Gramz's Blog

Musings of a crazy quilter

February 2012 - Posts

A few years ago, my DH moved us halfway across the country because he wanted to get a graduate degree. At 2,400 square feet, the home we left behind was pretty big and since everything we would take with us had to fit in our one vehicle and one moving truck we had to pare down substantially. What was most difficult for me to leave behind was the dining table, chairs, and buffet we had purchased secondhand from a neighbor. DH promised that we would buy new dining furniture as soon as we settled into our new home. He is always the optimist when it comes to money, but I knew it wouldn't be so easy.

Despite the best of his intentions, I knew it would be a long time before we could get new furniture. First of all, neither of us had work in our new town. Secondly, we were both students again. Thirdly, the new house needed work. It would be a long time before we would have the money to shop for furniture. In the meantime, we made do with one of those plastic lawn tables. You know the kind; it comes in a flat box and you assemble it by sticking the four legs into the slots on the underside of the tabletop. We had four stackable plastic chairs to go with it. It worked great and was easy to clean after meals. However, it's one serious flaw was that it was not steady if you had something on your plate that required a knife to cut. Serving steak? Forget it unless you are willing to serve guests their steak already cut up like we did for the kids.

I was determined to get a pretty, quality set. So when I had any "free" time - between my responsibilities as mother to a 12 year old, a one year old, undergraduate studies, graduate studies, and part time job - I was on the lookout for a dining suite. I would have been very happy with the antique Duncan Phyfe sets I found at very reasonable prices at a store I discovered in town. But my DH doesn't like antiques, preferring items to be new and shiny. So although I haunted the antique store, I also scoured furniture stores for deals and popped in to every yard sale I could find. Many months later, I did find a reasonably priced set I could be happy with. It was at a furniture store. I dragged my DH kicking and screaming to look at it. He was unimpressed. The one he picked out was made by a good quality manufacturer, but it was one of those really pricey models. I could just imagine it's shiny dark surface covered with fingerprints. The home we lived it was very casual in style, so that highfalutin version would be entirely out of place in our home.

In the end, it was DH who found the ideal set for us. When we were finally ready to buy, he got two competing stores to try to undercut each other's prices. I thought we still paid too much, but I did love the red oak mission style. We bit the bullet and bought the table, eight chairs, china cabinet, tv cabinet, and end tables because the dining and familiy rooms opened into each other and we wanted both rooms to coordinate. I had dreams of filling our entire home with mission style furniture and I was convinced that the table was so beautiful that some future generation of the Quilts family would be fighting over who would keep it.

I never dreamed at that time that the tv cabinet would go out of style so quickly. A few years and a couple of moves later, we had acquired one of those huge, newfangled, wall-mounted, flat screen, plasma televisions. What would I do with my tv cabinet? It was expensive when I bought it and it matched the rest of my furniture, so you can bet your boots I was not going to give it up without a fight. So I used it to store (depending on the house and the need) linens, games, sewing stuff, or the kid's video gaming equipment. I had seen in a magazine that someone had converted theirs into a home office and I seriously considered installing some of those metal drawer glides to make mine work like that. But I knew there wouldn't be enough leg room for my tall DH to really use it. So it remained a storage cabinet until very recently.

I finally came upon the perfect use for my old tv cabinet when we moved into our current (and, hopefully our last) residence. There is not enough closet space in our tiny home; in fact, there is no closet at all in our bedroom. So I went to the hardware store to figure out a way to put a closet rod in my tv cabinet. Someone else must have had the same brilliant idea, because I found a telescoping rod with brackets soldered to each end - perfect for installing in a cabinet. Once installed, I had the ideal place to store my hanging clothes. My dresses remain in the back of my son's closet; I don't wear them every day so it is not inconvenient at all. And since the new wardrobe matches the dining furniture so well, I left it right where it was and it blends in perfectly. 

