Customized Jewelry Storage

Personal Service Announcement: If there is one project you should hire out, it is definitely installing wood plank tile in your whole house.  In case you are wondering, yep, we are still slowly tiling our whole house. Forty, no, fifty days? Times a hundred it would seem!

Anyway, that project isn’t going to be ready to share for another 300 days (it seems), so I thought I would share a quick DIY I did last Monday while Chris was working on his car and other people were complaining about Columbus.

For the last 15 years or so, I have had a very functional jewelry armoire (from Service Merchandise–remember those days?) that my parents gave me. However, our recent NYC-apartment-like living in a fraction of our house’s square footage has amplified the need to eliminate some furniture pieces that aren’t working quite as hard as others. Let’s be honest: Sleep is essential; jewelry is not. I realize this may sound like treason to some, but my engagement + wedding rings and a pair of pearl studs are just enough bling for me most days. Ergo, the bed is in; the armoire is out.


A couple of years ago, my mom made the decision to sell her jewelry armoire (purchased at the same time as mine) in the interests of having more floor space, and she has never looked back.  I decided it was time to follow suit.

I’ve noticed a trend in open jewelry storage, but I’m not a fan for two main reasons: (1) dust (2) cats. If you cycle through all your necklaces on a regular basis, you probably don’t have to worry about dust settling on your jewelry, but I would…and dust mites really aren’t a great fashion statement. In addition, we have cats that like to play with shiny, dangling objects (and one that likes to try to eat them), so this is a no-go for us.

My mom has been using these stackable jewelry boxes from Bed, Bath, & Beyond that keep her jewelry dust-free, and I opted to do the same, with a DIY modification.


The set of 3 stackable trays (a bit misleading because it is really 2 + a lid) is a better buy than the separate individual trays, but the set doesn’t come with the tray with the ring/stud holder that is the very best part of my jewelry armoire. Womp, womp, womp. Typical marketing/sales ploy. 

Rather than pay $20 for the add-on section at the same time, I chose to make my own, using leftover craft materials. I didn’t have anything comparable to the velvety lining on hand, so I grabbed some craft foam.


I simply cut a piece of foam to match the width of the smallest compartment, then folded it accordion-style, with each fold being slightly less than the height of the compartment, about 1/2″ long.


The accordion folds give it just enough tension to wedge into the existing compartment and hold itself without the need of any adhesive.  That’s right–NO ADHESIVE NEEDED. This means you can always take the foam back out. 🙂


The folds also give it the sections needed for inserting rings and studs. I used tighter folds for the studs and looser folds for the rings, and both are working just fine.


Eventually I may purchase the real deal (with a good coupon!), but for the 15 minutes it took and the $20 savings right now, it was a nice quick fix to tide me over until then!


Shopping Tidbit: Eggs Edition

This edition of how to avoid spending money you don’t have to is brought to you from the future, specifically tomorrow (thanks International date line!).  For the past few weeks I (Chris) have been on the road for work, which has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, I enjoy going places I’ve never been and “putting faces to names”.  On the minus side being away from the ‘Zoo can be a bit lonely and the food is just not nearly as good.

I suppose another plus is that these longer flights (14 hours!) give me time to make up for being way behind on my post count for the KaZoo blog (more importantly way behind on the I promised Amy to write these articles list). So without too much more rambling on, let’s talk about the always exciting subject of …… buying eggs!

Back when I interned at NASA (why yes I was an actual rocket scientist), I met a man named John (also a rocket scientist) who taught Tai Chi and lunch and never failed to give me advice on how to live “better”.  One of his soapbox items was high quality eggs and the difference they made (let’s just say he really loved eggs).

Just to clarify, the eastern shore of the DelMarVa pennisula was a major chicken producing area so eggs were plentiful (even the good ones) so it wasn’t hard or that pricey to get good eggs.  Fast forward to that fall and I am pretty sure I was one of the only college kids willing to pay double or more for “good” eggs for my homemade omelets, which were a collage staple for me.  An unintended benefit of getting the good eggs was that my then girlfriend (now wife) loved those omelets and still does….right Amy?

