Softer, safer stairs

November 6, 2011

Our most recent house project has been to add stair treads to the front stairwell. Our nearly ten-year-old pup has been getting a little arthritic and occasionally slips on the stairs, so we needed to think about a safer way for her to get up and down.

We knew we didn’t want to go the traditional carpeted stair route, but after searching online and all the home supply stores in the area, we couldn’t find anything that we thought looked simple, modern and in line with our style.  Ayesha had a great idea to check out Flor, and we learned that we could get their standard tiles custom cut to use as treads.

We found a great subtle gray-on-gray stripe in a low pile, and Ayesh did some research to find a good adhesive double-sided carpet tape from Global Industrial that is non-toxic and fume-free and supposedly won’t damage the finish on the stairs, should we ever wish to remove the treads in the future.



Behind door number one

September 3, 2011

When the summer heat occasionally chases me indoors into the A/C, I often get the organizing bug.

A while back, just such a thing happened to me, and I got the brilliant idea to tackle the “office” in my house, and try to make it more functional and inviting as a relaxing den by tucking all the office-y stuff out of sight – but not out of mind.

If you are able to have your home office in a bedroom with a closet, like I was fortunate to be able to do, make the most of that closet. I replaced the standard clothes-hanging bar with more functional shelving. You can do anything from a free-standing shelving unit to an installable, modular shelving system – which is what I recommend. That way, you can move the shelves around as your needs change depending on your office activities/hobbies/etc. I used some Closet Maid shelves to augment the closet layout, staggering the new shelves to accomodate all of my different sized boxes and bins.

When it comes to closet contents, forget about spending a lot of money on pretty containers or making everything look the same. No one sees it but you! I re-purposed a hodge-podge of empty file boxes and storage containers that I already had in the house. The key is to label everything with big, clear labels. I love the 3M or Postit varieties that remove cleanly, because I change out my projects often and re-label my containers.

An outlet immediately outside of the closet allowed me to tuck in the printer, and the 16″ depth was just enough for a lockable file cabinet – great for storing long-term paperwork and seldom-accessed documents (like IDs, passports, favorite momentos, etc.).

The set up is perfect for me – it’s not the type of space I would ever pull a chair up to and be able to work at – but that’s not what I need. I need a place to store things and occasionally access them. This does that for me. and I love that I had plenty of space to tuck my wrapping paper and gift bags/bows/ribbon/etc. (since I do gift wrapping in the den) AND, there is enough space to roll the vacuum cleaner in. Every little square inch of space is utilized without feeling overstuffed.

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Big-girl gardening

July 27, 2011

I’ve missed you blog. And I’ve been very busy. My sad little collection of random planters from last year has been getting a facelift – and a backyard transformation has been in progress.

Our handsome handy-man dug-in, literally, and helped me dig out the massive tree root that I, in a silly delusion, thought I could get out myself. He called it a dinosaur. My favorite quote of his: “Some men like to drink beer. I like to cut trees.” He also likes to jump out of planes and took his 70-year old father with him last summer – but that’s another story for another time.

With the monster tree stump and roots out, I got on my big-girl pants, hauled out the power drill and built myself an above-ground planter box. And then I proceeded to spend a small fortune on garden soil to fill the 4’ x 12’ box. Ouchy – but totally worth it to have a fertile, dedicated vegetable growing area a foot off the ground (and out of the puppy potty path).

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I started all of the seeds for my produce myself – Cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes (culled from Danielle’s CSA box last year – thanks pop tart!), orange bell peppers, sugar daddy sweet peas, zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumber, regular chives and garlic chives, oregano, cilantro, basil, parsley, and mint. Everything took. I’ve even been trying to give away plants to anyone who wants to jump on the home-growing bandwagon.

And even though I transplanted all of my tiny plantlings late in the season (July 4th weekend) they’ve rooted in and shot up. This weekend I noticed tiny green fruit on my cherry tomato plant! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for so much bounty that I can give it away in random acts of produce throughout the summer. Here’s looking at you, tomato!


Spring-ish garage attack

May 14, 2011

I really did clean out my garage. Really. And then I went on vacation. And then I came back and it was cold and depressing. Brrr!

Just as I said I would do in early April, I tackled my garage. I literally pulled just about everything out of it, shop-vacced the walls (buh-bye creepy spider eggs), recycled and trashed the junk (ciao cheesy cheetah), and grouped everything that I put back in. How much did I spend? Some sweat, tears (of relief) and a big fat ZERO dollars.

This was just the first step of the process. Now that I know what I own, and because it’s grouped together, I can easily see how much of any one type of thing I have. My wheels are turning for real now – NOW I can think about how I really want my space to function for me. I’m thinking of bringing in some pegboard so I can hang up all my shovels and rakes, and ripping out some of those old crusty shelves and building some new ones in between the studs.

I found some good resources online for inspiration. If you’re thinking of tackling your own garage, check ’em out:


Gloomy garage…

April 8, 2011

I’m scared of my garage. Seriously. It is the polar opposite of everything I stand for. It’s dark, dirty, and totally disorganized. It’s my worst nightmare…. And I’ve been simultaneously dreading and dreaming about how to reorganize it all winter long. With spring FINALLY right around the corner, I am going to get my chance. Last Sunday I opened up the door, put the car on the curb, and took some very compromising photos of the chaos…

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Um, yeah. This is a two-car garage with barely enough room to park one car (let alone get in and out of). I will say that a lot of the clutter is from the generosity of loved ones and friends giving me garden supplies and landscaping tools – which I am VERY grateful for. Many of these wonderful gifts came at the tail end of fall and early winter, when the temperature started getting a little too low for this cold wimp, so I tucked things where I could at the time.  Now that it’s getting warmer, I have no excuse. I need to make sure that I take care to find each thing a safe place to live.

Chicago is supposed to have 70s and up to 80 degree weather this weekend. I think I’m going to have some fun coming up with a plan to try to turn this typically untidy garage into an organized oasis for all of my outdoorsy tools…. Let the brainstorming begin!


Huff Posted

March 4, 2011

I never would have known we made the front page of the Huff Post Chicago if my colleague Lesley hadn’t told me! (She’s also a blogger – check out her foodie goodness at

Click the “READ WHOLE POST” button below to see our Huff Post mention.


House tour in Time Out Chicago: Home Design

March 2, 2011

Check out the famous Dot, posing for Time Out Chicago!

Published in Time Out Chicago on February 25, 2011
House tour: Lincoln Square two-story home
AJ Hassan and Jessica Berger found a Lincoln Square fixer-upper and turned it into a warm, modern home. By Kevin Aeh. Photos by Erica Gannett …Read full article.


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