Here is how you can convert your tv cabinet into storage for your hanging clothes:

1. Get yourself a tv cabinet. Measure to see if it is deep enough to hang clothes in. Make sure the side walls are sturdy enough to screw your rod into. If not, see if there is a sturdy place to install a 1"x4" support on both sides.

2. Remove existing shelving. In my case, I used an allen wrench (that L-shaped, hexagon piece that comes with assemble-yourself furniture).

3. Paint it or refinish it if necessary.

4. Place it in it's final spot because it is probably pretty heavy and the following steps are not too messy.

5. If your cabinet has a built in power strip, plug it in now. It will be too heavy to move after you hang your clothes. It will be handy to use if you install a light or if you want to put a decorative lamp on top of the cabinet.

6. Install an inexpensive light with a switch that is designed for under a cabinet. A battery operated push light will work, too.

7. Purchase a hanging rod long enough for your cabinet. In my case, I found one at Menard's for $7 that telescoped and had end pieces attached and screws included. Mark where you want the screws to go; make sure the doors will still open and close.

8. Using a small drill bit, pre-drill holes for the screws. To avoid drilling too far and going through the cabinet, mark the depth on your drill bit with a piece of tape which can be removed when you finish the project.

9. Install the hanging rod using the screws that came with the kit. Check to make sure the rod is secure before you hang your clothes.

10. Send me a pic of your project. I'd love to see it!






Posted by Gramz Quilts | with no comments

Since I married my hubby 27 years ago, we have lived in eight houses. I did the math: that is an average of 3.375 years per location. “Setting up housekeeping” as my great-grandmother used to say, would be so much easier if each new home had rooms of similar size or color as the previous place. But I was never that fortunate.


As newlyweds, our first house together was a church parsonage and it had not been improved for at least a dozen years. It had matted gold carpet in the living room and bedrooms; the kitchen had avocado appliances and that icky green was incorporated into the designs of the backsplash, countertops, and vinyl flooring. With the exception of the gray paneled bathroom and one paneled wall in the living room, the entire house had been painted so it was easy to freshen everything up with a coat of neutral paint.


Like most people, when we started out we didn’t have a lot of nice things so we made do. My DH (dear hubby) purchased us a second-hand couch and chair he described to me in a phone call as the shape and color of a football (they were chocolate brown with edges rounded rather than squared off). He brought his queen size bed and small chest of drawers from the house he grew up in. We salvaged a rusty table from the basement of the parsonage and used it in the kitchen with some folding chairs we borrowed from the church. For end tables I set some sturdy cardboard cases on end and arranged books in them like shelves. I raided my parent’s basement and found some odds and ends furniture that I put to good use. It was during those days that I learned the joys of yard sale-ing.


I discovered a store that sold discontinued wallpaper. I remember the time I worked nearly through the night and hung wallpaper in the kitchen, cleaned up the mess, and tumbled into bed. In those days, in addition to pastoring, my hubby held a “regular” job to pay the bills. When he rose early the next morning, he discovered the kitchen had changed overnight to country blue with lots and lots of geese. I could tell from his exclamation that he was impressed with my work. I smiled and rolled over to go back to sleep. From that moment, I was hooked on decorating projects.


Thankfully, I am married to a guy who usually likes my work (sometimes my ideas are not so great). The times he is unhappy with my projects are the times when those projects disrupt life in general, and dinner in particular. So, even if I can’t get the project completed in a single day, I do make an effort to get the mess cleaned up before he sees just how bad it got. Overall, he seems to be happy and I have even overheard him bragging about me once or twice.


Getting a different house every 3-4 years has not set any records, but it has given me some experience. I have learned what is important to pack and how to protect it for the move. I have learned what to let go. And I have learned when to make do and when to buy quality.


