# Part 2: What Creates an Accurate Calibration Curve

Welcome back for the second week of Common Calibration Conundrums and Other Laboratory Queries!

Before we get back into the science fun, I have an exciting announcement.  Bion Sciences now has an Instagram account!  Come follow along with us!  There will be blog notifications, access to our website, and photos of the Bion Sciences team in our natural, laboratory habitat!

@bionsciences605

Part 2: What Creates an Accurate Calibration Curve

Now that we’ve covered how often you should calibrate an instrument, we should talk about how you pick standards to use for your curve and how many standards you should be using.

Think back to algebra when we first learned the equation for a line.  If your math teacher was anything like my math teacher, they drilled into your brain that 3 points are needed to accurately verify a line and the corresponding slope.  One point is simply a dot in space, and two points allow for too much swing in the correlation of the line, but three points……three points is really where the magic starts to happen!

Don’t get overwhelmed with the math, I’ll simplify this for you!

The accuracy of your line, and therefore your results, improves dramatically as more data points are added to the line.  Think back to our puppy from last week.  If you only tell the puppy once a day, every day to potty outside, your results might be somewhat….questionable.  Now imagine you tell that puppy 3 times a day, every day, to potty outside.  The chances that puppy is going to catch on greatly improve!  The same goes for your instruments.

When it comes to calibration points, more is always better.  Again, there is no such thing as over calibrating an instrument!

The more data points you provide the instrument, the accuracy of the answers the instrument provides you will also improve.  The only issue that arises from more calibration standards is the time it takes to analyze each standard.  It’s important to find a balance between the most accurate curve you can produce and managing the time restrictions inside your lab.

To deal with time restrictions and busy schedules, sometimes improving your accuracy might involve decreasing the number of calibration points.  (Cue massive shock and awe as I appear to contradict everything I’ve said up to this point! 😊)

Let me give you an example.  Suppose you run 10 calibration standards….but because it takes several hours to build that impressive calibration curve you only calibrate your instrument every other month.  By the end of the second month, how true do you think those 10 data points are….I would argue they probably aren’t accurate anymore.  Instead, what if you ran 5 points once a week, or 3 points every day??  A smaller, more current curve will almost certainly produce more accurate data.  In the world of the laboratory, accuracy is the name of the game!

So, you’re staring at a list of calibration standards and you find yourself wondering, “How do I figure out what to order?!”

A good rule of thumb is that your calibration standards should “hug” your expected value.  For example, if your anticipated answer is 3ppm, you wouldn’t want to make a curve using points 0.5ppm, 1.0 ppm, and 1.5 ppm.  You also wouldn’t want to use standards that all have values above your expected answer….meaning that 5.0ppm, 8.5ppm, and 12.25ppm also wouldn’t make a good curve for a value of 3ppm.

For an expected answer is 3ppm, I might select standards with values of 1.0 ppm, 2.5ppm, and 5.0ppm.  Typically, the wider the range of expected answers, the larger the range of standards should be.  Remember, your values need to be hugged by calibration points, not left to fend for themselves on the outskirts of your curve.  Every once in a while you might have a stray value that exceeds the boundaries of your calibration points, and that’s fine….every once in a while!  On the day-to-day and with your typical samples though, your results will be most correct if they are contained within the confines of your calibration data points!

Next week will be, Part 3: How to Know if Your Calibration Curve is Correct.  It’s Big Bang  Theory-themed so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that!  In the meantime, if you have any questions about this week’s post or any ideas for future posts but sure to leave a comment and let me know!

# Sore Fingers and Stocked Freezers

The flip flops have been exchanged for Ugg boots, and cold weather is here to stay for the next several months.  As much as I’ve complained about the looming cold weather’s effects on my Summer garden, the dip in temperatures has given me an opportunity to practice one of my favorite Fall activities…..

