Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Chef in the Making

I don't know if I should go back to the little boy that was quick to help me in the kitchen, or to the boy that made me a cookie that spelled MOM for my first birthday that I was back at work, or to the boy that was in his element as a food runner and expo at Top Golf, or to the boy that did not want to go to college and did not really enjoy college...These could all be starting points for the current chapter of his life, and I guess they are all touch points.

When Andrew was abroad for his semester in Lithuania, I did a layout about him and on that layout I used the quote:
"We must take adventures to know where we truly belong."
And while I struggle a bit with the expense of sending him to college in Colorado for one year, and then the expense of send him abroad for a semester, I know ultimately it was all part of his journey. I can't really complain. The child told me dozens of time his senior year that he did NOT want to go to college. I believe part of why he finally succumbed to going was the realization that he would get away from us, or at least get away from me. So, he did win in the end, and have his "gap year". And the $25,000 we spent on that "wasted" year and a half was - has to be - viewed as an investment in him. It's only money after all, right? ;-) It does no good to think otherwise....

So when Andrew set off for Colorado Christian University, he was going in as an English major, to become a teacher. And then before the first class began, he had shifted more toward a Sociology major. Or maybe I have this vice versa. {Who can recall?!} Then, during his semester in Lithuania - at least at the beginning of it - he wanted to major in Theology, and post graduation start church plants with his friend Chase. But somewhere along the way during that European semester, he got the bug about cooking, and found an online cooking class. He wanted to take it concurrent with his spring 2016 semester at CCU. And then it shifted to him wanting to only take the cooking class, and not enroll at CCU at all. And we debated and pleaded with the boy across the ocean to at least please just ENROLL for the spring 2016 semester, and then we could talk about it when he was back stateside mid-December 2015. We didn't win that contest. We haven't really won a contest with this kid for a few years now. Stubborn he is.

Now, you may recall that hubby and I had moved from our big home to a little apartment on July 28, 2015. So, said child coming home to live with us was really quite a factor, as there was very limited living space....And the second apartment bedroom we planned to use as storage soon became a bedroom that was going to need to be lived in. Andrew disregarded our advice and listened to his own heart and did come home indeed in December 2015, and did indeed take a "gap year". He did not move out until March 11, 2017. We had him at home for fifteen months and despite the apartment life, we really enjoyed having him around. And while he has long been a handful, I have missed him every day since he left. And I've only got the one photo of him in his new life, which hurts just as bad, and in a completely different way.

But, while he was home, he was busy making good use of his time: learning the trade, building his resume, pocketing his paychecks. Through a Walt Disney World photography club connection, I garnered the name and number of a chef at a local farm to table restaurant. That chef hired Andrew  in January 2016 to work in the kitchen, cooking on the line. Andrew worked at that restaurant until Christmas Eve. For several months during his Whiskey Cake stint, he would work the morning shift at a sister restaurant Ida Claire. He'd leave there at 3:30, after arriving there at 8 AM, and clock in at Whiskey Cake at 4:00 PM, working until close, finishing up around midnight. Then he'd get up again and do it the next day. He worked hard. He respected his coworkers and they respected him. 

After doing all he could do at Ida Claire and Whiskey Cake, he hopped over to another sister restaurant to work in their bakery and gain some different experience. It was amusing to hear him tell tales of his workdays all year long, and the change at the twelve month mark was good for him - he found out "for free" that he didn't want to pursue a bakery/pastry direction at culinary school. He said it was all too slow of a pace, and too repetitive. Working at the fast pace of the kitchen line had shaped him into someone enjoying the pressure of managing the tickets' meal prep.

The boy has always had an incredible work ethic and a strong moral compass. I was amazed at his energy level when he worked at Top Golf - always bounding out of the house, ready to go to work. At Whiskey Cake, Ida Claire, and The Ranch he was the same way, even though his work days were many times in excess of 12 hours, and he was on his feet that entire time, working non-stop, without breaks, water, food. I watched him "feed" his passion during his gap year, and I watched his passion feeding him, in the literal and physical sense of course!

We were trying to diet when he was home and it was so incredibly hard! That boy was always finding a restaurant for us to try, or wanting to go try a new dish at one of his faves. We frequently caved because we knew our time home with him was limited, and that upon completion of his culinary degree and his entering this industry full-time as a career that his time off will be minimal, and our odds of being home together for the holidays slim to none. But, ponderings aside, if he wasn't working and we weren't eating out, we might be found watching the Netflix series, "The Chef's Table"  while playing a game of Catan. The industry as a whole is fascinating, and I soaked in all of this information, using it as my primer to morph into "mom of a chef". ;-)

And during this gap year, while we were crammed in an apartment, building a house, having a son living at home, I watched not only the episodes of a chef in the making on the Netflix series, but I watched it happen to my boy. The longer he worked the line, the more he found himself refining his skills, defining his tastes, discovering his dreams. Around December 2016 he decided he was finally ready to formally apply to The Culinary Institute of America. He had the experience, he had the credentials, he had the recommendations, and above and beyond all of that, he had the refined and honed desire. The dream was still in his heart.

He was of course quickly accepted and elected for a March 27, 2017 start date. {New groups start every 3 weeks, if you can believe that!} My boy had made the cut and was headed to "the Harvard of cooking schools". The countdown began. My mom heart got heavy. We ramped up our Catan games, knowing they would all too soon end. We shopped for some things. We got the financing in place. And on March 11, he and hubby headed out to Nashville to spend some time with our oldest son, and then from there Andrew would continue on to upstate New York for dorm check-in on March 26.