I still enjoy decorating my home and I especially like to get creative without spending lots of money because I can think of lots of things I would prefer to spend the money on. Some friends have asked me to write down some of my ideas. To tell the truth I don't believe my ideas are particularly brilliant; in fact most of them are spawned by someone else's idea: something I saw in a magazine or on television or in a store. Anyway, I thought I would share some of them here. I hope you will share some of your in return. Sharing our ideas with each other will keep our creative juices flowing.


Happy decorating!

Mrs. Komnenovich was my fourth grade teacher.


I was nervous on the first day of school, but the butterflies in my stomach were especially active since it was the first day of a new school. We had moved for the second time in eighteen months so this was the third school of my career in public school and it was different from the previous schools because those classrooms had all been on the single floor; Monfort Heights Elementary was a great big, old, three-storey building with a basement. When Monfort Heights Elementary inhabits my dreams it is always much bigger and has multiple basements; it also has many, many stairs between my classroom and the bus and I am always worried the bus will pull out before I can get there. It had a gymnasium but no pool. However, in my dreams there is a pool deep within the twisting and turning bowels of the hulking building - way beyond the lower level locker rooms. This all sounds more ominous than I intended, but I think the occasional dreams are just a way for me to work through particular stresses in my life.


I do remember bits of that first day of the fourth grade; especially the other students since this was my first time meeting them. The common names were Mike, Dave, Bob, Rick, and Tom for boys, as well as Karen, Mary, Debbie, Barb, and Lisa for girls. There were so many Karens that one girl opted to go by the pet name her family called her. Then there was also the girl of Greek heritage who, shocking to the rest of us, had no middle name yet when spelled out on paper her first and last names alone were longer than any of our three names.


That year was the first year that lessons in stringed instruments were offered in our school district and it had been decided to begin with fourth graders although the band instruments did not begin until the fifth grade. The “orchestra” teacher traced our hands on a piece of paper and recommended an instrument based on the size of our hand and the length of our arm. I picked the violin and I was surprised when my parents actually rented an instrument and encouraged me to play. Once we got to junior high and then high school, we were the class to introduce strings to each new school and we were the first orchestra students to graduate. Many kids dropped out along the way, opting to focus on sports or band or choir or art, but I managed to hang in there. I enjoyed it, but I also felt obligated to stick with it. If we all dropped out then future generations might not have this option. In retrospect, perhaps it was silly of me to that kind of pressure on myself, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real.


Fourth grade class work was challenging. I had always worked hard in earlier grades because I wanted to do as well as the really smart kids. You know the type: those who would shout out the last word on the spelling test although the words were given in no particular order or who finished the math assignment so quickly that they got to help the teacher grade the other papers. In the third grade I had always felt a step behind in math; I never could seem to finish quickly enough to help Mrs. Miller grade. My mom tells me it is because I struggled with the multiplication tables. Apparently I was a step behind here at Monfort Heights as well. There were three fourth-grade classrooms and for reading and math the students were divided by ability. At math time I found myself in another classroom with all the students of the middle group; I felt humiliated that I wasn’t good enough for the higher group. For reading, I was sent to Mrs. Richardson’s class – also the middle group.


In Mrs. Richardson’s class, I learned the importance of a good name. It happened only once, but I remember it well. While taking attendance she commented about how strong one boy’s name was: Ben J. She said it sounded like he would be a lawyer or a judge or something. She repeated his name for emphasis. I still wonder how his life turned out.


I didn’t stay forever in Mrs. Richardson’s class because one day she sent me back to my homeroom for reading. I had been promoted to the higher reading class! I was stunned and embarrassed; I hoped I didn’t draw the attention of the other children at that moment. But I was satisfied that I was finally where I wanted to be.


That year was the first year I felt mocked and bullied by another student. I wanted to do all things well and I wanted to be noticed, but even when I did well I did not wish to draw attention to myself. In art class when I lamented the less than satisfactory result on my project, one girl began to mock me. I think she interpreted my self-deprecating comments as false humility and decided to call me out on it. She was a popular girl who always wore the latest styles and confidently spoke her mind, so of course I wanted to be like her. I was miserable when she teased me about my accent which, unfortunately, was stronger whenever I returned from a trip to southern Kentucky to visit extended family. So I worked hard to perfect my speech and use of grammar so as not to be considered backward or stupid.