## Squirreling everything possible away like a crazy and deranged food hoarder!

I have no idea why, but I love getting everything squared away for winter.  I guess it’s just nice to make the best use of everything.  Somewhere between Labor Day and Halloween I start to act like an old time-y prairie grandma, and I feel an overwhelming responsibility to “put everything up” for the winter…..and I don’t feel bad about that at all!

One of my least favorite tasks of pre-winter hoarding is sorting out all the herbs.  It’s easy, and so important because I do cook with them all winter long, but it does lead to cold, damp, and slightly sore fingers.  My preferred way of preserving my herbs is to freeze them.  It works quite well, and is faster than drying I think.  Plus, I have a secret tip that really saves a ton of prep work time when you need to use the herbs.

First, you’ll need to gather up all your herbs.  I had thyme, oregano, and cilantro that needed to be dealt with this year.  The cilantro was the easiest.  Just cut off near the soil, wash well, and freeze on a cookie sheet.  Once the cilantro is frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and try and remove as much air as possible.  Pull out as needed for Mexican nights or game day guacamole.  I find the beauty of freezing them is that they tend to behave very similar to fresh once you add them into recipes.

The thyme and oregano takes a bit more work, but it isn’t hard.  If you have a delicate, wispy thyme plant you might be able to get away with freezing everything whole.  I am apparently some sort of thyme miracle worker and managed to grow a small herb tree.  No one wants twigs in their tomato sauce, so I have to pluck all the leaves off the stalks.

I like to place a freezer bag into a quart sized, wide mouth canning jar, and then just strip the leaves off directly into the bag.  Pinch the base of each twig and gently pull towards the thinner end.  For large, multi branched stems you will need to probably pluck each stem singularly.  With a little practice and patience you should end up with a bunch of tiny thyme leaves in the bag and a garbage can full of naked….or nearly naked mini trees.  Close the bag, leaving some air in, and toss in the freezer.  Once the leaves have frozen, crumple them slightly to break them up and remove the air from the bag.

Follow the same process for the oregano as you do for the thyme.  Here comes the time saving secret!  Once the leaves have frozen…..give them a really good crumpling and crunching.  Ta da…..instant chopped oregano leaves!  Thyme is so small it doesn’t matter, but basil and oregano leaves can get quite large and in charge.  The post freeze crumple is much faster than chopping everything before freezing!

If you’re looking for a tasty and filling way to use up some of your frozen herbs, might I suggest Chicken Pot Pie Soup!  I made it this week and it was a massive success….AND I DON’T EVEN LKE POT PIES!

Soup is one of The Engineer’s favorites, and even though he would eat soup when it’s 100 degrees outside, I refuse to make it.  This chicken pot pie soup will certainly become a standard in our winter rotation, and it’s easy enough to whip up quickly on a school night!

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

• 8 oz butter
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 cup flour
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 2 tbsp fresh frozen thyme
• 2 tbsp fresh frozen oregano
• 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
• 1 large potato, diced
• 3 carrots, diced
• 2 cups half and half or milk
• 1 cup frozen peas
• 3 cups rotisserie chicken meat, cubed
• 1/4 pound deli ham. sliced
• salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add the garlic and onion, cooking until fragrant and translucent.  Slowly add in the flour, whisking vigorously to form a smooth rue.  Cook the flour for a few minutes being careful to stir so the mixture doesn’t burn.  We need to cook out the raw flour taste, so just keep an eye on it and let it go a bit golden brown. Whisk the chicken stock into the rue being sure to get out any lumps.  Add the potato, carrots, and spices and cook until the veggies are tender.

Once you potato and carrot are tender, add the peas, ham, chicken, and half and half.  Drop the temperature to simmer, and just let everything warm through.

Serve up hearty bowls of this you’re sure to keep the chilly temps at bay.  For regular nights I would serve it up with a nice loaf of crusty bread for dipping.  Or, if you’re feeling extra fancy….or like me, you have some spare pie crust sitting in the freezer…..you can make some crust crisps to give it a more traditional “pot pie” feeling.

