Category Archives: a project a week

A Project a Week:: Week 6: Letters

Week: 6
Project: Write two letters

I owe letters to several friends. It’s not just that I “owe” them – I want to write to them! This week I will carve out time to write those letters. I love getting mail, and I love that I have friends who still send mail —  and I want to return the sweet gesture. Letter-writing was a huge part of my life for a long time, but it’s fallen away recently. I have letters started, never finished, now outdated. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish if I don’t give myself a deadline.

Do you still send and receive letters?

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A Project a Week:: Week 5: Complete

Week: 5
Project: Patio sprucing
Status: Complete!

I love projects like this one.  After a couple hours of picking up/gathering supplies and planting, the patio looks awesome.

I picked up two new large planters ($12 a piece at Ocean State Job Lots! They have a good selection of garden stuff right now.) and cleaned up a couple more that were gathering dust in the garage.

I bought a bunch of plants, again from Honest Weight (great prices right now- I spent less than $20 on enough plants for four planters plus the border of the garden.) I ended up with four new planters brimming with flowers and plants, plus a newly-planted border along the garden side.  Quite a bit of impact for under $50 and a couple hours time.

I love looking out the back door and seeing the colorful planters and welcoming patio.

I forgot to take a shot of the whole patio (before or after), so you’ll have to believe me that it spruced up well. It’s a nice spot for our family to eat dinner together every night, and it certainly makes me feel good.
In other yard news, the raised bed garden is coming along nicely. There are baby tomatoes, the peas are climbing the trellis, and the calendula and zinnias have buds. We only got a handful of strawberries before the creatures of the yard got to them, despite the bird netting- oh well, it was worth a shot.

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A Project a Week:: Week 5: Patio Sprucing

Week: 5
Project: Tidy and spruce the patio

The goal this week: get flowers planted in pots around the patio and generally spruce it up. We use the patio a lot during the summer for dinner and after-baby’s-bedtime drinks. It hasn’t gotten a ton of attention yet other than the new border shrubs, and I want to add some potted plants and flowers and just generally clean it up.

The challenge here is that the small breezeway porch that borders the patio is under-construction, as Pat has taken down the ugly louvres that have been there for 50 years and is rebuilding/replacing the three sides.

The patio has come a long way since we moved in, when it was half-asphalt (terrible bumpy broken many-layered asphalt) and half poorly-laid flagstone. Once the porch is done we’ll have completed all the major work we envisioned for this area of our yard. Almost there!

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A Project a Week:: Week 4: Complete

Week: 4
Project: Reign in the toy chaos with some hidden toy storage.

Status: Complete!

This one was super satisfying to check off the list. This is the kind of project that will be ongoing, but getting to a good place with the toy organization feels good. 

We started out with toys in every little corner of the living room, and Evy would regularly pull every single toy out and then move on to do the same thing in her room. There was too much stuff around for her to concentrate on any one thing for very long, and we needed some order to the situation. We have a small living room that doubles as play room for now. Here’s some ‘before’ shots to set the scene.

I had attempted some organization with some bins and baskets here and there, but mostly they were crammed with stuff, some outgrown, with no rhyme or reason to where things were. 


Storage in a small ottoman started out well, and then just became layers and layers of toys, pieces of puzzles, and just another place to hide the mess. 



As I talked about in my last post, I wanted to drastically cut down on the number of toys out and visible at any one time, weed out anything that had been outgrown, broken, or should be filed elsewhere, and generally make it a less overwhelming scene for everyone.

I started by moving the blankets we had stored in our coffee table/ottoman and finding new homes for them. My goal was to stow most of the toys out of site in our two ottomans. 

The second step was going through and removing anything that had been outgrown –  a tote bag full of rattles, teethers, cloth books, and a couple stuffed animals went to basement storage.

I put most of the books from the living room along one side of the ottoman (I left out about five books in various baskets around the living room – we’ll rotate these once a week or so). I added a couple baskets to organize things inside the ottoman. One basket contains the musical instrument-type toys. Another contains puzzles (now in bags to contain the pieces) and a couple of other toys. Some wooden toys and puppets take up the remaining space arund the baskets. It’s more organized than this photo lets on, really.

The smaller ottoman, previously crammed with stuff, contains just a few larger toys and a basket with some smaller toys. The plan is to rotate the toys that are stored out-of-sight with the toys ‘on display’- always keeping just a few out for play.


Storing toys in the ottomans freed up some baskets. The basket on the left contains a couple books and a small bag of about eight wooden blocks. The other basket contains our Playmobil Noah’s Ark, an all-time favorite. 

On to the bookshelf. I gave in and moved another stack of our (grown-up, non-board) books to another room. I also moved the extra chair and other clutter out of the corner and into another room (which now needs to be organized, of course). Another basket here contains a couple of board books. Just a few toys are displayed on the shelf (and I may even edit this further). 


 This is the final corner of the room. The table is still a favorite (even without the lights and sounds turned on- phew), so that stays out for now but I anticipate stowing that away in the near future. 