Anyway, I know there are lots of news articles and blog posts on eggs and which ones are the best. For now, I’m going to forgo that subject for now and just address grocery store eggs (and by grocery store I mean Publix and the Whole Foods in the “city” since WF has not yet decided to grace the “beach” with it’s presence –just announced last week WF is coming in 2015!!).

One thing that is easy to notice is that there are some huge price differences in eggs depending on everything from color, size, egg type, how the chicken’s are raised, chicken feed type, and a whole host of different things.  For example, Publix branded regular large white eggs were roughly $1.59 a dozen whereas heirloom hen, organic, cage free eggs were $3.99 a half dozen (aka $8 a dozen!).  Since I wasn’t ready to drop $8 a dozen for heirloom eggs and we lived relatively close to a Whole Foods, I decided to add Eggs to the list of things to get when I made a Whole Foods run.

Something this (all?) Whole Foods tried to emphasize was local and regionally sourced foods including the eggs they sell.  Of course they, like everyone else, charge quite a premium for the “nicer” local and regional eggs. Since I am all about good eggs, I am not opposed to paying a little more, but I try to make sure that I am actually getting something for my money.  To get a better feel for what I was paying for, I started reading labels specifically to see where the eggs were from, which meant that I soon realized that anyone buying the “regional” eggs were making a pricey mistake.

The regular Whole Foods large, brown eggs were $2.79 a dozen while the “local” eggs from “Willow Farms” were a surprisingly competitive $3.25 a dozen. However, if you wanted the “regional” eggs from Latta’s Egg Ranch (with Omega 3s) those were $4.99 a dozen! Upon closer inspection of the regular Whole Foods eggs, I found that Whole Foods had contracted with Latta’s Egg Ranch for their “regular” eggs. This means that both the Whole Foods and Latta’s Egg Ranch “regional” eggs were from the same place despite the difference in price.

So…semi-pro tip #1 from the KaZoos: Always read the fine print on where your eggs are coming from.


Whole Foods Eggs brought to you by Latta Family Farm

Semi-Pro tip #2: Always check the egg section for new selections. Our local “beach” grocery now carries eggs from Vital farms, which are really good!


Yummy Eggs from Vital Farms. Just a bit pricey ($6)

Sand & Kleen: Not So Keen

In Friday morning’s post last week, we shared about the Sand & Kleen system that we were super pumped about trying to eliminate (or at least reduce) the amount of drywall dust coating everything in our house post-sanding.  We do a lot of sanding (all small projects, though), so we thought it would be a good investment (mainly because it was on sale).  On Friday night, in anticipation of some weekend warrior sanding action, we started assembling the Sand & Kleen system (yes, super hot date night that was). We thought the system we bought from Amazon was a fairly safe bet, considering the number of favorable reviews, the simplicity of the system, and the inclusion of multiple adapters to connect the filter bucket to your shop vac for power in case the one that should have fit our shop vac didn’t for some reason.


Wrong.  None of the adapters (or any combination thereof) would fit our regular old shop vac (one of the sizes should have fit based on the measurements provided in the product description, but it appeared to be off measurement-wise by a smidge), so this system obviously wasn’t going to work.  We considered ordering a replacement in case we just had a set of defective parts, but we were skeptical that a replacement would be any different if the parts are made in lots.  Plus, the number of mistakes in the instruction/assembly manual did not leave us feeling very confident, my personal favorites being two mistaken substitutions of “now” with the word “not” that drastically affected the meaning of each sentence.  For example, after you complete all steps of the assembly process, the manual says, “You are not ready to use the Sand & Kleen.” What do you mean? I’ve assembled the whole thing, so how am I not ready to use it?!  Presumably, they meant to say, “You are now ready to use the Sand & Kleen,” but they didn’t.  Simple mistakes like that may not concern some people, but if you don’t have someone proofreading your instruction manual, how can we trust the product quality control either?