The picture below on the left is him the night before they were to head north in March. He was all smiles - so happy to finally be going, to be heading to his new beginning. I appreciated the irony of him wearing a Colorado shirt - a perfect farewell tribute to his old path - with the cheek to cheek smile a fitting accessory for his new adventure. And on the right, the one photo I have of him since March 27: his first day of class, clean shaven, in chef jacket and toque, for some reason serious as all get out, ready to head into the class kitchen. Right in front of my eyes, a chef in the making. I know he's doing well. I know he's showing up every day and giving it his all. I know he is making the cut.  

Making the Cut ~ Beginning Culinary School ~ March 2017


Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: My Minds Eye
Title Font: Pacifico, Times New Roman

Friday, June 30, 2017

Grace Wins Every Time

At the age of forty-eight, in October of 2012, I started this mental challenge with myself called "Fit by Fifty". Steve and I joined 24 Hour Fitness on October 31, 2012, and we both began working twice a week with personal trainers. At the same time, we were eating Nutrisystem diet foods {which tasted awful}. This focused stretch lasted until about June 2013. I did not have a good relationship with my trainer: she regularly had me crying, and so I decided that leaving for our Florida vacation was as good a time as any to quit. Now, I weigh myself just about every day before showering and I log it. I can tell you my weight on any given day for the last several years, going all the way back to 2006 when I began Jenny Craig {for the first time} after moving to the Dallas area. I'm not obsessed with dieting. But I'm probably obsessed with eating, and being married to a curious and persistent Foodie doesn't help my cause. It's highly unfair because said Foodie walks ALL DAY for his job and self sits all day for hers. The deck is stacked against me. Hence my campaign for Fit by Fifty. 

Well, fifty came and I wasn't "fit" yet, so I changed my internal slogan to "Fit AT Fifty". Still had quite a nice ring to it, yes? I did a bout with HCG drops. And then I enrolled in Jenny Craig again. I started walking at lunch. I tried changing all the variables, looking for that magic answer to getting the scale on the downward slope that would match my aging trajectory. Nothing seemed to work permanently. It's all too painful really to recount in detail, as I have basically dieted my entire adult life. I've done all the food diets over one time span or another: Weight Watchers (three times), First Place, The Grapefruit Diet, Adkins, Jenny Craig (three times), Nutrisystem, Slim4Life, BistroMD, and I've done a couple of plans that involved pills. Remember "Fit and Trim", Sheila?.... Suffice it so say my working slogan is now "Fit IN my Fifties". Ah, the sliding rule of middle-aged sedentary working life, with a genesis of slow metabolic genes....

I'm clinging to that quote "You never really lose until you quit trying" which is attributed to Mike Ditka, or perhaps you prefer "You never fail until you stop trying" which is attributed to Albert Einstein. Either works for me, as in it works to keep me trying, but I still haven't "won", because I cannot fully lose. And I'm not miserable, and I'm not seeking a pity party....I'm just determined in a comfortable way. I'm not willing to live and breathe and die for a fitness regimen, for instance. But I've stopped binge eating ice cream and cookies and chips. I'm exercising, more or less, regularly. I'm embracing salads now. Small, incremental steps. Lots of little steps of progress along the way. I see it as a math equation that can be solved if I work at it long enough. It's a challenge to be sure. And there is nothing more addicting to me than a good challenge.

For what it's worth, I did lose the baby weight from both boys. I was a size 10 for my brother's wedding. I remember that navy dress well. And I was holding baby Andrew on my hip. So, whatever I've got going on is all food addiction related, and not maternity pounds gone awry....And there was one point when my eating got really out of hand, and again, without too many details, I battled depression while living in McAllen and ate my way through the pain, and got up to a size 20. I was at that size, or just below it at an 18, when we moved to Dallas in 2005. Oh, the pictures do not lie, do they?

It was equal parts vanity and health that drove me to Jenny Craig for the first time in early 2006. And that same formula has been corraling my gains and had me fighting for losses ever since. {It is equal parts freedom and humiliation to write this out.} As a companion to my dieting manueuvers, and in pursuit of the health aspect, I have of course had varying attempts and successes with exercise. I was never athletic as a child and when I wanted to pursue junior high volleyball, my father forbid it because of the uniform. Additionally, in the sixth grade I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia and put on heart medication, and developed a mild fear of over-exerting my heart. So, the metabolism of a highly sedentary person began its formation long ago, and I have been, as an adult, working that angle of the equation as well. 

When I revisited Jenny Craig in October 2015, I did simultaneously begin a regular if modest workout: I would walk for 30 minutes each day during lunch. At first I did this begrudgingly, but over time, it became something I really looked forward to. By April 2016, I was walking twice a day: at lunch, and then again in the evenings with Steve. At this point in time, I loved walking. Loved it. I loved how it made me feel. I loved our end of day talks as we made our way through our mapped out path. I could tell it helped me handle my stress, and I could tell also that it was a great way to unwind the days' troubles.

So 2016 rocked along as a pretty good year of victories in the weight loss war. From October 2015 to June 2016, I lost 24 pounds and then I stalled in loss with my Jenny Craig plan around June, and went off of their food plan because it was too expensive to be used as a "maintenance" plan. We did keep up with the walking. Well, by July I had put a few pounds back on. Between June and mid August, I had put 8 of those pounds back on. And in mid August, we saw for the first time in over a year some dear friends of ours from Knoxville, Damon and Lea. Damon and Lea had begun the Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy in February and we could see before our eyes their incredible changes in body composition and in weight loss. After spending the weekend with them, we came home convicted to try this new program that would repair our metabolism.