I just rolled my dough into a large rectangle, cut thin strips, and twisted into fun little pie sticks.  I topped with a bit of sea salt and baked at 375 for 20 minutes.  Some of them did come untwisted in the oven, but they were still flakey and delish!

Herby, warm, and delicious!

# Changing of the Season

Here’s to hoping your shift into the Fall season has been less abrupt than ours.  It felt like we went from glorious, sunshiny days to sad, deary, and cold all overnight.  Such is life in the Midwest I suppose.  You’d think I would be used to it by now.  This week we are due to have a weather swing of more than 30 degrees!  It’s been chilly but since there is still tank top weather visible in the forecast I’m refusing to turn on the heat.

I’m honestly most upset about the toll the abrupt cold temperature swing is having on my garden.  My poor pepper plants all still have flowers on them!  I have little baby poblano peppers that almost certainly aren’t going to achieve their maximum potential….it’s so annoying!  Gardening season is over I suppose….time to harvest what I can salvage, dry all my herbs, and nestle in for winter!

This is so true….us Midwesterners know what’s up!

With the changing of the seasons comes a shift in activities.  Twice now I have insisted that The Engineer go apple picking with me!  Additionally, I’ve forced him to stand in front of many a pile of pumpkins while I attempt to select just the right shaped pumpkin for the front porch!  I don’t even generally decorate for fall….why do fall when you can skip straight to Christmas right?!  Something just has me in the mood to switch it up this year I guess.

Would you just look at that?!  Perfectly picked pumpkins, squash, and corn cobs! 🙂

If you pick the apples, you’ll need to do something with the apples.  Nothing will make your house seem warm and cozy….even if the heat isn’t on yet…..than making apple butter!  I hadn’t ever tried my hand at apple butter previously, but I’ve whipped of several of these batches, and I’ve even had it taste tested by several friends and coworkers.  The results have been an overwhelming success, and it honestly doesn’t get much easier than this recipe!

This first batch of apples was a variety called Cortland…I’m not sure why my bag says mix.

Before I get into the recipe I have an important public service announcement to make!

In case you find yourself preparing to go apple picking and looking up recipes wondering, “How many apples do I need for all this festive, fall fun-ness!?”  Well let me give you a list of what 1 peck of apples will get you.  For those of you not super up on your apple picking terms and quantities….1 peck is roundabout 10 pounds!

From my first peck of apples I made:

• Nearly 2 full batches of apple butter….the second batch was maybe 5 apples short of full
• 12 caramel apple and pecan pasties
• 2 quarts of apple pie filling
• Random apples for raw eating throughout the weekend

I now return you to your regularly scheduled recipe post!

## Apple Butter

Ingredients

• Apples
• Brown Sugar
• Cinnamon
• Nutmeg

Supplies

• Crock Pot
• Immersion Blender — if a smoother texture is desired

Directions

Wash, core, and simply rough chop your apples into bite sized pieces.  Fill your crock pot until the very top and you can just get the lid on.  We have a two crock pots, but I used our smaller 4 quart sized pot.  The measurements are relative to that, but feel free to make more or less to suit your needs.

Place the lid on your crock pot and let cook on Low for about 12 hours.  I started mine in the evening and just let it go to town all night long.  There’s no need to add any liquid to the apples!

After 12 hours, stir your apple mixture.  It will be very soft and broken down on the bottom, the top apples might still be a bit firm, depending on how large a batch you’re working on.  To you apple mush add 1 cup loosely packed Brown Sugar, 1 tbsp Cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp Nutmeg.  Again, this is for 4 quarts of fairly tangy apples.  I like to taste the tang in the finished product, but if you like it sweeter feel free to adjust to your own personal tastes.

Recover you crock and let everything stew and simmer together for another 3-5 hours.

