Sunday, November 30, 2008

Still Haven't Found the Motivation...

... to get anything done around the house. So instead tonight, I am watching "Nazi Scrapbooks From Hell" on National Geographic. It feels very odd to me, watching the footage. Only three years ago, I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. There isn't really any accurate description that I can use to describe what I saw. Eerie. Chilling. Evil. None of these words can really capture the inhumanity. However, it's really something that I strongly believe that everyone should see at some point in their life.

"... at Auschwitz is the presence of absence. In other words, you feel the absence of the people who were there." That is very very true.

When you walk into Auschwitz, there are long rooms with glass encasements that run the length of the room. Rooms filled with human hair. Rooms filled with only toothbrushes and hairbrushes, piled waist-high. Rooms with only suitcases. Rooms with mounds of shoes. Seeing this and realizing it was only a tiny tiny fraction of the people that came through there... again, indescribable.

"Arbeit Macht Frei." Work Brings Freedom.

Auschwitz grounds

Execution wall

Guard Tower

Patrolled border

Birkenau Entrance: "Death Gate". The largest of the the Nazi concentration camps.

"In March 1944, the Germans invaded Hungary. Hungarian Jewry underwent in 4 months what had taken 3 years in Poland. The invasion was March of 1944. Ghetto-ization was April and early May.

437,402 Jews were shipped to Auschwitz between the 15th of May and the 8th of July, almost all to Auschwitz. 437,402 Jews on 147 trains in 54 days. The arrival rate at Auschwitz was approximately 8,000 people a day. 80% of whom were killed immediately upon arrival."

-Micheal Brenebaum, Ph.D., Director
Ziering Holocaust Institute

Remains of Crematorium #2

View of brick barracks through barbed wire

View of remains of 300+ wooden barracks

Wow, so I was not intending this to be such a depressing post. Sorry! On a bit of a lighter note, this past summer my uncle told a story of when he was young. The allies had ordered all lights out at night (small town in the Netherlands). He and his brother jimmy-rigged a bicycle tire on the roof to power a light bulb so that they could read at night. :)

Oskar Schindler's Factory Gate

And the purpose of my trip:

Habitat for Humanity

This building process needs its own post. It was so much fun! Hard work, but fun! I went into it blind, not knowing a single member of the 12 person team. It was eye-opening, humbling, somewhat dangerous (for a non-builder like me... ahem. Definitely not OSHA safe!)

Down under (and sunburned) at the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Very cool! I swear! Who though a salt mine could be neat?

Everything was made (carved) from salt, including the chandelier "crystals".

Underground lake and tunnel

In Krakow

Monday, November 17, 2008

Airing my Dirty Laundry

I am so unmotivated with the house reno projects that I've taken to organizing. Pinky promise that I'll show some of those projects soon. In the meantime...

I can’t turn a wooden hanger away:
My closet is the worst use of space ever. It’s big… 10 feet wide. But only 4 of those feet are easily accessible. I bought a double-rod ClosetMaid organizer; I just haven’t installed it yet. (Yeah, that lack of motivation...) If you haven’t figured out that I hate visual clutter by now, here’s Meg at her most obsessive-compulsiveness.

First, get rid of your wire hangers. They aren’t pretty, they get caught on each other, and they put weird stretch marks in your clothes. Buy a bunch of plain plastic hangers. Personally, I like wooden ones.

Then organize by type. I like to separate my collared shirts from my camisoles and Matt’s work shirts from his t-shirts. Then I organize each section by color. Yes, I said color. Stay with me here. I swear it really cuts down on the decision time. When you dress, don’t you base a lot of your decisions on color? What matches or “goes” with the outfit?

This was my brain this morning: I’ve worn black pants nearly every day in the last week. Before anyone thinks I’m wearing the same pair of pants over and over, maybe I should wear gray today. (Scan gray pants, pick a pair.) I think a teal or green sweater would look good with the gray. (Scan green sweater section.) Hmmmmm… I need to layer a shirt underneath. (Scan to the purple camisoles and find one that goes with the style of sweater.)

Containers multiply like gremlins in my house:
I also love drawer organizers. It helps keep my bras separated from my undies and my trouser socks from my gym socks. I spared you from the actual items. I’m sure no one wants to look at that! (And I really don’t want my underwear posted on the internet.)

