Organizing an Entertainment Center and All Those Cords

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

So on Sunday nights we watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey (new season just started OMG the drama!), on Monday nights we watch the Real Housewives of Orange County (really Alexis no one is bullying you!) on Tuesday nights we watch Don't Be Tardy (can't get me enough of that Wig!), and on Wednesday nights its Million Dollar Listing New York (the commissions they make just make me want to cry, but a couple weeks ago someone gave Ryan a pig as a thank you. A baby pig! Don't even get me started on baby animals...). Toward the end of the week we wind it down with a Dodger game or incessant reruns of SVU or NCIS after dinner while we relax before bed, but last week, all I could see among the ridiculous drama and the baby pig was the unorganized entertainment center right under our TV and it was driving me NUTS! Sometimes, enough is enough.

Look at this thing, ew.

Yes, normally the doors are closed and you can't see all the junk inside, but...I know its there and that is enough. So, this past weekend while the hubs was at work, I tackled this project. I Googled and Pinterested (new verb!) and everything in between to try to figure out the best way to handle this, mostly because we had a lot of cords here. On the right in the baggies are all cords, and in the box on top, in baggies, are all cords! They are in their own baggies, and they are labeled on the outside with Sharpie, but that was just step one. After I did that I just shoved them in this box/put them in the cabinet and left them there to rot. OK they don't rot, but you get the idea. Still unorganized and hard to find.

As for the rest of the stuff, I figured the best way to start was to take it all out. So, I did. One thing by one thing and I organized it into piles. DVDs, cat stuff, trash, stuff that belongs upstairs, and cords. That was really it. Next step was to clean it. **Important: always clean after you empty, before you put back. If you organize it right, you may never empty it again (OK that's just a dream, but still, its an important part of the process).**

Next I took everything away that wasn't staying in this cabinet and put it where it belonged so I could see exactly what I had left to find spots for. It turned out, not much was left! I also scoured the house for some baskets that maybe weren't being used to their fullest potential that could help with creating order here. I always try to repurpose something before buying something new because one way or another, we tend to accumulate a lot of STUFF (can anyone relate? :))

Last but not least, to tackle the cords! My solution (and I can't take credit for this, it was on multiple sites/blogs/etc.) was a shoe organizer on the inside of our hall closet. Genius if you ask me! Although these sites normally had one cord per shoe spot, and let me tell you, we have more cords than that, so that just wasn't going to work! I decided to fold each cord and twisty tie it as well as label it, so more than one cord could go in each slot, but of course, in organized fashion, still keeping the like cords together.

Why label it if I was going to label the shoe organizer pocket? Well, I also read on a few sites, that it was important not only to label the spot where the cord is kept, but to label the cord itself...just in case it doesn't get put back...What not put back? Not in my house...hahahahahahaha Yah, so I labeled the cords. It was kind of time consuming, but in the end, I think will be very worth it!

Since I had decided not to put the cords back in the entertainment center, to create more room on the floor it was time to put back all my "piles" into the center. I used the boxes I had found and my superb OCD skills and check. it. out. I am pleased!! I even had extra room in my cute matching basket to add some of the Wii controllers that belong down here but were being stored upstairs. WIN!

At this point, I just wanted to quit and watch NCIS because, now I could actually focus on NCIS but I had to finish the project or my husband would come home and ask WTH was going on with all the cords on the floor. Grrrr OK I'll handle it.

Before heading to the store for the organizer/labels etc I wanted to sort the cords to see how many I would have. Unfortunately, even after taking them directly from the baggies, I still had 7 unknown cords on my hands. (Incidentally, the baggies said "Unknown" on them. Clever). My husband claims that these cords are useful even though we have no idea what they go to, so, alas, I save them, again, just in case. You really truly do never know!  

After the sorting was complete I set off for Target for the shoe organizer and labels and while there I got sucked in (SURPRISE!) and I totally forgot to buy twisty ties to keep the cords together. Although I did get all my Father's Day cards--check! Not wanting to go right back into Target like an idiot, especially since I was already in my car, I drove across the parking lot to Walgreens. I asked the guy at the counter if he knew if they carried twisty ties and he asked me "Like the ones you use for birthday presents?" Uh....?? He pointed me in a direction and there was nothing. But then! I saw someone else, and I asked him and he actually knew what I was talking about and I told him what I wanted them for and he was all "Oohhh may I suggest something?! I do audio visual stuff, been doin' it for ages, and I use, Velcro to hold all my cords together, works like a dream! You can buy it at Lowes in a roll." OMG lifesaver, thanks AV guy!

