Loss of newspapers hurts our democracy

As a political junkie and a researcher by trade, I am saddened by the preliminary findings of this article given that more and more communities are losing their local papers.

Do Newspapers Matter? Evidence from the Closure of The Cincinnati Post (March 2009).

Authors, Sam Schulhofer-Wohl and Miguel Garrido of Princeton University, concluded that the loss of even a small paper made local elections less competitive.

The absence of the paper was associated with reductions in voter-turnout, the number of people running for office, and the likelihood of non-incumbent candidates prevailing.

The authors controlled for race, and age, and the effects of the historical presidential election on local elections in this one small geographic area. However, additional larger studies are needed to further examine this trend.

I think I'm going to melt some plastic

Ew! I know...here I am trying to get rid of plastic things from the house so why am I suggesting this?

Well, I got really inspired by some fabulous fun funky usable art where geeky nerdy science meets crafty goodness aka "instructables."

Here's a fused plastic zipper bag using plastic candy bags from an instructables contributor.

Or this appliqued fused plastic bag from another instructables fan.

You basically take 8 layers of plastic bags, sandwich them between parchment paper, and melt away after you finesse your talent at gaging heat, pressure, and timing the process.

Etsy has a tutorial on this basic process and moon>sun has more details and hints. (How did I not know there was a mass crafter-craving for this knowledge?)

With a little luck and some skill you can end up with something like this quick and lovely "farmer's market bag" from Modern Cottage....

Or this professional quality lined version from Moon > Sun.

And hey, it counts as sustainable under the "reuse" category right? So maybe I'll accidentally forget the reusable market bag so I can get some of the pink and purple plastic bags that merchants use around Easter...

Nifty Storage & Organization Ideas

Here are some super cool products that actually relate to the great suggestions offered by Rebecca when she assessed our home's storage and organizational needs.

Art & Creativity Center and Storage
This Elfa Kids Workstation allows maximum flexibility for keeping puzzles, art supplies, and other inspirational objects close at hand while providing adjustable height table tops for different size kids.

Vertical Storage for Entryway
These free-standing components from The Container Store starting from left to right can create an instant mudroom where none exists. Like at our house.

Underbed storage

Providing way more underbed storage than those tiny risers, these rackraisers are just one of the many space-saving ideas from dormbuys.

Enhanced lighting without rewiring

This handy switch allows you to add convenient light switches wherever you need them.

Yet another way to stack and store shoes

These stacking see-through Shoebby's have drawers so you can pull out just one pair of shoes without having to unstack the boxes.

Felt Pasta

Inspired by all that Fabulous Felt Food, I've been channeling my inner "Waldorf wanna-be" homeschooling mom to create magical creations of nature.

So I have been trying to replace our pile of plastic play food with felt versions.

Okay, those real Waldorf moms like this one and this one would probably raise her own sheep, shear them, spin and felt her own wool and then hand-dye it with vibrant vegetable dyes from her organic garden.
But that's not me, except in my day dreams. So I've got craft store felt to use.

So, voila! Here are our healthy tri-color farfalle and fettuccine pastas, dutifully stored in glass storage jars (gotta keep the play kitchen pantry organized as well as our own!), and lovingly prepared by our 3 year old.

It was so much fun (and easy) to make. And now the kids want to make more things! So stay tuned for more...I've been dreaming of felt sushi :)
BTW, I didn't realize Haba has a version of this farfalle as well like this sold by Petit Baby.

Here's the

Fabulous Felt Food

I must confess. I love felt food!

These Twinkle Cakes started it all when I first saw them a year or so ago. Aren't they just scrumptious???!!!

There are so many delicious source of inspiration from Etsy moms who sell patterns for felt food items like these from Gulf Coast Cottage. Even McCall's has gotten into the act.

No worries....there are even healthy items like these Biofina toys from Haba and on sale at Kidsurplus--one of my favorite online stores for great deals on high quality toys.

The kids got these Biofina items in their Christmas sock this past year and really love them!! The petit fours are especially wonderful for playing with our many tea sets.
The ice cream cones are fabulous for playing store because the "scoops" can reverse to alternate flavors if you flip them upside-down.

If this isn't great motivation and inspiration to get rid of plastic toy food I don't know what is!

Fruit and Vegetable Storage - Decluttering the Fridge

The refrigerator and counters at our house really need to be organized!

We need to find ways to keep the fruits and vegies visible to encourage healthy eating but also to keep them fresh.

So I've been asking, "What's the best way to store fruits and vegetables?

Containers for common bulk dry food sizes

What size storage containers do you need?

To help find the right glass storage containers for bulk food items, these calculations might help.

Container sizes
8 fl ounces = 1 cup
1 pint = 2 cups
1 quart = 4 cups
1 gallon = 16 cups
2 gallons = 32 cups
2.5 gallons = 40 cups

1 lb bag = about 4 cups (32 ounces)
5 lb bag = about 20 cups (5 quarts, 1.25 gallons)
10 lb bag = about 40 cups (2.5 gallons)

Sugar (white/brown)
1 lb bag = about 2 1/4 cups (18 ounces)
5 lb bag = about 11 1/2 cups (92 ounces, 3 quarts)

1 lb bag = about 2 cups (16 ounces)
5 lb gap = about 4 cups (1 quart)


1 lb bag = about 2 1/2 cups (20 ounces, under 1 quart)
3 lb bag = about 7 1/2 cups (60 ounces, under 2 quarts)
5 lb bag = about 12 1/2 cups (under 1 gallon)
10 lb bag = about 25 cups (1.6 gallons)
12 lb bag = about 30 cups (2 gallons)
25 lb bag = about 63 cups (4 gallons)
50 lb bag = about 126 cups (8 gallons)

Gallon jars in a file cabinet -- Am I crazy?