Bottom line, we disassembled the Sand & Kleen, boxed it back up, and dropped it off Saturday morning at the UPS store to send it back to Amazon.  We normally love Amazon, but there’s been a few purchases of late that have arrived in bad shape–damaged, dysfunctional, and/or not as advertised.  Our last order of Muir Glen organic tomato sauce came with over 2/3 of the cans dented so badly that we couldn’t use our can opener on them. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.

So our review of the Sand & Kleen? We can’t really review its functionality, but in terms of its promised versatility and compatibility to work with your existing shop vac, let’s just say, we’re not so keen on the Sand & Kleen.  Hopefully it is something that other people can use successfully, as we think the idea is a great one.  As for us, we’ve had to revert back to the old, dusty way of sanding.  At least wet sanding helps somewhat.

Anyone else having a case of DIYer disappointment these days?

Workin’ Hard for/with the Green Stuff

Progress on the range hood and the master closet temporarily stalled because we were waiting for our new awesome DIY tool to arrive: The Sand & Kleen Dustless Drywall Sanding System (and because we both had to travel to different places out of state for our jobs this past week. Jobs = money –> happy new tools).  Yay tools!


Here’s a link to it on Amazon if you are interested in checking it out for yourselves.  Now that the S & K has been added to our arsenal, expect a closet and hood post next week where we test it out in various capacities.

In the meanwhile,  I’ve been doing a part-time gig clearing my parents’ yard and laying sod.  My dad started the project but was called out of state for work before he could get much done (my family members are planes passing in the air apparently), so I picked up where he left off.  Hot, sweaty, dirty work, let me tell you, but my mom compensated me for my time and brought me Chipotle for lunch, so no complaints here.  My mom has a back injury right now, hence why I was called in to take over the sod job.  

I’m a sucker for yard work.  There’s something extremely satisfying about hard, manual labor, especially outside where you can see the fruits of your labor so easily (and quickly).  Plus, it is a great workout involving multiple muscle groups.  One of my neighbors and I recently had a conversation about how we procrastinate from our respective writing work by doing yard work. This conversation obviously occurred while we were both outside not writing. Go figure.  I’ve even started mowing our lawn, leaving just the weed eating to Chris, which is probably good since he’s allergic to grass, and I’m allergic to weeds.

Here’s my best tip for sod laying, courtesy of my mom’s next door neighbor, who worked on a golf course for a number of years and is quite familiar with groundskeeping and sod maintenance:  Use a machete to cut the sod into pieces to fit your yard.  It makes a nice, clean cut, and it’s a great way to take out frustration without being destructive.  My dad has a machete somewhere in his pile o’ tools, but my mom’s neighbor offered me his readily accessible and super sharp machete to use.  So much better than other methods! Sorry, no pictures of me wielding the machete. Sod laying may not be the easiest job, but getting to attack grass with a machete definitely increased the fun factor, which was pretty much zero pre-machete.

Best part? I got to buy a new planter I had been eying at Lowe’s, some purple mums (I like the purple and white ones best) and a new pair of shoes with the money I pocketed for a half-day of some hard but rewarding work.  Good times.  By the time I got back from Lowe’s it was dark, so no pics of the planter and plants.  They will feature in an upcoming (and long overdue) post about the major overhaul of the yards we have undertaken (and is still ongoing) along with some fall updates for the casa, so stay tuned. Happy Friday, everyone!

Something Old, Something New (Again): Succulent Garden

Remember this post and this picture?



I wasn’t sure my herb garden would really be a success, not being an expert on herb growing by any means.  In fact, I half-expected the plants to wither and die, given that I had planted  herbs together that have conflicting watering needs (rosemary likes it dry, basil and parsley like it wet).  To my surprise, my herbs thrived–to the point that they were growing out of control, despite my pinching and pruning efforts.  Quickly it became apparent that this one container would not house them all, so I harvested all I could and transplanted the herbs to separate containers that now sit happily on a window sill in our new kitchen.