After this second cooking, if the mixture is still looking chunkier than you’d like, use an immersion blender, or regular blender, to make a smoother texture.  If you don’t mind it a bit chunky, just skip that step.  I’ve done both and it all comes out just fine, just what you prefer.

If canning, place your mixture into clean, half pint jars.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes and let rest over night to seal.

4 quarts of apples gave me 4 half pint jars plus a few extra tablespoons to enjoy on the fly!

I didn’t freeze any myself, but my coworker always freezes her.  Bag or place in portioned containers to freeze and enjoy at a later date!

# I’ve Got A Brand New Blog

I was asked to start writing a science blog for work.  I’m not sure how much interest there will be, or how interested any of my current readers might be in this info, but I thought I might start sharing them here as well.

A few fun facts and some science knowledge never hurt anyone after all!  Currently, the plan is that I’ll post for work weekly.  That might taper off, but we have some events coming up and we wanted to drum up some interest and talking points with some customers before the events.  I will also be keeping up on my “personal” blog posts….which I have been bad about but hopefully all of this extra blogging will keep me on a schedule!

So….without further ado….I present my new blogging topic–

# Common Calibration Conundrums and Other Laboratory Queries

Hey!

I’m coming at you to discuss some common science questions and issues I get asked in the lab frequently.  I thought I would start with a little mini-series on calibration issues, and then hopefully we can move on to other issues and questions you face in the lab on a daily basis.

If there is a specific topic or question you liked me to address, just leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you!

### Part 1: When to Calibrate

You should calibrate as often as practically feasible for your laboratory process and timelines!  It will not hurt your instruments to calibrate them too often, but it will hurt your results if you do not calibrate often enough.

I know you might think that calibrating often is a waste of time…….and you’re busy…and the plant operators want their results…and the results seem fine so you’ll just ignore recalibrating your instruments until something bad happens.

Just take a minute and think about all the parameters around your instruments that change….even weekly.

Did you consider factors like-

• Did you change mobile phase?
• Wear and tear on the instrument components themselves

Even one of those small changes can compound and lead to catastrophic effects on your results over time.

Calibrating an instrument is a bit like potty training a new puppy.  Puppies only know what you tell them.  Imagine you tell the puppy one day to go outside.  The puppy might remember that knowledge for a day….maybe two.  Eventually, if you don’t remind the puppy what good behavior is, that puppy is going to forget.  When that happens, you’re going to come home to a disaster zone!!

Instruments only know what area counts corresponds to want concentration because you tell them….with standards and a calibration curve!  The instrument might be able to hold onto that curve and that knowledge for a day….or two, but eventually it’s going to drift too far to be accurate.  When that happens you wouldn’t be able to supply anyone with valid data, and you’ll end up behind a backlog of samples trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

I’ll be covering more about calibration data in the next couple posts so be sure to keep an eye out for those!  In the meantime, if you have any specific questions or you would like me to cover another lab related issue you find yourself facing, don’t hesitate to contact me about it!

# Final Days of Summer

This weekend marking the final day of summer and the first official day of fall.  While I’m excited to decorate with pumpkins and bust out all of my delicious fall candles, I have one final summer throwback blog to write.

We went late season camping in Nebraska and it was great!!

The Engineer and I drove down to meet his Sister and Bro in Law for a long camping weekend at Calamus State Park.  It’s about an even drive for all of us so it seemed like a good spot to try.  They spent the weekend telling me they needed good blog nicknames….but didn’t suggest any, so I’ll leave it as The Camping Pros for now!  Trying to get The Engineer to prep and pack for camping is almost useless….”If we forget it The Pros will have it so it’s not important.”

Remember to pack enough food and supplies to provide adequate puppy lounging opportunity.

I think I’ve officially waited long enough to ensure that none of the camping participants….furry or otherwise…..caught West Nile.  The bugs down there were big and apparently impervious to any type of bug spray!  Coming home covered in bug bites was really the only downside of the weekend.  I had 18 on just my right ankle……JUST THE RIGHT ANKLE!  The Engineer and I spent days itching and scratching while trying to ignore the constant full body itching.