I will tell you that it has been hard. We have gone off and on Haylie's 28 day cycle plan. We have basically been off of caffeine, wheat, soy, dairy, alcohol, and refined sugar since August 2016. Oh, we have had our "cheats" here and again, but we haven't enjoyed how we have felt afterwards, and we have slowly been falling out of love with things like pizza, Mexican food, hamburgers, Italian food, desserts of all kinds....a whole host of former faves. The tragic downside of this drastic change in eating is that the social avenue of eating out basically dies a slow death. So many restaurants that we loved are out of the rotation for the meager nights we brave eating out. The inability to eat out, or grab a quick bite anywhere, has been the hardest aspect of it all. 

During the course of this new way of eating, I was FaceTiming my friend, Lea, and we were talking about the three phases of eating and cardio and weight training came up. She was talking about how they were running for their cardio and casually mentioned, "You know, if there's ever a 5K at Disney, we'd be up for it," to which I replied, "Well there IS, so are you trash talking me, or serious?" Before the conversation ended, it was rather apparent that I had committed to running a 5K, and she had committed to going to Walt Disney World with us. I think we were both equal parts elated and mystified. ;-) Thankfully, all of my walking combined with my weight loss had equipped me to mentally and physically take the next step. In November 2016, I was actually only one pound higher than my lowest Dallas weight from October 2006.

On August 28, 2016, in the heat of the Texas summer, I set my Apple watch to track my first {pitiful} effort of my running workout, implementing a 5K training plan of timed walk/run intervals that Lea had shared with me. Steve was in this with me. We were all signed up {both couples} for the February run, and the training gauntlet had been thrown down. Steve and I did really well on our training until the time to move in our home on November 10 arrived. The pressure to get settled for the holidays superceded any race training and before we knew it, it was January and I was nowhere near able to run 3.1 miles. 

On January 10, two months after our move-in, Steve and I knew we were up against a wall and we resumed our race training, which was running 3 times a week. Forcing myself to prepare for this finite deadline, and simultaneously confronting the reality of running {in public} with my husband and our two dear friends, was some of the hardest truths and experiences I've ever faced. I could not quit. I had to finish. I had to keep going. I did not want to, though. I did not think I could do it. Here is an excerpt from an email I wrote on January 24:
Last night as I was running I contemplated the verse, "With man nothing is possible, but with God ALL things are possible" and I thought about getting the word possible tattooed on my wrist. No joke. I need the daily moment by moment reminder that Papa is BIG. I did not have a good run. I am feeling very much like a failure at it. I am full of doubt and feeling very foolish for even trying this. I am the oldest, I have the heaviest % of body fat, and I have a heart problem to boot. "WTH was I thinking?" kept running through my mind.
In one last desperate attempt, on January 25 I Googled some 30-day 5K Training Plans and, mustering gumption and grit, on January 29, we increased our 3-4 day a week running regimen to running every day. Every day. Work, eat dinner, change clothes, lace up shoes, run, die on the couch. The 5K was Friday, February 24. I had a finite amount of time, and what seemed like an infinite amount of distance to cover in my running.

I would spend the next twenty days trying, trying, trying to get to where I needed to be. See, I just was unable to run continuously for 3.1 miles. But, what I realized on February 11 was this was a mental hurdle, and not a physical one. Let me share with you another email excerpt from February 13:

Steve and I continue to be PRESSED into the nuttiness of eating FMD (and ALL that entails) and pairing that with the last minute prep for the 5K. I WILL BE HONEST and tell you I DID NOT THINK I WAS GOING TO BE READY. I WILL BE HONEST and tell you that the progress I have made CAN ONLY BE SUPERNATURAL. I alternate the breath prayer of POSSIBLE with IMMEASURABLE AND IMMENSE daily, moment by moment, as I slog through our route. GOD IS SO MAJESTIC AND OMNIPRESENT. WHO ARE WE THAT HE IS MINDFUL OF US?

I praise God for giving me the idea to SEEK OUT a 30 day training plan, and I praise God for also whispering to me to evaluate the elevations that we were running. We were basically running an uphill circle, where the downhill wasn’t long enough to equip me for the uphill, with an accumulated climb that equated to a 74 ft climb over the course of running for 30 minutes. (The Epcot course has a cumulative climb of 42 feet. We ran that looping uphill route that way for the last time on 1/31. On 1/30 we made the adjustment to push ourselves to hit 3.12 miles per night, whether we were walking OR running to begin to transition our bodies for the distance. (Another God whisper.) Papa has guided me relentlessly, helping me to adjust. After 1/31, I felt so FOOLISH and defeated. We took a couple days off, did some weight training, and went back to running on 2/5 - hitting 3.12 miles successfully for the first night. On 2/5 and 2/6, I was able to run nonstop for about 6 or 7 minutes total before needing to stop to walk. On Tuesday 2/7, I stretched that to 8 minutes running before stopping. 
Every night during this time we are adapting our route, trying to even it out, adjusting some each time, thinking where we can turn to hit some flats…? On 2/8 and 2/9 we rest from running. On Friday 2/10, we head out to run and I push myself - God helps me - to run for 16 minutes without stopping to walk. I DOUBLED MY TIME FROM ONE RUN TO THE NEXT. PRAISE GOD!! On Saturday 2/11 we go run and I tell myself I’m going to make it to 20 minutes without stopping. Hit 20. Okay, go for 25. Hit 25. Okay, for for 30. Hit 30. Okay, go for 35. At 35, I know I’m struggling, but I know I have the gas in me to go ahead and finish. On Saturday, 2/11, I RAN A 5K FOR THE FIRST TIME WITHOUT STOPPING ANY. I was filled with joy, elation, disbelief, doubt. MY PREDOMINANT THOUGHTS WERE, “I DID IT!” FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY “CAN I DO IT AGAIN?” 