But English and grammar were difficult subjects for me – and my grade card showed it. I was devastated when my report card had a C next to English. Until that first fourth-grade report card I had straight As. I now recall that the school I attended for the second half of the second grade and for all the third grade was significantly behind the schools I attended in the first and the fourth grades. But the only thing I could think of when I saw my very first C, was that I was frustration because so much of the new curriculum seemed foreign to me. I felt dumb.


Despite the challenges of fourth grade, there was one redeeming thing about it: Mrs. Komnenovich. Mrs. K. (her name was often shortened thusly because the closest some people could get to pronouncing her name was Ms. Kuh-nen’-a-vich) must have been petite, because she didn’t seem very tall or wide to me. She wore polyester pantsuits and the tops were usually white or ivory colored and were printed with floral or geometric designs. Her lipstick was too bright, but she smiled often. I do remember an occasional student getting into trouble, but I do not recall her raising her voice or yelling. She didn’t have the walls covered with stuff like the classrooms of today, but the bulletin boards were always colorfully decorated and she planned crafts around the holidays. Best of all, at the end of the school day if our class work was completed, Mrs. K. played games.


I don’t recall if I ever had a teacher play “Around the World” like Mrs. K. The game is played with flash cards. A student stands next to the person seated behind him who is also standing. The first person to correctly identify the card moved to the next person behind and the loser is seated. Sometimes the subject was math, but my favorite was when she used the geography or States flash cards. The other students were familiar with the game, and Ricky W. blew us all away when it came to identifying the shapes of countries. With the States cards the subject would vary: state bird, state capital, or the state itself. I lived for the days we would play “Around the World”.


Sure, fourth grade was difficult, but there are lots of good memories, too. Some of the friends I made there were with me the day I graduated from high school. Since there were 557 students in our graduating class, I had lost contact with many of those kids because our academic focuses varied and some attended classes in other buildings in business, car repair, or cosmetology. I did see them in the halls from time to time. But I met others who moved up through the ranks from other schools that fed into my high school. And, thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with some of those people. We are parents and grandparents now and retirement is not so far off. I still wonder where some of them are and what they do.


But the reason I began this story is Mrs. Komnenovich. I wanted to tell you about the last day of fourth grade. All the achievement testing was done. The field day competition was over. All the milestones for the year had been reached. And we had one more “Around the World” game to play. She got out her grade book for reference and we began in the front, far right corner of the classroom. These questions were different. It was the Who’s Who of Mrs. K’s fourth grade class of 1973. Who has the highest grade point average? Who has the second highest grade point average? Who had the highest score on the achievement tests? Who had the most (fill in the blank)? The questions went on and on. She had prizes for the students who had achieved those goals.


The answers to most of those questions were obvious to us all. We all knew who were the brightest and most talented among us. But there was one question that had the entire class stumped. I believe every single person had a guess and absolutely no one could give the correct answer. Mrs. K. burst into laughter after my guess, an action which I tried not to take personally, but how could I feel badly when nobody else could answer correctly either? Finally, Mrs. Komnenovich had to tell us who had the second highest score on the achievement tests. It was … me. The whole class fell silent and stared at me as stunned as I. I slunk down in my chair then went to her desk to retrieve my prize. Me?


Today, I have my doubts as to whether Mrs. K. would be allowed to share those stats with the class as it is probably against the law, ethics, and school policy to do so. But I am so glad she did. I might have felt like I was lost somewhere in the middle when it came to grades and ability, I might have seemed shy and backward to others, but on that last day of school Mrs. Komnenovich found a way to let me know that I was special, too.


Thanks, Mrs. K!