Besides the unrelenting mosquito blitz we picked a slightly questionable weekend to camp.  As The Engineer and I drove we watched a fairly severe thunderstorm brew up over the top of the park.  When text messages to the pros weren’t immediately returned we were sure they were hunkered down waiting out the storm.  Our suspicions of severe weather were reinforced by the gas station attendant in the small town neighboring the park.  We left with our 2 bundles of firewood and visions of hail and storm winds in our future.  Needless to say we were pleasantly surprised to find out that even though the radar system showed a huge red blob of thunderstorm death over the park, there wasn’t any rain happening at the campsite.  We actually lucked out and only got rained on early Monday morning before we packed up to head home.  All’s well that ends well I suppose!

The trees were sadly not 10-12 feet apart, but we had hammocks to use!

Due to the predicted forecast of less than stellar weather I, being the only member of Casa Mishappenings who plans for things, began to stress over the fortitude of The Engineer’s bargain price tent.  Luckily, the Pros have several large, better tents, and they had one all set up for us when we got there.  Their’s held up much better to the wind and rain.  The Engineer, Puppachino, and I stayed nice and toasty dry and cozy!

Everyone begging for dinner around here!

We also didn’t discover until we got there, but I had somehow managed to rent 4 separate campsites in a “Group Camping” area.  I had no idea!  I just rented what was listed as the only available site for the long Labor Day weekend.  It popped up site 09-12, but I just assumed that meant like site 12 inside of loop 9.  NOPE……the 4 of us had one whole half of a very large open glen area.  A large…..and somewhat odd family of rednecks took up residence on the other half, and for one night we did sublet one of our sites to a large Hispanic family.

4 sites, but we can only have 4 occupants and 1 tent…makes sense I guess!

Mostly, we spent a pretty low key weekend just hanging in our hammocks and hanging out together.  Many naps were had and several beers were drank.  We did make a special trip out to one of the local breweries for lunch one afternoon.  If you’re ever in the middle of nowhere Nebraska I would seriously recommend the Ass Blaster Jalapeño beer from Bootleg Brewery!  Also, the sweet potato fries are bomb.com!  By this point in the weekend we had extra space in the coolers, so I actually ended up buying a whole growler of Ass Blaster!  It’s delicious….if I could buy it at a store locally I would keep it stocked in the fridge always!

There was a slight blip of excitement when we thought we might have spotted a mountain lion.  I saw it first, The Pro Sister saw it second….in two separate viewings I’ll have you know!  I turned around from making bacon the first morning and saw something slightly redder than a deer off in the trees beyond our camping clearing.  It was moving in a way that caused the internal dialogue, “WTF was that slinking through the trees!?”  The Pro Sister saw a similar size and shape animal the next morning in about the same place.  I would like to point out that both of us are well versed in animals and their general style of movement.  I’ve never watched a deer move through a wooded area or field and thought, “Wow look at that deer slink around over there!”  The guys, and 2 park rangers, were quite sure that all we saw was a deer.  Ppppsssshhh it wasn’t a deer, but whatever I guess…..The Pro and I know what we saw!

The ever elusive……BAT EARED PUPPERS

# Cleaning out the Freezer and Hauling in the Veggies

Hunting season has started in states all over the country, and you know what that means?!  You need to get all the old meat out of your freezer before you start adding fresh stock!  Annoyingly, The Engineer and I didn’t draw any deer tags this year.  Frankly we should probably be hoarding our meat for the upcoming winter, but I guess if we have to go vegetarian over the winter that’s what happens.