Well, we ran Sunday 2/12 and yes, yes, praise God I COULD DO IT AGAIN. And my times were a little better and it was incredibly windy at that. I document all of this because in the span of FIVE DAYS I go from being able to run for 6 minutes to being able to run for the whole distance…the time of that varies from 41 to 48. I ran for 48 minutes on Saturday and 41 minutes on Sunday….My paces are improving. My heart rate is getting steadier and stronger…My breathing is getting better. SUPERNATURAL PROGRESS. PRAYERS ANSWERED. I pray that I can continue to get faster and I am not relenting on my training until the race day arrives!! Thank you for your prayers and support. It means so much.  
{There were too many details to try to recount that, so the email sharing was the easiest.} 

I say all of this backstory to say, to quote Walt, "If you can dream it, you can do it," or to quote my scripture, "With man nothing is possible, but with God all things are possible." I feel like if I can run a 5K, anyone can run a 5K. When race day came, we were ready. The race began at 6 AM. We had to be at our corral by 5:30. We had to be on a bus to Epcot by 5 AM. We set our alarms for 4:15 AM. We all quickly got up and got dressed and, thankfully, a bus was there waiting and we walked right on. It was surreal to see so many runners. Over 7,000. We were slotted in corral D. They released 4 times from each corral at 2-minute intervals. We were the first release of our corral, and we began at 6:26 AM and finished 44 minutes later. 

My husband and my friends were so kind to run slowly with me, at my pace that would keep my heartrate at an acceptable level. We started in the parking lot. We ran in the dark. We played frogger around those that were walking already at mile one. Navigating the crowds was the hardest. We entered Epcot at the backstage entrance near the Mexico pavilion, where Donald Duck has his meet and greets. The race went so fast! All of hours and months of training -- for this brief 44 minute run. We tried as best as we could to stay together. There were moments where we were tightly together, and moments where it was just me and Steve, and sometimes I was at the back by myself. I just kept running. I had trained for this! This was the moment! 

The Photo Pass photographers on the sidelines of the race path, in their little green huts for safety and visibility, were proof of that. There was one moment in the breaking dawn when I was clearly by myself as I approached a photographer. It was after mile one, and before mile 2. I know this because towards the end of mile 2 is where I always struggle, until I push through that barrier and get my second win that takes me to mile 3....I know this because the pose I gave the photographer was my moment. That photo of me captures the essence of it all! I was here, I was doing this, I was running in a 5K, I was doing something I never before thought possible!!

I know all of this was a gift to me from God. I know I'm not measured by my body weight, or shape, or size. I know I'm not fenced in by them either. I know my ability to break through that mental barrier on February 11 was my gift, far less tangible than my race medal, but so much more visible in my mind. From August to February, the four of us had a slogan, and on race day we owned it. We crossed the finish line together, holding hands, arms up over our heads. Victory. See, grace wins every time. I'm not done with my "fit in my fifties", but this story, this moment, this race, this medal is a capstone. And every time I doubt my ability to succeed, I tell myself "Anything is possible if you believe," and I recall a sparkly crown, a blue tutu, Epcot in the breaking dawn, 7,000 runners, my husband and friends cheering me on, and I remember grace wins every time.

Anything is Possible if You Believe ~ Epcot Royal Family 5K ~ February 2017





Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Echo Park
Title: Silhouette file

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Story Central: The Fifty Cent Tour - Part Two

The cabinets were installed and finished on March 11, and then the paint was correct and dry, with all doors able to finally close, on Saturday, April 8. #longestfourweeksofmylife ;-) 

There hasn't been a moment since then where I've walked down the stairway, or entered the room, that I haven't just enjoyed their simple navy shaker beauty.  I don't know whether to give credit to Joanna Gaines or Jonathan Silver Scott, but the idea for navy cabinets for my room became imbedded in my brain sometime during my 2016 HGTV binge watching, and it was an idea I just couldn't shake. When Steve agreed with me on using navy, I was over the top excited. And I love these navy cabinets with every ounce of my home decor and color loving heart.



The fact that the wall relegated for the cabinet unit is fifteen feet long and the ceiling is 10 feet high gave me lots of working space. I decided to completely exploit the space and maximize it's utilitarianism: wall to wall, and very nearly floor to ceiling. Actual accessibility to the cabinet uppers combined with the necessity for some visual eye rest were the two overriding parameters that kept me from going all the way to the ceiling. Where the three center cabinets bump up a bit in height, I felt they also needed to bump out in depth. These slight changes give them more interest, I think, and make them more compelling to take in. Whereas I designed them in my mind as seven different cabinets placed all together, they actually were built as five upper units, and seven lower units, and that treatment ended up giving me more room in the uppers. Another delight at installation: they upgraded me at no charge to soft close drawer glides and soft close door hinges! No slamming drawers or doors for me! And you may notice that all the drawers fully extend, and they are each rated to hold 150#. Such bliss!



When the trailer pulled up at my house on the morning of March 10, it was a beautiful sight to behold! I was definitely like a kid at Christmas!! The men had never heard of scrapbooking and {wrongly} assumed these cabinets were for a man! Nope! All twenty-two drawers are for me! ;-) As the crew of four men carried them in and pieced them together, I marveled at the precision of the workmanship and the strength of these men to hoist up these heavy upper units onto the base units, and get them to line up together in such exact measures. To realize that these cabinet boxes were all crafted separately, and then fitted all together is something to really just contemplate. As a paper crafter, I have just a snip of an idea of the measuring and accuracy that had to occur to get them to all come together. I really could not stop watching the wall come together. 









