweet with a 15% online discount I whipped out my wallet so fast I left skid marks in my purse.

Linkimage from West Elm

Then yet another tragedy* struck: I got an e-mail from West Elm saying the egg crates were back-ordered with no plans to be re-stocked anytime soon. No! The horror! HOW WILL I LIVE WITHOUT SOMETHING I'VE BEEN OBSESSED WITH FOR 48 HOURS?!? I was furious. How can a company think they have something in stock, sell it, then later realize they had oversold the item? THIS IS THE INTERNET AGE, PEOPLE.
*I may not have a rational grasp on what constitutes tragedy.

I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind, but I was still obnoxiously inwardly sulking. The universe must have been rooting for me because the very next day I stumbled upon a ceramic egg crate while browsing and hating myself for not being rich at Anthropologie. It wasn't as much of a steal at $14, but they had stacks and stacks of them all laid out in front of me, with no one trying to fight me for them. Sold!

[sound of angels singing]

In a turn of events that won't shock any of you, I sorted my rings by color.

[more angels singing, this time with Bono and Elton John - it's a benefit concert]

You know me, I can't resist the detail shots.


As you can tell from all the pictures and babbling, the project could have ended there. I had fixed the necklace tree and I had somewhere to display my rings. But was that good enough for me? No.

As I was dusting the vanity and putting my things in just the right spot, the itch to keep organizing set in. As I've said in an old post "I originally thought I could store my jewelry in my vanity but the drawers were too big to keep everything organized and visible." Well, not anymore. I was no longer content to have ANYTHING still in my jewelry armoire so I set out to make the very deep drawer work for me. I say "drawer" because I left the other 3 drawers alone. Someday they might get the up-fit treatment, but for now I need the deeper drawers to store socks, long underwear, etc. Yes, I wear long underwear in the South. I AM THAT COLD NATURED.

Echo... Echo... Echo

So I carried my drawer out to our wood shop. At this point I would like to point out that this project involved drill bits, power tools and absolutely zero husbands. Girl power.

To make the drawer more functional I wanted to create a false bottom within the drawer, which would effectively give me 2 smaller spaces instead of the one cavernous one. To do this all I needed to do was install some spacers (all the same height) to support the false bottom, and then the false bottom itself. I just grabbed some pine scraps for the spacers then stood them in place so I could get an idea where to pre-drill my holes. Pre-drilling was necessary because I didn't want to risk splitting the (old and brittle) drawer sides when I screwed in the supports. I also ended up pre-drilling through the pine spacers after I split the first one with my wood screw. Live and learn, right?

Here's a shot of my drawer side after the installation of the spacers. Since I drilled through the sides only - and not the front - of the drawer no one will ever be the wiser about my little modification. And for all you vintage furniture lovers out there, I would not have drilled into the dresser at all if I thought it was worth lots of money. But since I got it for free from my mom, who got it for free when the previous owners of her house left it behind, I don't think I'm at risk of ruining anything priceless.

After the spacers were installed my next step was to create the false bottom. I grabbed this already stained board from our scrap pile. It used to be a shelf several apartments ago. The matching brackets were long since lost and it's too small to hold much anyway. Plus, what was I thinking with that hideous olive brown stain. Best to hide it in a drawer.

A few quick cuts with the miter saw and I had my false bottom. For those of you without power tools, A) this could be done with a hand saw and B) what's wrong with you? power tools are awesome!

You may notice my false bottom has 2 pieces. That is only because the dimensions of my existing board weren't big enough to cover with one piece, so I cut it in half (length-wise) and then rotated the pieces 90 degrees so the length became the width. If you're confused, just look at how the grain runs on the long board and then in the drawer - you'll get it. If I was buying new materials to make this I would just get a bigger board, but I was trying to make it work with what I had on hand.

You also may notice that it would be very hard to get the boards back out to access the bottom of the drawer. I have a solution for that, too. I just used a 3/4" bore bit to cut a notch on the end of the board.

TIP: It is impossible to drill only half on a hole, so I rigged this up to help me out:

It's just the board I want to drill into clamped together with a scrap board (which has to be the same thickness, btw) to create an easy-to-drill-into solid surface. To make myself look smart my life easier I also started with a pilot hole before I broke out the big bit.

After that all the hard labor was done the drawer and I got to come back inside and enjoy the sweet miracle of air conditioning again. Remember how I told you nobody would ever see my modification from the outside? I was totally right.

Here's the empty drawer just waiting to hold my treasures.

And here's me demonstrating the false bottom action, Vana White style.

And lastly, here's what you see when you remove the false bottom. Fascinating stuff, I tell ya.


So even after the drawer building, branch gluing and ring sorting I still had the urge to keep organizing. Also, I still had the urge to pull craft supplies from the trashcan. In this mini-project I made a bracelet box using a toilet paper tube, a paper grocery bag and a decorative paper box (which I never photographed because I suck at life).

I wrapped the brown paper around the tube (logo side in), secured it with tape and then stuck the tube inside the cardboard box. I intentionally cut the paper slightly too long so that the tube would hold itself in place with tension.

pictured: tension

My dainty bracelets are clasped around the tube while my bangles just fit in the sides. At this point I should mention that I don't wear bracelets very often so this solution works for my lifestyle. If I was a wear-bracelets-everyday gal this little project would probably fall apart in no time flat.


I finally stopped organizing stuff and took pictures to show you my progress. Hooray!

The new and improved vanity top. Forgive the baby monitor; facts of life, yo.

My earrings are stored on an earring stand I picked up from Urban Outfitters a while back. As usual, UO put a bird on it.

Inside the modified drawer - make-up, perfume, travel jewelry clutch on top...

... scarves, bracelets, old earring stands on the bottom.

I used my repaired necklace branch to display short/chunky necklaces...

... while my long necklaces - which I am amassing at an alarming rate - are on the necklace board.

So that's what I did today. What did you do?
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