That’s the large ottoman, where all those toys and books are nicely concealed (hopefully it will be a little while before Evy realizes what’s in there and figures out how to bust in…)

I felt like I could see a difference in Evy’s play immediately. She played with her blocks for awhile this morning, rather than emptying the bag and moving on. She’s always spent a good amount of time with her books, but today she went back and forth between two rather than twelve. And when we brought her to the living room for clean-up at the end of the day, it was a much quicker process!

My remaining challenge here is the stuffed animal situation. Most of them are in E’s room and not the living room, but I don’t know what to do with them, how to store/display them, or how to cull the growing collection. Evy has been gifted some adorable stuffed animals, and she has a couple favorites, but the giant teetering pile in her room isn’t in line with the toy streamlining we’re working on. She doesn’t really play with them, and they are very hard to store. I really don’t know what to do about that one. I guess that’s a project for another week!

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A Project a Week:: Week 3: Complete

Week: 3
Project: Organize the plasticware cabinet (and finish hemming the curtains!)
Status: Complete (mostly)

The plasticware cabinet has been tamed! 

While the very-curious toddler was safely napping in her crib, I pulled everything out of the cabinet. (And totally forgot to take a ‘before’ photo. It wasn’t pretty. I’m sure you’ve seen an overflowing cabinet.)

I had a few rules: 
  • Anything that went back into the cabinet had to have a matching lid.
  • Containers with any sort of damage would be chucked.
  • Anything we hadn’t touched in a year would be thrown out or relegated to basement storage.
 Here’s what didn’t make the cut:
  •  A very fun but never-used, ice-cube tray for making arrow-shaped ice.
  • Two metal racks for our pizza stones. We use the stones once a week, but never use the racks. 
  • Two plastic pitchers.
  • A scraper for the George Foreman grill that we gave away prior to moving to Albany in 2009.
  • A travel coffee mug that I didn’t know existed.
  • A stack of lids for plastic deli containers.
  • A burger patty shaper.
  • A lasagna pan that we use from time to time, but not frequently enough to store here. 
  • Several containers either damaged or missing lids.
  • Several lids without matching containers. 
  • A cat-shaped lid for cans of cat food. Our cat has had canned food a total of three times.
  • One of those trays for microwaving bacon. Gag. I have no idea why we own that thing. 
Storage space is at a premium in our kitchen, so weeding out all this stuff made a big difference.
Here’s the cabinet after putting the frequently-used items back:

It’s not easy to see, but you get the overall idea. It’s an organized cabinet! The remaining lids and containers are organized by size/shape. Larger containers and the electric mixer live on the top shelf, cutting boards and containers on the bottom. After taking this photo I relocated our travel mugs from the counter to the area behind the container storage, and placed the toddler snack cups in the open area in front. There is also room remaining for our glass/aluminum food storage containers that currently take up valuable counter space.
Another long-looming project, done!
(Curtain update to follow…)

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A Project a Week:: Week 3: Organize the Overflowing Plasticware Cabinet

Week: 3
Project: Organize the plasticware cabinet (and finish hemming the curtains!)

Background: There isn’t much to say except that the cabinet that houses our plasticware/cutting boards/etc has become a cluttered mess. I’ve been buying fewer plastic storage containers and more glass/aluminum containers, and the new stuff has no place to live – so this needs an overhaul.

The Plan: Match containers to lids, ditch anything that doesn’t have a match or is in bad shape, move anything we haven’t used since moving in to the ‘donate’ pile, make space for glass and aluminum containers/lids currently taking up counter space, and do it all during a naptime so that this cabinet doesn’t become toooo appealing to the toddler in the house.

Also: Finish hemming the curtains that did’t get hemmed last week.

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A Project a Week:: Week 2: Hemming Curtains – Update

So, here we are. At the end of Week 2.

And I have not finished hemming our curtains. (Although they are pinned, so that’s progress.)

The thing is, the weather this week was amazing. And there was a three-day weekend. So, other projects took precedent.

I could consider this a failure, but I’m going to take it as a Project a Week lesson. Sometimes, project plans change based on conditions. The important part is that projects are getting checked off the list.

Instead of hemming curtains this week, I:

  • Transitioned my closet from winter to summer.
  • Planted flowers in pots for the front stoop.
  • Weeded the front gardens and planted some new annuals.
  • Collaborated with Pat to pick out shrubs for the patio border (Pat did the hard part of this project, planting the shrubs on an 85-degree day- and it looks great)
  • Planted marigolds in the vegetable garden for some natural pest-control and added bird netting over the strawberries and chives (a cute but destructive rabbit has already been helping himself to the chives- hoping the netting deters him)
  • Planted bulbs and thinned out lily-of-the-valley in the side yard.
  • Planted various other flower bulbs/seeds and herbs in containers on the patio.
I still feel like it was a productive week, although I did stray from my plan. 
Since the curtain-hemming project is partially complete, I’m going to keep this one in the plans for next week and add another. 

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A Project a Week:: Week 2: Hemming Curtains

Week: 2 
Project: Hem bedroom curtains

Does everyone have these little projects that hang around, undone, for ages? Or is it just us?