The cabinets were something to behold from the beginning, but when they were finally painted, I think my excitement went clear off the chart to pinch-me giddiness. Oh, don't get me wrong. I was losing my patience at how long it all was taking, and the stuff all over the house was driving me crazy! But I was seeing where I could BE in a few weeks, or even, as it has turned out, almost 12 weeks, and it was just enough to make me punch drunk with happiness! The symmetry is so aesthetically pleasing to me, and as I began to finally move things in during the first of April, the accuracy of all my months of measuring came to light, and my hours upon hours of dreaming and designing turned to a delightful and present reality.


It's good to have this delight to fall back on. During the past twelve weeks, I have sifted through so, so, so many piles that it's been non-stop sorting and organizing, which can get exhausting! My strategy was to bring everything back into the room in small bundles, and to work through - and touch - everything from those small bundles before putting it away. There were things that were purged to a "going away" pile, there were things that needed to be re-containerized, there were things that needed to be added into Evernote {this is a whole blog post on its own one day, and something I'm very passionate about!}, and there were a few things here and there that could go into their new home just as is. Bloody little fell into this last category!












Enough back story. Let's go see them! I'll show you all the uppers, and then we can walk through them.








I'll start with the three center cabinets, as they house the core of my paper collection, which is the foundation for any scrapbooker. The large upper cabinet of the three central, larger units hold cardstock on the top shelf and patterned paper on the bottom shelf. The cardstock is in ROYGBIV order left to right, through the span of all three cabinets. I use Becky Higgins' Page Dividers as clear labels. They lay on their side. {I hope that makes sense.} The cardstock lives in the Ikea size paper holders from Stamp-n-Storage. These Ikea paper holders originally did live in an Expedit, and the smaller build of these fit perfectly. If I had the larger ones I know they would not all have fit. This was one of the first areas I moved in, because I knew it would be a quick move-in with some fast, solid, visible results. Mercy, though! When I was sliding the Paper Holders in, I was holding my breath because another 1/2 inch in height on them and they would not have fit! 








My patterned paper is on the lower shelf of the same three units, because I access it more frequently than cardstock. It is in alphabetical order my manufacturer first, and then by collection name within that manufacturer. I use the discontinued Cropper Hopper thin paper folders and am so thankful to some friends that sent my way some of their abandoned ones! I did have to update my collection name paper dividers to restore order after my two year organizational "I'm moving and living in an apartment" hiatus. {This is a common theme that will play out over and over, cabinet drawer by cabinet drawer.} I also added manufacturer dividers the other day and I love this idea! I used more of the plastic school pocket folders, unfolded and cut length wise. I wish I had thought of it sooner. It gives me guidance on just where to head in this plethora of pretty paper to pull the collection I'm after. I can have all of these cabinet doors open to see it all together, or I can know which cabinet to go to based on a specific manufacturer or cardstock color I'm after. It's working perfectly!



Let's look up above the paper, shall we? This space is great storage for items seldom needed or infrequently used. I can reach it with my small folding step stool, but it's not like I want to be hopping up on that all the time. {Mother gave me that little step stool one year for Christmas. Little did I know it would someday be perfect for Story Central!} It seemed like the perfect space for some archival items: memorabilia, duplicate or non-scrapped photos, and some odds and ends for projects. The left cabinet holds a stack of seven Iris Cases full of memorabilia and ephemera from our dozen years of Walt Disney World park trips and cruises. I have a bin labeled for each park and for Disney Springs, and I have one for cruises, and one for just general Disney items for specific trips. I love that I can stack seven cases! They are all fairly lightweight, so getting one out from the pile isn't too big of a deal. To their right, I have some more Iris Cases which hold various things, like seasonal punches that I don't need all the time, or excess enamel dots, etc. Isn't it Nirvana that the cabinet width accommodates TWO stacks of Iris Cases!? Good Math + Lots of Planning =  Storage Space Bliss. {A decade of not being able to fit an Iris Case into an Expedit cubby will do that to a planner kind of gal!} ;-)



The center cabinet holds photos. These are photos that are "leftovers" from scrapping projects, or duplicates from the days of non-digi film. The clear cases on the right are Iris Media Cases that I picked up from The Container Store. In my Scrap Central set-up, I had these photos stored in the Stacy Julian recommended "Category Drawers" using metal filing drawers. Those metal drawers were too heavy and too unwieldy for me, and as I contemplated where my "Category Drawers" would go in our new home, I knew there was no spare bedroom closet for them. So, knowing they had to fit into the wall of cabinets somewhere, I knew I needed to change their container. I stumbled on these Iris Media Cases right before moving to the apartment in 2015 that are designed for DVD's, but they fit photographs very well. I reworked the contents of four metal drawers (two of two-drawer  metal card catalogs) into three Iris Media Cases. On the left are four Creative Memories Power Sort boxes. I eventually want to convert their contents to the Iris Media Cases. That will be a project for another year, to be sure. {I will confess that the entire depth of this center unit was planned to accommodate the length of the Iris Media Case. As I measured all my things, this was the winner for the longest/deepest item.}




The right uppermost cabinet holds --- a big fat nothing! I found these Iris Large Document Cases - where else but at The Container Store?...Actually most Michael's also carry them and you can use a coupon....I was purely looking for a container for this size space that would hold things like 6 x 8 albums I bought and want to do, or long-term items {as in not working on anytime soon}. These types of things are currently in the garage. My plan is to pare down what is out there to what will fit inside these four cases. There is a small chance that I will swap these out for fourteen regular Iris Cases. I'm just not sure. I like having the option to use these cases and could use these four, or two of them with seven Iris Cases....Not finishing this cabinet has held me up for awhile, and I've just decided to move past it. Whatever goes up there clearly isn't something I need right now, as it's all been in the garage for seven months....



