Archive for the ‘type a’ Category

mad & spicy

Monday, July 12th, 2010

My culinary skills have been developing over the last 15 years (though they’re still very much a work in progress). I enjoy trying out new recipes, and Mike willingly beta tests my kitchen creations. While I did a healthy amount of cooking in New York, our small galley kitchen in Queens was a challenge. While it had new floors, cabinets, countertops, and appliances (as well as wonderful light), space was tight. Nowhere was this more evident that in the area of spice storage. The only place I could store my spices were in magnetic ikea spice containers above my stove. Any moderately spicy cook will tell you that was the worst place for them–spices last the longest when they’re stored in a cool, dark place. In addition, while the ikea containers were great when I wanted to use a measuring spoon, they were not ideal when I just wanted a dash or sprinkle of a given spice.

NY spices

my spice collection on display in Queens, NY

Our new kitchen, while in need of some cosmetic help, is much more usable. It’s larger, with significantly more counter and cabinet space. I have an entire shelf in one of those many cabinets devoted to storing my spices (yes, I did replace them when I moved across country). Since the kitchen is so much easier to cook in (I can use my slow cooker and food processor at the same time), I’ve been using my spices quite a bit. Because they’re tucked in a cabinet I’ve kept them in the original jars. Over the last year, I’ve gotten more and more frustrated with the standard grocery store spice jar. I realized I wanted a spice jar that I could quickly use whether I wanted to sprinkle, pour, or measure a spice. I learned that the few jars I kept from my old NY grocery delivery service, Fresh Direct, were perfect.


My perfect Fresh Direct spice jar next to an ersatz jar

Of course, Fresh Direct doesn’t deliver to San Francisco, and they aren’t able to ship spice jars to me either. I checked out the spice jars at ikea, and none of them met all my needs. The Rationell jars had the functionality I wanted, but too much plastic. The Droppar jars looked great, but the functionality was lacking. The 365 jars had all the function I was looking for, but I knew the tapered shape would prove frustrating after a while. I was starting to feel like the Goldilocks of spice storage.
ikea jars

Thankfully, while picking up a dough blender at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I found the perfect spice jar. It’s primarily glass, with a chrome and plastic top that provides me with all the functionality I was looking for. Online they don’t sell the jar on its own (only in those giant spice racks), but I found in the store the price was comparable to the ikea jars. I printed up labels and transferred my spices to their new home.


spices, before


spices, after

And for those of you who are curious, no, they aren’t organized alphabetically. I use my oregano a lot more than my cumin.

mad bling

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Back in February mad shared our project to add a vanity area to our bedroom for me. After a few months, I realized there was a component missing. As part of my DIY streak I have quite a few necklaces. I wanted to find a way to store them that would discourage tangling and make it easy to incorporate them into my morning routine. Previously, I stored my necklaces in a hacked wooden medicine cabinet–but having them behind a door in a cabinet that was a little too “country” for my evolving tastes wouldn’t work in mad maison. I had seen numerous open displays of jewelry that I thought worked well, but none of those displays supported the number of necklaces I have. I also wanted something that could “tuck away” to avoid tempting the cats from turning my creativity into a cat toy. After a little bit of research I realized a towel holder might do the trick. I found one at ikea that had clean lines and a little upturn to keep the necklaces on the holder. Mike and I installed it on the wardrobe we have in the bedroom. I absolutely love it–my necklaces are readily available but not in the way.

jewelry storage

my new necklace storage, with Max's approving gaze

You might be surprised to see my necklaces organized by type and color (if you’ve forgotten that I built a database for our cross-country move). Mike wasn’t surprised at all.

jewelry storage 2

my necklaces in action

Living Room Progress

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I’m happy to report that progress is being made in the living room–slowly, but surely. Our living room is close to being ready for primer. This is due in large part to another home improvement product that is on mad’s side. Thanks to copious online research (including watching online reruns of “This Old House”) mad found Wally’s Plaster Magic (no, I didn’t made that name up). This product is designed for people with old plaster walls that have “slipped off the lath.” When this happens, your walls wiggle (which is not considered ideal). Through Wally’s multi-step process we were able to re-glue the plaster to the lath–and it worked! mad’s goal is to address things like this properly–without ripping all the character out of the house. We want to keep the sturdy, insulating, sound-proofing plaster rather than rip it down and put drywall up. Not only does it maintain the character of the house, but it is quite a bit more economical. Now that our walls don’t wiggle, we’ve been spackling and skimming with glee towards the glorious moment when we’ll be able to prime, and spirits willing, paint. mad is also trying to stick to our “one room at a time” philosophy. We quickly figured out that working through one room at a time until it’s finished is more our style–and allows us to embrace a little bit of organization in a life otherwise filled with chaos. What do we have left to do in the living room, you ask? Just a little:

  1. Scrape the loose paint off the ceiling and spackle
  2. Purchase and attach new moulding around the “fireplace”
  3. Prime the walls, ceilings, and mouldings
  4. Paint

We’ll post before and after pics when it’s done, which we’re hoping will be relatively (and I mean relatively) soon.

thank you Wally--though we think something called "magical" shouldn't require so much work

thank you Wally--though we think something called "magic" shouldn't require so much work

There are some things I won’t miss

Friday, June 12th, 2009

In an earlier post I talked about the joys of NY City living, including the conveniences of living in a full-service building. There are some things I’m glad to be rid of. While the folks who work in my building are great, the property management firm that oversees my building provides me with regular lessons in patience and karma. In order to have anything brought in or out of the building, the company delivering (or removing) the items has to fax a certificate of insurance to the property manager. Given my tendencies, I had spoken with the moving company about this months ago when we first selected them, and I followed up with them and found out they faxed the certificate of insurance to my property manager on June 6. Of course, my property manager didn’t contact me or the movers to confirm or let us know if there was anything wrong with the certificate. I called today, and they said they didn’t receive the certificate (check the boards in Vegas for the odds on the accuracy of that statement). I faxed them a second copy, and called back–only to find out at that point that the certificate needed some changes. Understand, these people will stop the movers from entering the building if there’s one T left uncrossed or one I left undotted. Therefore, in addition to wrapping up things at work before my “vacation” started, I had to deal with faxing and phoning these people who seem to be put on this earth to make things more difficult. Needless to say, knowing that in a few short weeks (once I get back my security deposit back) I won’t have to deal with another property manager (hopefully ever) brings a feeling of joy into my heart.