Background: A few weeks before Evelyn was born last year, we did a mini-makeover of our bedroom: moved all the furniture out, scrubbed the floors and walls, purchased a new mattress and bedframe (our first actual headboard/footboard set up), put up shelves, photos and artwork that we’d wanted to hang since we moved in, organized nightstands and dressers, and hung new curtains. Except the curtains were too long, and we meant to hem them, but Evy was born a week later and, well, those curtains are still dragging on the floor in front of the baseboard heaters. (By the way, I highly suggest the master bedroom spiff-up as a pre-baby project for expectant parents. There’s so much focus on the baby’s room but, at least in our case, the baby spent more time in our room than hers for the first 6+ months. I spent a lot of time there with her in the early weeks and I was so thankful that we’d gotten it in order before she arrived.)

The Plan: There’s not much to it- this week, I will hem those curtains. Not the most exciting project, but it will be crazy satisfying to cross this one off the list.

It is beyond silly that this project has needed doing for over a year, but it is what it is, and this week it’s time to get ‘er done — which is, of course, the entire point of this Project Project.

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A Project a Week:: Week 1: Complete

Week: 1 
Project: Plan and plant my vegetable garden
Status: Complete (mostly)

The vegetable garden has been planted!  Since kicking off this project last week I checked the following off my list:

  • Planned out the garden, taking into account that we’ll also have a farm share, so we don’t need a ton of veggies.  
  • Bought seedlings (tomatoes, strawberries, oregano, parsley, chives, calendula, zinnia) to plant in addition to some sugar snap pea seeds I already had on hand. I bought most of my seedlings at Honest Weight Food Coop – they’ve had a beautiful selection of organic vegetable and herb seedlings. I picked up the zinnias and a few other random flower seedlings at a neighborhood plant sale.
  • The organic co-op seedlings are lovely, but the tags could use a little proofreading (click to view larger…)  
  • Planted the herbs in a container garden on the patio. 
  • My partner-in-crime/husband built the frame for the netting we’ll put up for the peas and tomato vines.
  • Picked up some other supplies like soil and bird netting to go over the strawberries.
  • Planted the seeds and seedlings in the raised beds. 
Before:
After the frame for the vine plants was built, but before any plants or seeds were in the bed. 
After:
Not much to look at yet, but everything has been planted! We’ll add the net to the frame this weekend so it will be all ready for the peas. 

This wasn’t a huge project- I did most of it in small chunks during E’s naps. Giving myself a 1-week timeline (and the fact that I had to report back on it here!) kept things moving along. Focusing on this project also inspired me to work on some other projects around the yard- it felt like a productive week. 
I still need to buy some basil for a second container on the patio (the nights were still too cold to plant it last week), put the bird netting over the berries, and hang the nets for the peas. That should be wrapped up this weekend.
Gardening has already been fun with the little one  — I had some help with the watering this morning.

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A Project a Week:: Week 1: Planning and Planting



Week: 1 
Project: Plan and plant my vegetable garden


Background: The summer of 2010 was our first summer in this house, our first home. We built and planted our first raised bed vegetable and herb garden, loosely following the square foot garden method. We planted too many things and generally had no idea what we were doing, but we certainly learned a lot! We harvested tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, cucumbers, beans, lettuce, and peppers. We made notes about what to do in future years and hashed out plans for building more beds.



In the summer of 2011 our time and attention was consumed by the darling infant who had arrived that spring, and pretty much everything else fell off our radar. We hastily planted some tomatoes and peppers, watched the mint that we stupidly planted the year before take over everything, and really didn’t touch the garden.


This year I’m determined to have a successful garden.  Being outside and having a few minutes to myself to tend the garden is calming, centering, and good for the soul. I want that back in my life this summer. I am imagining summer evenings of putting my daughter to bed and heading to the yard before the sun sets for some time with the garden. That’s not to mention my excitement over afternoons spent showing my daughter the garden and teaching her how to pick and bite cherry tomatoes. She’s still very young, but this is the summer she’ll begin her journey of gardening and learning about where food comes from.


The plan: I’ve spent a couple nights this week thumbing through my gardening books and finalizing my plan for the garden. My challenge is that our family is also doing a farm share. We’re splitting a share with friends, but we’ll still be getting plenty of vegetables from the farm. That changes my planting goals. Rather than planting for a summer of vegetables from the garden, I’m planting vegetables to round out the farm share (hard to predict), that we can easily process or freeze, and that my 13-month old will enjoy picking and eating throughout the summer. Since that will leave plenty of room in the bed, I’m also planning to grow several rows of pretty flowers to cut and enjoy/share through the fall.





I originally thought I’d start my own seeds, but clearly that ship has sailed. Perhaps another year, if I can figure out a spot for seedlings that’s free from danger of crushing by child or cat.


At this point my plan is to visit a local nursery and co-op to pick up some plants over the weekend, and to get them in the ground within the next few days. The raised bed itself needs a bit of weeding and some soil refreshing, but overall is in pretty good shape. I’ll need to construct/string up some sort of frame and/or netting for the snap peas, but that might be a project for another week. My Mother’s Day request was for some time to work on this project, and I’m raring to go!

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