Even the dirty laundry doesn’t stand a chance:
I hate sorting laundry. Hate it. So having a few hampers in my closet makes me sort as I undress at the end of the day. When I throw a load into the washer in the morning (practically sleepwalking and wondering if I have any non-black pants that are clean), all I have to do is grab the hamper and take it with me to the washer. No sorting required.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm Betting Only 0.35% Finish Reading This

I've noticed that a portion of my blog hits are actually coming from Google searches, like "How To Hang an Ikea Malma Mirror." I knew I wasn't the only one that couldn't figure that out! lol I'm probably going to lose some of you at this point because this particular post is very specific. So unless you plan on installing Ikea's Tundra laminate flooring soon, you don't need to bore yourself by reading any further. I promise I'll return to the house renovation posts soon. (And probably some more organizational posts too. I can't stop. It's a sickness.)

Now for those of you needing some tips on the installation process of the Tundra flooring, this is for you, especially after that super-duper sale on the flooring from last month!

We choose Ikea's Tundra flooring because overall it’s a great product for the price. Very durable! It wasn’t in my budget to do Pergo. I think Pergo is a slightly superior product (in density and installation) but if you are looking to save money, this is the next best thing! The other products in this price-range looked… cheap. First of all, we had some help in our installation. My brother (a former Lowes flooring manager) and BIL (who does floors for a living) helped us start. If you don’t know someone that’s done this before, don’t worry! Take one of those free laminate flooring classes that Lowes/Home Depot runs. We learned lots from it and got some actual hands-on time in the class.


1. The spacer/taping block/metal thing tool kit that Ikea sells.
2. I don’t know much about saws but you’ll need a saw that will cut the boards the long-way and the short-way.
3. A hammer
4. Knee pads like what volleyball players wear. Trust me, your knees will thank you!
5. An old dense paintbrush (to wipe off the dust in the lip before you click and lock)
6. A little hand saw specifically for cutting under door frames


I don’t think you have to buy Ikea’s brand. You can pick up other brands at a home improvement store. Just don’t buy Ikea’s cardboard-like product. Not good if you have any water issues like we did! Most underlayment is plastic. It’s also usually a moisture-barrier (a MUST if you are installing on a slab) and helps quiet the sound. Check the packaging to make sure about the moisture-barrier. As you lay the sheeting out, you’ll need to tape the seams with special underlayment tape which is available at any home improvement store.

The product itself:
When you buy the flooring, leave it in the boxes. Put it in the room where they will be installed. They need to acclimate in the box in the room for at least 48 hours. If you don’t have central a/c and can install in summer, I’d do it because humidity makes it expand.

Each box has nine boards. While all the boards are the same exact size, they don’t all have the same exact pattern. (Meaning the wood grain look to the board.) If you install them willy-nilly, it looks fine. But it looks fabulous if you install them in the right order because then all the boards look continuous and the seams aren’t as visible. I think there are three patterns. As you open the boxes, you’ll want to separate the each pattern into it’s own pile. Figure out which pattern matches the next pattern. Then install board 1, then 2, then 3, then 1, etc. Hopefully that makes sense! It can get a little tricky because the pattern was a bit puzzling if I remember correctly. It was like 1, 2, 3, 2, 3. It took us a few minutes to figure out something that seemed really simple. lol

Figure out how you want to run the boards. North to south? East to west? Some things to keep in mind… sunlight. Depending on which way you run it, it can make the seams appear more noticeable. i.e. Our boards run north-south. Our sunlight is mainly southern sun so you see the seams a bit more in the light. (Not really noticeable, IMO.) They “say” that I should have installed it east-west. But my hallway, entryway, and galley kitchen all run north-south and it looks much better when the flooring is run in the same direction.

General installation: Lowes/HD can probably tell you much better than I can. But just some things I remember... The spacers are important because the laminate will expand in hot weather. The spacers help accommodate for this. There will be a gap between your baseboards and the flooring. Purchase some quarter-round and attach it to the baseboard after you install the flooring. My suggestion: paint the quarter-round the same color as your trim. I’ve seen it the same color as the flooring and it just doesn’t look as sharp.

The click-and-lock is pretty easy. Before you actually do that part, I use an old paint brush to dust off the lips of the boards because the grit can prevent the boards from being seamless if you don’t. This is the one very apparent downside to Ikea’s quality. It’s almost like there are little jagged cardboard pieces in there sometimes.

Watch Ikea’s online video regarding the actual installation or youtube it (since their video is a bit of a joke with cartoon characters and no sound. lol But you’ll get the picture.) It shows how to start, how to overlap each row’s seams, etc. The first row you lay is easy because you are only clicking them on the sides. The subsequent rows are a bit more tricky because you are clicking them on the top and sides.

Let’s say you are working on row 2:

Lay down the first board in row 2, click-and-locking it to the board above it. Wiggle the board into place at the top. Make sure it’s seamless all the way across. Sometimes you REALLY have to wiggle it and press into it. Once you lay down the board, the seam disappears if you did it right.