Okay, let's move over to the left bank of cabinets near the window. This section is the one that is closest to where I work at my desk, and so I was very mindful about having items in this bank of cabinets closes to me that I work with frequently, whereas it's "twin" on the right side contains the opposite - things I do not access as often. I tend to think in "zones" and wanted all like items together, or in very close proximity. 




Starting at the top of the uppermost small cabinet, I have chosen to separate out all of my holiday theme paper, and accessories. This was a logical choice for me because when I work on the holidays, I work on them in large batches. And when I am not working on them, I don't need my holiday stash down in the prime real estate area. The top small cabinet shelf contains Iris Cases of themed embellishments that would be used specific to that holiday. I labeled them using leftover 13 x 19 photo paper and chose the Another Typewriter font. To the right of those Iris Cases is a Fridge Binz that holds holiday 6 x 6 paper pads. I chose the Fridge Binz that had the pull out handle at the front, and that is one side and not divided. I picked up a big stack of aqua plastic school folders at the 2016 back to school sale and a la Jennifer McGuire, I cut them up for dividers and eliminated all the previous red dividers from my organizing. 



Moving down into a larger cabinet, you will find it's top shelf holds all of my holiday theme paper in the famous large Multi-Purpose Bins from The Container Store and they are stored and sorted in the chronology of the year. Left to right: Winter, Valentine's Day, Spring/Easter, July 4th, Halloween, Autumn, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I clearly do not need to buy any more Christmas paper. Two of the five bins are Christmas. ACKKK!! ;-) I envision when I get ready to scrap Christmas that I will pull down those two bins and flip through and find what I'd like to work with. Within all five bins, I have the papers sorted by manufacturer and by collection. 





On the far right of the holiday paper is a small Multi Purpose Bin that hold letter size stamp sheets that need a day of reckoning, and a 3-ring notebook holds my Embossing Folder samples, another candidate for a makeover. I don't know if I'll ever cut apart those large Alpha's....This bin works great for now. These stamps are here because all of my smaller stamp sets are just below this. And I'm toying with removing my embossing samples from the 3-ring and placing them in with the folders, but then again I like being able to flip through and easily see all my options...But I have a dear friend Laura that did the most beautiful full-size embossing folder samples in dove gray, and so I may very well keep the binder as is for a quick flip, but additionally make a full size sample in gray to place in the Avery Elle envelope with the folder. Decisions, decisions! Okay, moving on! ;-)

On the second shelf in that cabinet, you will find all of my clear stamps, my dies, and my embossing folders. Using the divided Fridge Binz with handles is about the best system I've ever seen. I continually thank Jennifer McGuire for this bright idea! Converting to this system is an overwhelming but completely worthwhile endeavor. The two left divided Fridge Binz are stamps, the third one holds dies and embossing folders. To their right stands a thin Container Store Multi-Purpose Utility Bin, and it holds letter sized vellum, Neenah paper, and some 12 x 12 Fancy Pants stamp sets. That wraps up the upper cabinet section and takes us to the secretary-like cubby that is the centerpiece for each of the five cabinet units.



This cubby is the genius to me of this design, if I say so myself: I can open and fold down the door to have an extended work surface, and when done I can close the door and have it look like a normal cabinet. The fold down door measures at 36 inches off the ground, standard kitchen countertop height. When I want, I can add just under 15 feet of countertop space by opening all of these doors. I have experienced this now twice as I worked to do multiple layouts and I have to say I love having the space to spread things out. I love having some stand up work space {that is not my kitchen counter!}, and some sit down work space!!











When it came to deciding what would live in these cubbies, I tried to think of what moments in my scrapping process did I need to look at things and select things? Or what needed its own dedicated workspace when, for instance, your desk is covered in paper and you need to do something else for your project? Stamping was a clear candidate!  My first cubby holds all of my ink pads, and that is why I placed the bins of stamps right above this cubby - for easy access, and to create a stamping zone. For my ink pads themselves, I deliberated long and hard, and finally went with the Stamp-n-Storage Slim Ink Pad Holder that houses 72 ink pads. I do not stamp profusely, and feel my current collection of 72 inks is quite ample for my needs. I'm not a stamper that scrapbooks, I'm a scrapbooker that {occasionally} stamps. You'll also glimpse my Sizzix Secret Stamper Tool at the back on the right, and my 12 x 12 Misti to the left of the ink pad holder - again trying to keep all like things together. 




On the far right of this cubby is a spinning spice rack of paints and daubers. Just a very few - I don't use them too often. To that left you will find a Ranger spinner that holds all of my roller stamps. Between the roller stamps and my ink pads sits my WRMK Evolution. It is placed there because it needs space on either side for the platform to run through, and the plug is just behind it, for the times I want to use its motor. I can pull it straight out to use and then push it straight back. I love that it folds up and is space saving. A little OXO bin of Kirkland wipes from Costco is on standby for quick clean-up of my stamps. I love that little bin! {Thank you 3kidmama!} My trimmer also rests here because I use it all the time, and stamp so seldom. I had originally planned for my trimmer to have its own entire cubby, but that felt like a big waste of space. Putting my trimmer here sort of violates one of my rules of crowding, but since my Fiskars Procision Rotary Bypass Trimmer folds up, it stores here well enough and I feel good about the allocation of space here. {I always reserve the right to change my mind after a few long spurts of making layouts but I have tested it about four times and am pleased with its placement thus far.} ;-)


Okay. Almost through the first cabinet unit. Two sections of three drawers are below the fold down cubby. The left tower of drawers in this section are simple: journal cards and tags in the top one, 6 x 6 and 8 x 8 pads in the bottom two. Journal cards larger than 3x4 sorted by color, tags and journal circles sorted by type and color and placed in the 4 x 6 Iris photo cases, paper pads sorted by manufacturer and then alphabetically by collection. October Afternoon 8 x 8 pads are larger and are on the right side of the very bottom drawer. These OA pads have also been torn apart and are sorted by color. It works well for me this way. I want to tear apart ALL of my 6 x 6 paper pads to sort by color, but I'm wishy washy on how this would work, and more often than not I use the 6 x 6 as companion pieces to layouts with that collection, whereas I use the October Afternoon 8 x 8 sheets on their own usually....It seems to make the most sense to keep the 6 x 6 by collection. So, that's paper pads for now.