Red tape never disappears completely, but here's to shedding some of it

Red tape never disappears completely, but here's to shedding some of it

Down to the wire

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I admit it, the anxiety has set in. We’re down to the last week before we leave the Empire state. Tomorrow is my last day of work, Friday we drop the second car at the car shipper, Monday the movers arrive. Tonight we had dinner with our wonderful neighbors Terri and Jerry (very sad), and we’ve gotten the cross-country tags for the cats in case they try to escape while we’re on the road. Even though we already have 46 boxes packed, I won’t feel like we’re ready for the movers until every last item is prepped and packed. Who would’ve thought that hitting the road towards Nebraska would be a relief! Our intent is to publish posts from the road–but I will admit that day after day of driving 500+ miles might lead to a night or two where we just crash. It’s hard to believe we’re so close to leaving!

For me, living like this right now is reassuring

For me, living like this right now is reassuring

The route is set

Friday, May 29th, 2009

In addition to packing up our apartment here in Queens and preparing to move into and fix up the new place in San Francisco, Mike and I have a cross-country trip to prepare for. Because we have two cars (and two cats), it’s much cheaper (and more adventurous) to drive one of those cars across this great country of ours.

When I embarked on a similar journey with Pops almost five years ago, we initially thought we would pick our lodgings based on when we were tired of driving. That lasted one night. Pops and I were in Ely, Nevada. We were tired, and I was on the verge of losing it. That first day, the cats spent most of it trying to jump ship and it had been a long day. Ely, Nevada, despite a plethora of motels, was not welcoming. There were no rooms at the Best Western, the Motel 6, the Super 8, the Hilton, or any of the other chain-brand motels in town. So Pops, me, and the two cats stayed at the El Rancho Motel. The only thing memorable about the El Rancho Motel is that it was the cheapest motel I’ve ever stayed in ($39 for the night). After that, Pops made sure to plot our course (one that allowed me to take in Mount Rushmore) and made reservations the rest of the way. By the time we got to the Best Western Motel in Cheyenne, Wyoming (in the pouring rain), the hotel was booked. Man, were we glad we had a reservation.

Mike and I want to enjoy our journey, but we also don’t want to linger. We’ll be leaving NY 36 hours after the movers leave (giving us a little time to complete a final cleaning pass), and we’re still hoping to beat the moving truck so we can paint the one room that is wallpaper-free before they arrive. Therefore, we’ve plotted out a very straightforward route with approximately 8 hours of driving per day. And yes, we have already made our hotel reservations.

The mad route

The mad route

the ennui of kartong

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Before we were a twinkle in the others eye, on opposite sides of this great country of ours, Mike and I had executed many moves. So we’re aware that every move requires cardboard. Of course, in our youth, this is what the loading dock of the grocery store was for. Unfortunately, now that we’re a little more selective with the possessions we hold onto, we’re less comfortable with the concept of our books and stereo equipment sharing space with rancid vinaigrette. In addition, my type A tendencies have reached a zenith (I hope) and I can’t resist the appeal of having the ideal shaped and sized boxes for our various belongings.

Therefore, we made the conscious decision to purchase boxes. Of course, my gene pool does not allow me to pay retail for such items, and Mike, on a good day, can be described as frugal. So to the internet we went–the haven of the unfulfilled researcher. Not surprisingly, Mike and I uncovered a secret cartel of cardboard manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers. No matter where we searched, the price of cardboard items was pretty much the same. We ended up going to a wholesaler in Long Island City. Given the amount we paid for the boxes we purchased, I was pleased to discover that we’re now also a partial owner of the cardboard wholesale business.

At least we didn’t pay retail.


more expensive by weight than gold. . .

organized on this end. . .

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Max the cat taking credit for the packing.

Max the cat taking credit for the packing.

When I moved to New York in 2004, it was for a new job; which means I had about 5 minutes warning before strong men came and packed up my entire place in one afternoon.

Given that Mike and I have one month and 3 days before the movers arrive, we decided to take a slightly different approach this time. We’ve built a database that lists all of our earthly possessions–and as we pack, the database tracks exactly which box an item is packed in. This means I already know that the Joy of Cooking is in box #5. While many might consider this to be a little on the loopy side, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. What makes me feel even warmer and fuzzier is the fact that Mike not only accepts these eccentricities, but he embraces them. This is especially important because, back on the left coast, things are a little more. . . organic. This isn’t surprising, since a member of my family was living in the house since 1943. And while my pops is working away at providing us a slate clean of extra possessions and knick knacks–there’s only so much one man (with my brother’s help) can do in one month and 3 days. Therefore, I suspect we won’t be unpacking every box in those first weeks/months after we arrive. So knowing what’s in box #5 will come in handy when I’m dying to make my killer mac & cheese recipe, or it’s time to roast a chicken (because no matter how many chickens I roast, I like having the book open as a reminder of exactly what temperature the bird should be if I want juicy breast meat). Whether or not it really adds value that I also have a picture in the database of the Joy of Cooking and the other books it shared shelf space with here in Queens will be known only by Mike & Denise.

the infamous database

the infamous database