Put the next board close to the previous board but give it a tiny bit of space on the left/right side (depending which direction you are going). Push it into place with the board above it. Then take the plastic tapper and lay it on the side of the board. Tap the block with a hammer until it “clicks” into place with the board on the left/right side. Be careful where you place the tapper. There’s a bit of a ledge you need to lay it on. If I wasn’t careful and didn’t put it on the ledge, I’d break the edge of the board. Very frustrating! But once I figured that out, it was smooth sailing! The metal thingy included in the kit comes into play when you get to the edge of a row because the tapper obviously won’t fit between the board and the wall.

Continue this process until finished. And viola! You have a great looking floor for a great price.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wine for Lunch?

I've been in need of a lunch bag for quite some time now. I usually use an old plastic grocery bag until it rips and my lunch falls on the ground in the parking lot. But this morning I told myself that it's time for a designated lunch bag. I never have extra plastic bags anymore since I've started using canvas bags for my shopping.

Enter an unused grocery store wine bag.

My grocery store offers a free wine carrier with any wine purchase. The problem? There are six spots and I never buy six bottles at a time. The bag is just a waste... until I started looking at it a bit closer this morning. It's the perfect size for a lunch bag. However, the interior just won't work for my food containers. Unless my lunch is wine, I suppose.

I started ripping one of the interior seams to make a larger space. Viola! And I still have a space for my water bottle and whatever else I plan to carry with me that day. (Today, that's my grocery coupons and ads.) I love when I figure out new uses for old things.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Can your house be secure enough?

I've been getting quotes on some home security systems after I had a strange visitor at my door on Sunday afternoon. Let me first explain that I am a somewhat suspicious person. I work for a bank so I am trained to look for security threats, especially physical threats and identity theft. I've also had the unfortunate experience of going through a bank robbery, complete with a gun pointed at my head. It's not a fun thing and it took me a long time to get over. But if anything, that experience gave me the gift to start paying more attention to my surroundings.

I don't usually open the door if I don't recognize the person through the peephole. However, this time I did. Standing there was a teenager. He said he was there to pick up a bag. Having never seen this kid before (or any bag), I was thoroughly confused. I asked what type of bag. He said it was a paper bag, motioning a size slightly smaller than a grocery bag. I asked him when and where it was left. He said the bag was left on the front porch last week. I kept repeating that I didn't know what he was talking about. He shrugged his shoulders and left. I watched him jog off to his friend that was standing in the street. They walked away, not stopping at any other houses.

Was it drugs and they had me confused with another house? Were they casing the place? Were they checking to see if anyone was home before breaking in? There was a residential burglary one block down last week. I've been wanting to get a home security system but this just helped me get on the ball. I started making calls. I also started talking to the neighbors, seeing if they have noticed anything suspicious.

Well... I found out the deal with the kid. My neighbor said the bag was for a church food drive! lol She received her bag last week, filled it up with canned goods, set it on her porch, and saw a boy (fitting the same description) pick up the bag Sunday afternoon. Whoops! Couldn't he have just said that?! But I'm not changing my mind about the security system.

I have been getting some quotes/assessments from three different security companies. During the house assessments I discovered that I've been doing a lot of things right. Here are some tips to make your house less of a target:

1. Keep exterior areas well-lit and trim down any overgrown shrubs. I keep my porch light on dusk to dawn. I will be replacing the side and back lights with motion detector lights. Always have an interior light on at night. I keep a living room light on a timer.

2. Deadbolts. Seems obvious but I was really surprised when I knocked on my neighbors' doors. Some didn't have deadbolts and others had pretty flimsy locks. A police course taught me that the screws for the plate into the door frame should be at least 2 1/2 inches long. It makes it much more difficult for the door to be kicked in.

3. Use double cylinder deadbolts on doors with glass. Two of my doors are half glass. If I had a regular deadbolt, all you would have to do is break a small pane of glass, reach in, and unlock the door. Do yourself a favor and use the deadbolts that need a key on both sides to prevent this. (To avoid a fire hazard, keep the key nearby... just not within reach from the door.)

4. Keep your curtains closed when you are not home. Don't give potential burglars a chance to look in your windows, looking for items to steal. I am most adamant about this when I am at work and a little more lax when I step out for a quick errand.

5. Consider a monitored security system. My homeowners insurance offers a 15% discount if you have one. Not bad!

6. If you are on vacation, stop your newspaper and have the post office hold your mail. (Both are simple and common requests.) Keep lights and tv's on timers. Make sure your lawn is mowed or driveway is shoveled.

With the holidays coming and the economy in it's current state, banks know that identity theft, burglaries, and bank robberies become much more prevalent. Be aware of your surroundings and keep safe!