Once again, the antique stoneware vessel was empty, but remember how I initially wanted to use it for a succulent garden?  While I was in FL, Chris and I made a trip to Lowe’s. It was still quite chilly at the start of March, and the garden section was not doing a booming business.  However, they had beautiful new succulents, and Chris acquiesced to my succulent request.  Since cacti need a different type of soil, I purchased a bag of cactus soil, along with five different types of succulents.  Chris made sure we included an aloe plant and was most helpful in selecting the best looking succulents for shape, color, and variety.  Once again, I filled the bowl with river rocks for drainage, followed by a layer of cactus soil, and then added the succulents.


At present, I like them in their dark soil (provides good contrast), but I may decide to add sand or black river rock to the top. Right now, I’m just enjoying the simple fact that I finally have super succulents!  They are sitting on the round oak dining table that Chris is currently using (thanks to my parents for another cast-off so that Chris could have furniture while ours is still in the city), where they get southern exposure thanks to the dining room window.  Hopefully he remembers to forget about them so they thrive! 😉

Something Old, Something New: Herb Garden

In honor of Halloween,

SPOILER ALERT: This is not a Halloween-themed post.   Sorry, folks!  I threw caution thematic blogging to the winds and decided to post about herbs, especially now that we have had our first hard frost and people might be thinking about bringing delicate plants indoors (or mourning their brown-and-black outdoor plant life).

We have started cooking with fresh herbs and love it.  I have totally joined the fresh herbs fanatics camp. It all started when I wanted to make homemade margherita pizza using fresh basil, which resulted in buying one of those wee organic basil plants so that I could have enough leaves to cover a pizza at a reasonable price.  That was last October.  Unbelievably, I have kept an inside plant alive for an entire year.  A. Ma. Zing.

I loved landscaping back when we owned our own home (and yard!) and didn’t have HOA restrictions on the kind of plants you can put in your yard. “No, you are a Bradford pear yard, so you can’t plant a Japanese maple.”  #Renterville This pretty much dampened any enthusiasm we had for improving the curb appeal of our current location…but not our enthusiasm for plants.   Consequently, I’ve been restricted to containers. On a small deck.  In full sun. In the South.  Le sigh.  Perhaps this, rather than the pizza, is what drove me to indoor plants despite not having the best track record with remembering to water them….

Anyway, given this surprising success with a lone basil plant, I decided to risk succulents.  They don’t need much attention, right?  I love succulents, and I like that their colors tend to coordinate nicely with all the fall/winter harvesty things like pumpkins, kale, etc. but also look crisp and cool in spring/summer.   I was really hoping to put some in a set of three glass containers my mom gave me I rescued from my mom’s giveaway box and make an entire succulent garden in an antique washbowl that Chris’s grandmother gave us was also giving away.IMG_2372

So in typical fashion, Chris and I headed to our local garden center/big box home improvement store (we prefer Blue but Orange has some good things, too) to look at the discounted/end of season plant selection.     The previous year, we lucked out with some ridiculously cheap gerbera daises and other flowering plants that somehow survived dying in the winter to bloom again this spring/summer.  No such luck this year, though.  I joked that the succulents were actually “sucky-lents” (yes, Chris groaned, as I’m sure you are doing, too).  The only ones that did not look pitiful were $$$ or mixed with cacti, which should not be part of a household with curious cats who like to rub on everything with texture. Trust me.  Plucking cacti stickers from a cat’s face is not a happy experience for anyone involved. Lots of gnashing of teeth and bleeding.

We went home empty-handed and sulky.  Okay, I went home sulky.  I think Chris might have been silently cheering.  Plants are not his thing.  He says it’s because he’s allergic to grass.  I think he’s “allergic” to plants in general, seeing as how he doesn’t seem to like eating many of them either.  Iceberg lettuce, raw carrots, and canned peas and green beans = the vegetable group for most of his life. [Shudder].   Thankfully he’s expanded his horizons in the last seven years since we got married.  Now he’s even eaten collards and fennel.  Ah, the things he does we do for love.

Then I saw this soup recipe in the Williams Sonoma catalogue that I wanted to try, now that colder weather is here.  The recipe called for fresh herbs…so I decided to create an herb garden in the washbowl instead of pining for puny or pricey succulents that just “look pretty.”  Chris heartily agreed to this idea, so we bought a rosemary plant and a parsley plant to join our beloved basil.