To go along with our meat, we suddenly had a small surplus of fresh tomatoes out of the garden.  Late summer is a strange time like that.  Surpluses of fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs are all at your disposal, but you freezer might be less with just huge roasts and some less than stellar cuts of meat.  Since discovering that my Kitchenaid is more than capable of grinding up a large elk roast, we’ve become less worried about using up all our pounds of burger meat….we just make more!

I decided it was time to whip up a new recipe, and I really couldn’t have been happier with how things turned out.  It seemed like it had been weeks since I’d spent anytime in the kitchen making dinner, so I decided to really do it up this week!  Due solely to the fact that I don’t every decide to do things until late, prepping dinner actually took 2 days!  Don’t panic, it’s not hard nor does it take that long….I just didn’t have a plan going into things!

I had probably around 2  or 2.5 pounds of large tomatoes out of the garden.  We have two heirloom varieties, Cherokee Black and Siberian Prince, and they seem to have suddenly kicked production into high gear.  I simply blanched the tomatoes whole until the skin started to split and then peel and rough chop.  I didn’t bother to deseed the tomatoes, I just tossed the rough chunks into a medium sauce pan.  If you don’t have access to fresh, garden tomatoes, start with a quart of canned tomatoes.

To my quart of tomatoes I added:

• Half a yellow onion, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
• 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried basil….our basil plant had a rough go of things this summer 😦
• Salt and Pepper

Cook on medium until just before boiling before dropping the temperature to low.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.  If you’re going to eat it immediately, you may want to let it simmer longer…..longer is always better!  I of course started this whole process around 9pm….so after it simmered I placed it into the fridge for use later!

STEP 2: Elk and Herb Meatballs

I didn’t have a plan for using my tomato sauce when I made it, I just didn’t want that many tomatoes to go bad before I had a chance to use them!  The next night I was sitting around thinking….and it occurred to me….we need meatballs!  After consulting a variety of cookbooks I had laying around I settled on a variation of  Anthony Bourdain’s recipe of meatball sandwich meatballs and Steven Rinella’s recipe for wild game meatballs.

Anthony recommends a blend a veal, pork, and beef….and while I’m sure that makes a delicious, more traditional Italian meatball….those aren’t the meats I have hanging out in my freezer.  Steven’s recipe calls for raw onions and milk soaked breadcrumbs in your meatballs, but Anthony says to sweat the onions and add dry crumbs…..so I sweated some onion and added crumbs and milk!

In a small pan heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add:

• Half a yellow onion, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
• 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano

Sweat the onions, garlic, and herbs together until the onions to translucent and soft.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.  You’re maybe sensing a theme here, but trust me you really can’t over do the Italian flavors!  See what I mean when I say if I had planned this out better…..just chop double once and you’ll be able to whip up meatballs and sauce together in no time flat.

• 1 pound ground elk
• 1 egg
• 1/4 milk
• Cooled onion and garlic mixture

Mix lightly until everything seemed combined and the herbs, onion, and garlic seem evenly sprinkled throughout.  Form into golfball sized balls and set on a lightly greased baking sheet.  I got 13 meatballs from the pound of meat.  Also, I know it’s probably slightly controversial…but I didn’t add any fat to my meat mixture.  I still think they turned out great, but I feel I’m making Italians grandmas the world over shudder in terror!

My next step might also be slightly controversial…..but just stick with me.  We weren’t going to eat the meatballs that night because once again in was much later than one should be making meatballs.  Third day simply had to be the charm for enjoying this meal so I decided I would toss the meatballs and sauce in the slow cooker so everything would be ready to enjoy right after work.  Sounds fine, but I was suddenly overcome with fear that my glorious, raw meatballs would dissolve in the crockpot and leave me with a delicious meat sauce.  Meat sauce after I had ‘slaved away’ making meatballs wasn’t something I was willing to risk…..so I broiled my meatballs!

# IT WORKED GREAT!

Simply turn your broiler on Low and give your meatballs 8-10 minutes for form a nice crust.  Turn them every couple minutes to prevent burning and provide an even caramelization.