This Velcro is supposed to be cut in special increments and then wrapped around and through and around each item/cord (if you don't understand don't worry, it's not important!), but my cords were so small, I felt wasteful doing that, so I just cut it to fit however I pleased. And it was perfect! 

So happy with this beautifully wrapped and labeled cord! Now to do the rest....grrrr.

This is what I ended up with after I wrapped and labeled all my cords and put them in the organizer. Amazing! So easy to find what you need (and put it back!) and even space for more cords (yay).

Unfortunately I have found over the past couple of days that these little labels are not sticking well to this organizer material, so I'm going to have to figure out something else. My hubby suggested Velcro but I don't want to write on Velcro because I want it to be reusable. Maybe a name tag holder, or...??? The possibilities are endless, but for now I am happy with the result!

Now, back to Bravo TV before I miss a table flip.



Lemony Salmon Kebabs (& How to Skin Salmon)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ok, so I've been trying to cook pretty healthy these past few weeks but somehow my cravings for preservatives and cheese always get in the way--not tonight, this dinner was a win! 

Unfortunately, I don't have a final outcome picture for you because my camera died in the middle of cooking (unbelievable I tell you--doesn't it know I am BUSY!?) So, let's start at the beginning--skinning the salmon--yuck.

It's not pretty, but it must be done (unless you want to eat the skin, which is of course a possibility, I chose not to for this recipe). First things first, sharpen your knife. You should use a filet knife which is sort of curved (or so I've read) but I do not have such and as I don't skin fish on an everyday basis, I get by with what I've got. 

I prefer to have the fish sort of frozen (as in alllllmost defrosted) but I've read many websites indicating that its best done at room temperature, so this is up to you. Keep in mind, if you go with sort of frozen, your hand will be cold. Yowza I had to take a few quick breaks! Start on the tail end of your fish and make a small incision between skin and fish, as close to the fish as you can, and at an upward angle. Once you get your first separation, hang on to the little skin you have and pull back, as you cut in. Be mindful that you aren't digging into the fish, sometimes you'll have to readjust your knife angle, but keep cutting and pulling until you get to the end. 

Wallah! The more skin you have off, the easier it gets, because you have more skin to "hold" (ugh so gross) so if its rough at the beginning keep pressing through. Mine is never perfect,  but it gets easier every time, just like anything :)

After your salmon is skin free, you're going to want to cut it into kebab like chunks, about an inch thick. I sliced mine width wise and then cut the chunks.

Looks like someone can smell the fish! This is my darling cat Six, always looking for trouble. But oh so adorable, so who could be mad? (I gave her a small piece, I had to--look at that face!!)

I should tell you, I made a boo boo and I didnt put my skewers in water until after I had already skinned and cut the salmon. These should be soaking for about an hour  (this is serious, if you do not soak your skewers, they will burn, and if they burn, well, that takes the kebab right out of kebab doesn't it?). I put them in as soon as I remembered and I ended up being okay. The ends charred, but the total stick stayed intact. Anyway, if you put yours in at the beginning it will be better.

After the stick fiasco, time to slice the lemons. I used two whole lemons, (remember to wash these since you will be keeping the rind on) sliced very thinly (as thinly as you can). 

Once the big things were under control, next step is to tackle the spices. Here you can see Red Pepper Flakes, Cumin, Sesame Seeds and Salt. There is also supposed to be fresh Oregano--more on that in a moment... I used 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes, but you can use more if you like it spicy--I didn't find that 1/4 tsp was very spicy at all. For Cumin I used 1 tsp and I just poured in Sesame Seeds and Salt til it seemed like enough. I always like to measure out my spices into one small bowl and then put the spices away, it makes it easy to just throw it on/in or wherever its going.

Next comes the fun part--skewering! Begin with salmon at the end (to hold on the lemon) and alternate with a lemon folded in half and a piece of salmon until you get to the end. I chose to do 5 pieces of salmon but it's up to you and how many kebabs you want to make.

Once you're all skewered, drizzle or brush EVOO all over your kebabs (make sure to turn them and get all sides) and then sprinkle your spice mixture on (again make sure to turn them).

An important part of this recipe is fresh oregano and I almost had a total fail here! We grow the oregano in our garden, and so even though I knew I needed to go cut some, because it wasn't in the kitchen, I almost forgot! But looking at the salmon kebabs all spiced up, well, something just seemed to be missing! In any event, make sure that you grab some fresh oregano, strip the leaves off the stems and finely chop. You can either add it to your spice mixture from the get go, or add it on at the end like I did. Personally, I would add it on at the end again because I feel like I got a better handle on spreading it out by doing it by itself. You can also use ground oregano if you don't have access to fresh, although it will slightly change the taste.