More indecision...

My latest brainstorm was to repurpose the 2 drawer lateral file (great deal from Smart Office Systems re-use showroom) as our "baking center."

Then I could store all the jars of dried goods in the drawer and easily pull them out for access. I wouldn't have to lift any heavy jars down off the shelf. And I could set the mixing bowl on the top of the file and scoop out ingredients from below.

Great....but the "Winning Jars" from my research, the 2 and 2.5 gallon Montana Jars are too large to fit in the drawer, although there smaller sizes available from limited sources.

So I'm back to thinking about those gallon "pickle" jars. On the plus side, they are lots cheaper. On the downside, the openings aren't as wide so it's hard to get a scoop inside. Plus, some lids aren't airtight and some lids are downright awful.
But here are some great resources for gallon jars and even some different types of lids.

Freund Container Company -- 1 Gallon jar (with lid) $3.95; 1/2 Gallon jar (with lid) $2.99. (You can opt for a variety of lid types. And they explain the differences)

Containers and Packaging Company -- 1 Gallon Jars (no lids) - $2.85, 1/2 Gallon Jars (no lids) - $4.28. Add $.40 to .97 per lid depending on type.

132 ounce square cracker jar with lid -- $6.95 from Storables
127 ounce square cracker jar with lid -- $8.73 from Freund Containers

Decorating on the cheap from the hardware

I saw this idea on HGTV one time and always wanted to try it.

Our Brady Bunch era ranch house has oddly wide windows. Funky proportions.

It's next to impossible to find drapery hardware that fits, especially without having to use those extendable rods (yuck! curtains get stuck on the "hump") or without spending a fortune.

So check out these easy fixes for this problem using steel conduit as a drapery rod!!!

Great instructions and photos from shelterrific.

And an interesting bracket from diggs magazine!

Check out Thrifty Fun for finial ideas and using copper pipe as well as spoons and other household items for curtain hangers.

I wonder if this kind of bracket from Lowes would be the right size for one of the steel pipes.

And while you're working with steel pipe, here's something else you can do with it, courtesy of the Friends of Burlington Gardens. Go ahead, get a jump on spring and start an indoor garden!!

Thimble Garden

This thimble garden from ressurection fern is just too cute for words! Thanks to www.heavypetal.ca for the link!

Radical transformations

It must be the spring weather approaching, or maybe cabin fever finally sent me over the edge, but I'm itching to do something creative in creating our vision of a beautifully organized house.

Of course, I have to get organized first so that I can have the space to be creative!

Just take a look at this radical transformation from a very cool "IKEA hackers" blog. (Those DIYers do amazing things with IKEA products. I loved how one guy turned his shoe cabinet into a laundry bin.)

Some creative folks used IKEA materials like this:

To end up here with some time, decopage and paint:

Play Kitchen

Gotta organize the play kitchen while we organize the grown-up kitchen too, ya know?
Here's a cut little DIY kitchen from stuff around the house from ApartmentTherapy.com's kid's section "ohdeedoh". Check out ApartmentTherapy's other winter jump-start projects submitted by creative DIYers.

MMMMmmm...delicious inspiration for making that pink kitchen Rosalie wants.
Can I start with something like this from (above) and end up with something like these kitchens (below)?
They're cute, bute expensive and made from particle board as I understand from the disappointed consumers/reviewers.

Left to right: KidKraft retro pink kitchen (different retro styles in red and also in silver!), KidKraft pastel kitchen.

Glass pitchers with sealed lids

In our quest to rid ourselves of plastic we've been without a pitcher for some time now. I have couple lovely pitchers that were grandma's but they don't have lids.

But here is a beautiful one from Lehman's store for simple living in Ohio. This pitcher holds 64 ounces, has an airtight lid, and is even made in the U.S.A. It's $14.95. Check them out for all sorts of great products that don't rely on electricity!!

This 67 ounce slim version is available from Storables stores for $12.95

DIY Shoe Storage

I was ready to get the economical shoe storage racks yesterday, but I convinced myself I could save that money for other storage projects.

So I've got to deconstruct those free MSU salvage hutches and rebuild them. Of course, the outdoors is the only place large enough to work on that project.

So today's sunshine and spring-like weather is nudging me to consider this project a real possibility in the near future. Too bad it's supposed to rain all weekend :(

Basic DIY

Here are some great tips from builder, Tim Carter, on building a cubby with pigeon holes:

Cubby hole sizes:
  • 9" wide x 6" high x 11.5" deep (works for shoes, slippers, etc.)
  • 10" wide x 12" high x 11.5" deep (works for work boots, roller skates, etc. though they may stick out of the front)


  • 3/4" plywood
  • 3/4" wide x 1/4" thick screen stop molding to hide the coarse plywood edge of each divider

DIY for everyone!

Here are more DIY ideas from Domino magazine depending on your level:

(Get it quick! March 2009 is their last issue!)

More shoe storage inspiration

Ikea trones storage boxes

Bo-Concept shoe cabinet

Reconfigured IKEA Sandnes shoe cabinet

Another repurposed IKEA cabinet.

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