The second tower of drawers in the first unit has four drawers. The top drawer holds "project life" cards and various 3 x 4 and 4 x 6 journaling cards. These are stored in drawer liners and a Fridge Binz and they need some organizing, as they are a bit of a hot mess. I think I want to sort the 3 x 4 project life cards by color and/or theme. My goal was to be able to open the top two drawers in this section and easily see all my journaling product. The second drawer holds 4 x 6 Iris photo cases full of various types of embellishments (non-chipboard). I need to go through these, too, and make sure they are sorted logically, and then label them. {It seems like for all the categorical organizing projects I did, there are as many more left to do!} The third drawer holds various stamping tools that I didn't want floating loose up top in my stamp section: cleaner, cleaning pad, acrylic blocks. The fourth and bottom drawer holds my heat gun, my embossing powders and tools, and some cats eye inks and ink blending tools.







That takes us to the three center units, and I'll start with the far left one. We covered the top of these already {memorabilia and paper}, so we can start at the fold down cubby level and work our way down. I treated this center section as one big section, so I'm going to share multiple drawers at once. {I did this simply to help me keep up where everything goes!} ;-) Again, these cubbies close to me should hold things I use often, and things that need a little work surface. This first section is for embellishments that are theme related, but not holiday related: school, birthday, spring, etc. These are stored in The Container Store's Project Cases. I bought these back in 2009 when I worked my way through a 29 week organization challenge hosted by a Pea, Wookiemouse. They have discontinued these cases and that makes me hold on to mine tightly. Iris makes a similar but somewhat less appealing product: their Iris Portable Project Case. There is also a big bin of basic patterned paper in various monochromatic dots and stripes stored in another Multi-Purpose bin. This is the hybrid of cardstock and patterned paper, and I keep it separate to pull to match to collection patterned papers for projects. An Iris medium Document Case holds all of my Travel embellishments. It's larger than the project case, and holds Summer and Travel. I am working on a Die Cut 3-ring binder and a Chipboard Chip 3-ring binder. When those are done, they will live in this cubby with these project cases.




The second cubby holds my sticker binders. I have six currently. Binders one and two hold my sticker sheets that are less than 12 x 12, like all of the October Afternoon sticker sheets that were companions to their paper collection. One of these binders holds stickers that are more blank than not. I call these journaling stickers. The second one holds stickers that are more decorative and have phrases on them. I call these - wait for it - phrase stickers. ;-) The next two binders hold full size 12 x 12 sticker sheets from collections. I store my 12 x 12 sticker sheets in 3-ring albums and use scrapbook page protectors for the sleeves. I have these sorted alphabetically by the name of the collection. Why? If I'm working with a certain paper, I obviously know the name of that collection. 



So, if I need, for instance, the sticker sheet that goes with the Carta Bella Toy Box collection, I would grab the binder that is labeled K-Z and flip back to the T section. It is how I work. The key for you is knowing how YOU work.  The fifth binder is like the third and fourth, but it is my holiday collections that I've segregated, just like I have segregated the paper collections. Again, I don't want to be flipping through Christmas if I'm working on random May photos. The sixth 3-ring binder holds 12 x 12 Alphabet Stickers that are completely and only alphabet letters. {Think all of the old October Afternoon sticker sheets.} There is also a Fridge Binz that holds all of my small alphabet stickers. My goal here was to get all of my stickers in one place.

To make adding sticker sheets easy, I put one collection's set in one sleeve. The decorative element sheet is on the right sleeve, and the alpha sheet that matches it would be behind it. You can see below the sticker sheets of two collections on one binder opening. This is a bit unnerving, but the trade-off is good when considering ease of putting new things away. Also, I use the shapes more than the letters, so that drove what went on "top" for me...






The third cubby, the second one away from the right wall, holds something that I want easy access to, but that I don't necessarily use all at one time. It holds - don't judge - ;-) all of my Disney supplies: paper, small paper pads, embellishments (washi, brads, die cuts, stickers). I also have two multi-layout Disney kits from Scrapbook Generation in this cubby. All of my Disney stuff is right here. I tend to work on Disney pages in spurts and wanted it all grouped together. My hope now that my room is settled is to really crank out some Disney pages. I have so many amazing photos I want to scrap. I have 3 Multi Purpose Bins on hand to rework the papers and projects out of stacked Iris Cases into those bins that are more accessible. I need to tidy this up though and that's for another weekend soon. This should execute fairly quickly; this is just one more project that I could have held up this blog post for, but decided to press on regardless. Repeat with me: perfection is overrated! ;-)



Staying in the three unit center of the cabinet wall, the top two rows of drawers hold punches. Yep. Six drawers of punches. I love them. I use them. I lament that they are no longer really made. My mantra for this room, remember, is easy access, no crowding. So, my border punches are in the three drawers on top. My shape punches are below them. I can see all of my punches very quickly and easily. After I grab a punch, I can punch it right there on the fold down door, and then put the punch away. It's a very accommodating placement. 