In the washbowl, I first laid a bed of river rock to facilitate drainage around the roots.


Then I topped the rocks with some potting mix (aka whatever was leftover in the garage…not sure this is typically what you’d typically use for herbs, but it was already purchased).


Then I planted and watered the herbs…and ta da: herb garden!


With regular misting, the herbs are flourishing and are making regular appearances in our meals.


In fact, dear Basil seems to be doing better than when he was a lone ranger.  Is there such a thing as a social plant? Who knows.  The herbs sit in the microscopic “breakfast area” where they can receive enough sun but not freeze with winter approaching.


PS: That soup recipe didn’t turn out so well (too expensive for the tastiness factor, which was lacking greatly IMO), but at least it was the catalyst for the herb garden and the subsequent tasty meals it has provided! 🙂

Tidbits: Pumpkin Pincushion

Happy fall, y’all!

Okay, so it’s not fall yet, but it’s almost September (close enough, right?).    As a former educator, back to school time conjures up plenty of sights, sounds, and smells (fresh crayons and stacks of Post-its, anyone?).  I am a sucker for school/office supplies.  Remember that line from You’ve Got Mail, when Tom Hanks’ character types, “I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils” to Meg Ryan’s character?  Love. it.  Especially a bouquet of yellow Ticonderoga pencils!

Confession: I actually hate writing with #2 wooden pencils.  I just love looking at them.  Have you ever noticed that brand new sharpened pencils are like daisies?  They arrange themselves in their container (if you have enough to look like an actual flower arrangement). But I digress….

Anyway, once school is back in session, fall seems to be just around the corner.  I am totally one of those people who breaks out the fall decor on the inside of my house on Labor Day weekend.  The outside decor goes up on the first official day of autumn so at least the neighbors don’t think I’m too crazy.

For some reason (despite the ridiculously hot weather we are having), it feels like it should be fall (maybe because I am wishing for cooler weather).  Don’t get me wrong.  I love summer.  But there is something wonderful about autumn.  And pumpkins.  And crisp leaves.  And cool evenings.  And hot cider.  And baked apples.  And pumpkins.  And hooded sweatshirts.  And football games.  And sweaters.  And pumpkins.  Did I mention pumpkins?

Speaking of pumpkins, to satisfy my ridiculously early craving for fall this year, I made this pincushion:


I followed the Fiskars tutorial (from  I first saw this project when I purchased some sewing supplies from Jo-Ann’s and immediately googled it when I got home to investigate further.

Okay, I mostly followed the tutorial, but made a key modification: Instead of sewing the leaf inside out, reversing it, and stitching closed, I actually sewed it by hand right-side out.  Yes, this meant that the rough edges are exposed, but this makes the leaf look a bit more realistic.  If you look closely at pumpkin leaves, they aren’t “perfect” along the edge either (no, my leaf is not shaped like an authentic pumpkin leaf–my fabric cutting skills aren’t that impeccable just yet).  Plus, it also allowed me to pull the thread taut in such a manner that it made my leaf curl, giving it more dimensionality and character, I think.  Like a leaf that is starting to shrivel up just a wee bit.

Check out the tutorial if you are an “autumnut” like I am–very cute, very fun, fairly simple.  My pumpkin is not quite as segmented as the tutorial’s, though, which was a bit disappointing.  The directions said to make sure you stuffed your pincushion with enough filler to make it plump, but I think I must have overstuffed (overachiever that I am)  because each time I pulled the embroidery thread around the sections tighter to make the sections plump out, my thread would break (and I wasn’t using cheap thread!).  I suppose I could undo my stitching and take some stuffing out to see if it improves things, but I’m reluctant to destroy it.  At any rate, it’s good enough for the first pincushion I’ve ever made and is cute enough to be a fall decoration.  Apparently, it is also tempting as a cat toy, as I saw one of our sneaky littles pawing at it a couple of days ago. That gives me an idea for another tidbit, though: cat toys…maybe filled with catnip instead of loose threads? Meow.