Last but not least, get to grillin'! Medium is best for the fish since its pretty delicate, you don't want it to burn on the outside, before the inside is done. I like to use all the burners at once because I feel like it heats the BBQ more evenly but that's just my personal opinion (actually it's my husband's opinion and he is King of the BBQ at our house). You can also do these on a grill pan inside, but again, as with the oregano, you'll have a slight flavor change. 

This is completely unrelated to the kebabs, but while I was waiting for them to finish, I noticed that our blackberries are turning!!! I am SO excited! We picked this plant up on a whim at Lowes, just for fun, and when I got home I read up on it and some sites said that blackberries might take up to 2 years to produce fruit and that without another fruit plant nearby it might not produce fruit at all because there would be no pollination. Well lookee here! 

Anyway, back to the meal at hand! These guys should take about 10 minutes on the grill, make sure you keep turning them so they cook evenly. They are done when they easily flake off. (Best part about cooking, sampling during the process!). 

Like I said before, I don't have a final picture because of the lame camera, but honestly these are prettier before they are cooked because of the bright pink salmon color. I served them with rice and it was all done. 

This is my favorite rice by the way--we have a rice cooker, but seriously, this cooks in the microwave in 90 seconds, why go through all the trouble to get out the rice cooker etc? Too much! 

Oh, by the way, you are meant to tear the edge of this rice when you put it in the microwave to allow venting. This is serious stuff, make sure you do it. If you don't, well your rice might explode in your microwave and it might stay there for awhile until you clean it. (Don't ask how I know this. I just do.).

Until next adventure,


Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit's Spiced Salmon Kebabs:

Making a Corner Storage Bench

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Today I am going to share with you how to make a corner storage bench. This will work for a non corner storage bench as well (that will actually be less complicated!) I have always wanted a breakfast nook/window reading seat,  etc. and we had the perfect space for it! We could have bought one, but those things are expensive! This project so far has been significantly cheaper. The only thing left is the bench seat (and that is for another day!).

It's been awhile since we started this project, and it's still not 100%complete, but we did get the majority of it done on the first day we started. My husband and I both had off a Saturday in April (rare as he works practically every weekend) and so we wanted to make it a special day where we could spend some quality time together. I knew this would be a tough project (we have never done anything like it before!) but I figured, sometimes that's when the best bonding happens!

Hubs took a little convincinghe wanted to make sure that we didn't get half way through and have to quit because it was too hard or complicated, totally understandable!—but after some coaxing, some measurements and reassurance from me that we could absolutely do this, we headed to Lowes.

Here is our take once we got home!

What did we get ourselves into?!

The first thing we had to tackle was how to get the baseboard off—we wanted the bench to sit flush against the wall so nothing could fall back behind it once it was complete, but taking off a baseboard seemed daunting. Luckily, you can find a tutorial for just about anything on the internet and actually, removing baseboard (of our type) is quite easy. Here is a quick tutorial video from the web:

In the video she used a utility knife, a small putty knife, a hammer, a pry bar and a piece of wood—when we did it, I was actually able to find a putty knife that was about 12 inches wide which gave me some more leverage than then small one she had, and I didn't need to use the pry bar or the piece of wood. This could also be because our baseboard wasn't attached very well —let’s be honest, I don’t know that much about baseboard. The point is, it came off, very easily. Here is a picture of our space, sans baseboards.

Besides buying the putty knife, we also had to buy:

  • All the wood for the bench (2x4’s for the frame, a plywood sheet for the front and tops, and trim for the beautification!)
  • Screws for putting together the 2x4s
  • Stain and a polyurethane coating for once the frame was up and we were ready to finalize the design
  • Nails to attach the fronts and sides and
  • A large drill bit to drill the finger holes for the lids
This took a couple of trips, because I didn't want to purchase the plywood sheet or trim until the frame was up. At Lowe’s (and most large hardware stores I think) they will cut the wood for you (thank God, because although we have a hand saw, that thing scares me!) and I did not want to cut the front and/or the sides until the frame was up and measured. I was worried that it wouldn't be the exact size we expected it to be and that the already cut plywood would be wasted and wouldn't fit. Because we were going to have to go back anyway, we decided to buy the trim, the nails, the stain and the large drill bit on the second trip. 

It was a lot of cutting, luckily the employee at Lowes was patient with us! Here is exactly what we had cut:

  • 4 60" pieces for the long sides of the long boxes
  • 4 24" pieces for the long sides of the short boxes
  • 15 14" pieces for the short sides of both size boxes and the tops of all the horseshoes
  • 11 9" pieces for the vertical portions of the horseshoes
*(remember, measure twice, cut once!)