There are fifteen shallow drawers in this center section. The punches take six. The remaining nine hold various small embellishments: enamel dots, washi tape, veneer, decorative brads, metal brads, buttons, flair, chipboard, and miscellaneous things like Maya Road sheers, little felt things, metal embellishments, and ephemera... These nine drawers TOOK. THE. MOST. TIME. to organize because I needed to match the size of the drawer, and I needed to change in many instances how these embellishment collections were sorted. I worked long and hard to make all of these categories sorted by color. But, I think that should really pay off because when I go to finish up a page, I am looking for certain colors to pop out. Opening these drawers up and seeing all the rainbows of color makes me super happy. You'll see enamel dots, bling, veneer, brads, flair, washi tape, chipboard - a rainbow of choices!
















And just like that, we are to the far right and final cabinet unit. This entire unit houses things that I don't use very often, with one exception: my typewriter. 

The top shelf of this holds six Iris cases that hold various projects that are ongoing and use distinctive collections. To the right of the Iris cases is a good find that was the result of maybe my fifth trip to The Container Store - their Tall Shoe Box. It's dimensions were perfect for this space, and the amounts of flowers and ribbons I have. The top one holds all of my flowers that may come back in some day. ;-)

The second shelf holds Bigso Stockholm Paper Drawers that I use to store the boys' school photos, 5 x 7's, and 8 x 10's. There's a drawer for each son, one for family, and one for Heritage photos. This is part of Stacy Julian's Library of Memories system. The three Tall Shoe Boxes to the right of that hold twine and ribbons: neutral, warm, and cool color assortments. A few sugar dispensers from Walmart hold my larger spools of twine. You can see the blue one. Red and brown are behind it.

The third shelf holds my Pioneer 3-Up Photo Albums, another key feature of Stacy Julian's Library of Memories. Having a shelf tall enough for these albums as another MUST HAVE in my room design. These albums hold the prints of photos I want to scrap from 2009-2014. I have 1/2 of 2015 printed and holding in an Iris photo keeper, and I haven't printed in bulk my 2016 photos. Yes, I'm behind, but believe me, I've got plenty to do! The little labels on these binders are temporary, and that is why they aren't fancy. The idea is that you are constantly emptying one album and filling another up. Years ago, I got my albums at Costco online. They are a little bit harder to find now. Look for 3-rings and not spirals.





The cubby in this unit holds my typewriter and since the fold down door is at counter top height, I can just pull the typewriter out, type right here, and then slide it back. There is a plug in the far left and the far right cubbies, and the plug is what dictated the typewriter's placement here. Now, this little jewel is like my new favorite thing. I walk at lunch in the warehouse and passed for over a year an IBM Selectric, sitting abandoned. I finally asked about it, and was given it free! I paid $85 to get it serviced and I. ADORE. IT. It's the typewriter I've been looking for! I have two now to get rid of. I've already sold my vintage Royal. It is also wonderful to pare down on the typewriters. This IBM gives me the ease of electric and correcting, and marries that convenience with the vintage feel, based on the ball elements I use. Okay. Enough gushing. My sewing machine also is in this cubby, again for the plug access. On both of these items, I wanted to be able to easily use them if I want/need to. I do hope to use my machine more. Having it out and accessible I hope will do the trick. 



And that takes us down to the last two units of drawers. Keeping my sewing things together, I put all of my thread and hand sewing tools in the top drawer of the left tower. {This unit is symmetrical to the far left unit, so there are two towers of drawers in this unit also. I'm working down the left tower now, which has four drawers.} Second drawer: Thickers. Easy peasy. They fit perfectly. Sorted by color and placed in the 6 x 12 Ziploc bags to ensure they stay closed and are easily accessed. I don't use these a lot, I don't buy them a lot, and it's because I use my Cameo so much and sort of think Thickers can get expensive. The third drawer currently holds Rub-Ons. When, if ever, I finish my Die Cut Binder, I may convert these to a 3-ring notebook and put them up near my sticker binders, or up near my project cases. They are not used much. Part of that is because I cannot see them. I'd like to use them, so I know I need to get them organized and easily visible. {This whole process has been a huge exercise in thinking about how I work, how I reach for things, what is working, what isn't...} For now, they are dumped here. The fourth drawer is another dump: miscellaneous card supplies. I don't make cards that often. I have the two bottom drawers over here relegated to card supplies. I need to purge, organize, and then use the stuff. 









The last three drawers!! The right tower, the one closest to the wall is what is left, and then it will be a wrap! The top drawer holds my coloring supplies and Bible journaling supplies. Two more things I'd like to do more! I actually have a sort of local scrapbook store that teaches Bible Journaling and I'm hoping to go to their Intro class and discover some mixed media options. They have a great line up of regular classes, and I'm really wanting to dive deeper into this! The second drawer holds miscellaneous items: my giant Xyron 500 {that I cannot bear to let go but seldom use} and its refills and cartridges, my box of extra Schneider journaling pens {Thank you so much, Pink!}, and some extra foam adhesive, an old diaper to wipe down photos, a dymo label maker...real important stuff here! ;-) Then the bottom drawer is a hot mess of cardmaking supplies - card kits, cards I've already made to send out, card bases, envelopes.





The cardmaking supplies have kind of held me up. I wanted to roll out a perfect room. Guess what? Mary Poppins never showed up! So, I tried my best for "Spit Spot", and fell just a tad short of perfection. The road to get here was full of many hours of moving things, purging things, sorting things, reorganizing things, cataloging things in Evernote. I've sort of done the 2009 Wookiemouse Challenge again! ;-) I've gone through everything and this room started out completely empty. I decided it's time to consider it done: roll out the room introduction, defer any unfinished organizing, and dive into making layouts. It's been my joy to get to this point in the room, and I feel an ever greater sense of joy as I contemplate now crafting the good story I love.

I've had so much fun sharing with you my new Story Central on this "Fifty Cent Tour". Thanks for tagging along with me on this launching of a new chapter!