I put a thin layer of sauce down in the bottom of my crockpot, layered in my meatballs, and then tossed the whole thing back in the fridge.  The next morning I topped them with the remaining sauce and set them to cook on low while I went to work.  8 hours later I came home to delicious smells and a crockpot full of happy meatballs and a sauce that had slow cooked to thick, robust perfection.

Serve with your favorite noodles, or in my case spaghetti squash from the garden, and enjoy.  I added cheese, a hefty slice of garlic bread, and a class of wine.  Perfect easy dinner to come home to, and I promise it won’t take you 3 days to get there!

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# Expanding Small Spaces

The Engineer and I have been on a bit of a home improvement kick.  Fitting two people’s stuff and design tastes into a single home isn’t always easy.  In an effort to make keep the house somewhat organized, and preserve my own sanity, we’ve really had to try and maximize all the storage opportunities in the house.  I’ve been meaning to write this blog for awhile, but it seemed like we just kept doing projects so I kept thinking I’d wait.  I think we finally wrapped up all the little projects, and several of the big projects are well on their way!

Our biggest summer project was expanding the patio!  The slab that was poured for my patio is only 6ft x 8ft.  Some of the units in my HOA have big, expansive patios….I guess that just wasn’t in the cards for my specific unit.  It was fine when it was just Scout and I at home, but even for just us it had always been small and crowded.  Then The Engineer came, and then we bought an umbrella, and then we got a big grill….and pretty soon we were sitting on top of each other trying just trying to spend time outside on the patio.

Lucky for our bank accounts, The Engineer can occasionally snag sample concrete mix color and finish pavers from his employer!  Plenty of precast buildings are grey, so we decided to extend the patio slab out with two rows of 1ft x 1ft pavers on each side.

Such style he’s got that man of mine!

Honestly, the hardest part of the whole project was getting the landscaping rock out of the area.  In my brain I would just be able to scoop it right up with a shovel and move it to other areas of our landscaping that were a bit light on rock.  I’m not sure if you know this…..but rock doesn’t really shovel.  It turned out one of the sides was severely lacking in dirt, but a layer of pea gravel below the paver base brought it back up to grade.

Actually placing the pavers was pretty easy.  Pour out and smooth a think layer of paving base and smash it down firmly.  They make a tool for this…..or just use your feet in heavy construction boots…..that’s the method we used!  After its smooshed down evenly, use a garden trowel to sprinkle down another thin layer of paver base.  Set your pavers down into the base and press or stand on them to settle them down into the base.  You might have to trial and error adding some base or maybe removing some to get everything level.  I think we did quite well for having never laid pavers before.  Everything seems level and graded to drain correctly….time will tell though, they may settle over the winter and we might have to adjust them in the Spring.

So much space for activities….and a lurking pupper in the doorway!

Inside projects have been centered around keeping spaces organized, and keeping things from exploding out into the living room and dining room.  Single me was a chronic “toss wet laundry out onto stair railing and chair back to dry”.  It was always annoying to me, but somethings just don’t belong in the dryer so I just ignored the fact that I was annoying myself.  Cut to my laundry, The Engineer’s laundry, my hats, The Engineer’s hats and a shared closet and I was slowly loosing my mind at the general disheveled state.

Step one was a closet clean out!  Nothing will help you get rid of unwanted clothes faster than the feeling of not giving someone their fair share of the closest storage.  I still feel bad about this…..my crap still takes up way more than half of the closet space.  He tells me it’s fine, but I feel bad in spite of that. So, every month or so I go in and try and purge a few more items.  To further assist we build some strategic storage….a hat rack for the closet, and two drying racks for the laundry room.