We used a Ryobi 18.0v 3 Speed drill and we purchased Wood Screws (14x3) upon the recommendation of the hardware salesman. I held the boards together while Hubs drilled—we soon realized that this was going to be harder work that we thought! Holding the boards together, without letting them move, while he was forcing the screws in was rough, both of our arms were jello by the end of the day! TIP: It did help to pre-drill holes before drilling the screws in, so the screws had somewhat of a guide. Once both boxes were complete, we pressed them up against the wall, attached them to the wall, and to each other. Phew.

The next step was to make the support for the top box, or what we called the horseshoes. We made one for each end of each box, and one for the middle of the long box. Since this is a storage bench, for convenience, I wanted two lids on the left bench since it’s so long—the middle horseshoe is where the lids will converge and rest. We also added an extra small piece of wood at the end of the small box for an additional space to attach the boxes together. Once all the horseshoes were complete, we glued them on with wood glue. I wouldn't recommend wood glue for anything except vertical attachment as I don’t think it’s super strong, but since there would be another box on top of these, and then lids, and then a bench seat, and then people sitting on it, I didn't think it was necessary to screw them in. Plus...we couldn't figure out how! So here we are, a little more than half way through! (PS. these were also screwed into the wall).

All we had to do after that, was make two more boxes like we had done in the beginning and glue them on to the horseshoes. We also attached these boxes to the wall for stability. I didn't get a final picture of the frame without the sides or tops on it (I was too excited) but I think you guys get the idea.

Before heading back to Lowes to get the remaining items, I measured the bench—I’m so glad we waited! Turns out, 2x4s aren't actually 2x4! Who knew? This is what I found when I Googled WHYYYYYYYYY: 

2X4 is the 'nominal' dimension, a reference back to the rough size of the lumber before it is dried and finish-sawn, or "dressed", to 1.5"X3.5".” 

GOOD TO KNOW!! Luckily, it didn't affect our design much or the space, I’m just really happy I waited to buy the sides and top!

Remember when you are having them cut the wood for you:

that the long piece for the front cover of the bench has to be as long as the bench you want to cover in the front PLUS the width of the side covering (which is the width of the wood you are having cut now). For example, I needed a piece of wood 42" inches long to cover the long part of the bench, and since I would be adding a side covering that has a width of ¼” I needed my front cover to be an additional ¼” wide (total 42.25"). The short piece for the front does not need this extra ¼” because it will be sitting adjacent to the long piece at a right angle and will be propped up an extra ¼” from being butted up against it. Lastly, they all need to be ¼” (or however thick your wood is) taller, to accommodate for the lids. The lids should be exactly the size of the frame. 

Here is our bench with the covers and lids, as you can see, I didn't realize until afterward that both fronts did not need to be longer until after we were home…(see left front edge)...Like I said before, measure twice, cut once!! Oops!

We had to end up using the hand saw after all, oh my dear husband, I was afraid! I drew a line and he cut, and it turned out perfectly! 

Also, while at Lowes the second time I bought the trim. You can do anything you want on the front and sides to fancy it up, here is what I chose:

These had to be hand cut (I guess the guys at Lowes could have done it but I wasn't exactly sure how I wanted it cut). Luckily I have a small hack saw that came in a Restoration Hardware Tool Kit. We wanted the storage bench to look really “finished” so we cut the trim so that it was “cornered.” Each end had to be cut to create an exact equilateral triangle so it would abut the other trim piece in a perfect square. I measured this cut by measuring the width of the trim (half inch) and then measuring in that width and marking a vertical line. From there, I drew a diagonal line from the top (or bottom, depending on what type of corner I was making, for which part of the bench) to the opposite corner. This was the line that needed to be cut. This was very tedious work and after our arms already being jello from creating the bench itself, this was tough but we finished it!

After all the pieces were the right size, the next step was to stain it.We used Minwax Wood stain in Dark Walnut. I was looking for a dark dark wood to go with the d├ęcor of our house—this did the trick after two coats. We stained in the garage using an old tee-shirt (advice I received from someone at Lowes, he said that is how he had always done it!) and rubber dish washing gloves. Also we had some very heavy duty paper that we laid out in the garage to do this, be very careful, stain will get on everything! Newspaper will not be enough unless you do a ton of layers. I would hate for you to stain your project and then clean up and realize you stained the floor of your garage! Also, we decided, to save time and effort, not to stain the lids. I plan to make a seat to fit over the bench and since no one would ever see the lids except us, we left them raw.

That was all we could do for the night, the day was almost over and we were spent. We finished the day off with pizza and soda and just kicked back on the couch. Ahhhh relax time.

Since then I have made more progress on the bench, but that is for another time, I will take some more pictures of it and let you all know the ins and outs of attaching the front and sides and adding the trim. 

For now, I say, adios!