I had previously bought one of those back of the door hat hangers….it was garbage.  The hats fell off all the time.  Matters were made worse by the fact that it made opening the closet door impossible.  The hats took up so much space behind the door, plus I already have scarf storage behind the door.  The whole thing was just a mess.  Some on sale hooks and a stained 1×4 later and we have easy, out of the way hat storage!  The rack we installed matches two very small hanging racks that were installed in the closet before I moved on.  No more falling down hats and no more me throwing tantrums cuz the hats are always all over the closet floor!!

The closet isn’t well lit….but you get the idea.  A lot of things happening in a small space!

The hanging racks on the laundry room have honestly made a huge difference!  I can hang things, I can lay things on the rods, hook smaller items on the ends….it’s just such a space saver!  I did add a small dowel inside the hanging bar to help it hold up against the weight of all the wet clothes, but depending on the length you decide to use that might not be needed.

There is a large hanging bar installed under a large shelf on the opposite wall of the laundry.  I used to use that for all our shirts that needed to be hung to dry, however The Engineer’s gun safe has taken up a home under the hanging bar……so that sort of ruined that hanging spot.  There is still a bit of room above the safe….so all my bras get hung on hangers above the safe!  I’m sure it was always his goal to have a mid-sized collection of bras perpetually hanging above his gun safe!  🙂

More stained 1×4 and just some cheap curtain rods…HANG ALL THE THINGS!

The garage is a whole different world of organizational nightmare.  There was a period of time when my 2 car…..very small for 2 cars but still technically can fit 2…..garage barely had room for my GMC Terrain.  There was just a giant horseshoe shaped ring of stuff around the edge and a section in the center that I could park in.  IT DROVE ME BATTY!  I’m a bit crazy about feeling organized I know, and I know that my weirdness about the issue drives The Engineer nuts sometimes.  I can be perfectly fine living in disorder and chaos….until one day when I’m not.  The house can be filthy for weeks and then one day I will just snap and start power cleaning like a wild Tasmanian devil…..

Get outta my way I have shit to clean!

So…..we built a shelf….a really big 6ft x 3ft hanging shelf in the garage .  It made me feel better to get stuff up and off the ground.  We will have more shelves to put up and some reorganizing to do…..I would like if all my Christmas decor could be in one spot instead of scattered around on different shelving.  But, getting this stuff up and organized has made a huge difference.  I think that’s how you know you’re becoming old and lame…..when cleaning and organizing a garage becomes a major source of calm and happiness in your life.  Ughs

JUST LOOK AT IT….IT’S AMAZING!

It’s so much stuff up and organized!  Do you even know whats up there?!  Well let me give you the run down…..

• 24 duck decoys in bags….if you don’t hunt you might not know….but these are full sized ducks….24 DUCKS!
• 2 tents
• 2 sleeping bags
• air mattress
• 2 storage totes of our hunting clothes and camping supplies
• 4 hunting bags and backpacks
• other small hunting and camping accessories

Now imagine all of that strewn out all over a garage floor…total garbage!  It’s so pretty and organized…..AND I LOVE IT!  And would you look at that….more stained 1×4 with hooks!  We added easy storage for our hunting boots and his waders.  We also have hooks we can use for things when we use them more frequently.  For example, now that hunting seasons are kicking back into gear, the backpacks will get moved down onto the hooks so that we can access them without a step stool whenever we’d like to head out to the field.

I’m totally sitting here nerding out about how excited I am to have gotten all this organized.  Look at it this way….I’m so excited about getting organized that I felt the need to tell you all about it!!  It’s not like anything we’ve done to try and keep the house organized is crazy or a brand new idea.  Maybe it will show you that you don’t need to hire a professional organizer or spend a ton of time and money on supplies to get started organizing a space that’s a source of frustration for you.  Just pick an area you’d like to improve, break it into small pieces if need be, and then just go for it.  In our case it was just making the decision to get started and then making a trip to Menards for the supplies.  Just create a place for things to have a “home” in….hooks, shelves, cubbies….whatever fits your style or needs.  And don’t forget your new mantra…..ain’t nothing a 1×4 and some stain can’t remedy!