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Say what you will about Pier 1 Imports, but their director’s chairs will last FOREVER if properly maintained (by which I mean not having children or dogs in the house).

A little too long, really. We bought a set of four about 20 years ago, after we figured out we didn’t have enough money for the kitchen table we loved AND the chairs that went with it. We planned to replace them within a few years, only they never were really worse for the wear, and picking out furniture is HARD, you guys.

So they stayed. Only the little plastic tips started wearing out, and proved nearly impossible to replace (thanks for that bit of built-in obsolescence, Pier 1). Soon, we only had three functional chairs. After the move to Atlanta, that number dwindled to two.

IKEA to the rescue. A little over $400 (which is about what we paid for the on-sale table at a fancier Swedish furniture store two decades ago) and we had four perfectly functional, and quite stylish, dining chairs with replaceable covers. IKEA items run the gamut from flimsy to unbelievably sturdy, and these appear to be running toward the sturdy. No squeaking, no rocking, no signs of instability.

Plus, just look at them: all clean lines and comfort.

Meanwhile, two director’s chairs lurk in the storage room downstairs, awaiting a movie production company or a couple of extra guests.

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The Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block: definitely on my list of Favorite Things right now.

The new cookware we bought a couple of years ago came with a set of really groovy, really sharp knives.

I began using them in place of the set of less exciting knives that have been getting duller by the minute in their wooden block ever since someone gave them to us nearly two decades ago.

Where do you keep loose knives, especially when you want them to keep their edge? I was reduced to keeping these in the silverware drawer and trying to keep them from butting into each other.

I really like the look of a magnetic knife rack, but I don’t trust Yang, despite his advanced age, not to go smacking shiny knives off the wall in the middle of the night.

Amazon.com to the rescue. I found the Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block during my search for a solution. It’s STUNNING, and it takes up next to NO room on the countertop. I love the bold color (it was, at some point, also available in black, orange and lime green), and the functionality can’t be beat. It contains hundreds of narrow plastic sticks, which allow the knives (and scissors) to easily slide into place. My largest knife is too tall to drop in vertically, but it goes in quite neatly at a slight angle.

A view from the top: Although it currently houses only three knives and a pair of scissors, the Bodum knife block has plenty of room for more occupants.

At nearly $50, it was a bit of an indulgence, but what’s better than an indulgence that actually solves a problem?

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A few years ago, I discovered that cooking is a lot like painting: The more work you put into a project before you start, the smoother everything goes once you begin.

I had always noticed that people on cooking shows had premeasured ingredients at the ready, but I figured they needed to do that so the camera didn’t have to follow the mundaneness of the measuring process. At some point, however, I realized that premeasured additions made a lot of sense. What’s easier: Scooping out various amounts of spices while standing at the stove at the very moment those ingredients need to be added to your concoction, repeatedly glancing back at the recipe, or measuring out all of those ingredients before you start so you can dump them in at the appropriate time, all at once and with no double-checking of the recipe?

A lot of the recipes I frequently use call for tiny amounts of ingredients, meaning it was hard to justify dirtying even my smallest bowls for premeasuring. I had been using wax paper for these smaller measurements, but tearing tiny squares off the roll made for an untidy rectangle when I would finally need a larger piece.

IKEA to the rescue. During my going-away trip to the Atlanta megastore, I stumbled across the BLANDA bowls. At $2.99 for a pack of four, these 2-inch bowls are the perfect size for my small additions of herbs and spices. One bowl will hold approximately four minced garlic cloves (provided, of course, that you haven’t been tricked into buying some monstrous head of garlic with supersized cloves) and maybe 4 teaspoons of herbs and spices.

I almost bought the stainless steel version ($4.99 for four), but I could tell that they were going to scratch easily, since every package I picked up sported at least one bowl that was already pretty roughed up.

So far, the most bowls I’ve used at one time is three. I took the photo above during Cinco de Mayo’s fajita-making festivities; one holds minced garlic, another holds oregano and thyme, and the third holds salt and pepper. All in all, probably not that much to measure out midway through the cooking process, but dumping a tiny bowl of premeasured ingredients into a pan filled with sizzling onions makes me feel like I should have my own cooking show.

Iron Chef Haggerty. I like it.

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It’s been a slow crawl, this move to Atlanta.

I’ve realized that, despite all of my downsizing and decluttering, I’m still not very portable. And I’ve decided that portability is one of my main goals right now. If I decide to move to Manhattan in a few years, or Key West, or anywhere, really, I want to be able to stuff everything that has to go in the back of a box truck.

It’s doable, really, because I’ve discovered how many things that I really don’t want or need. I left a lot of things back in Huntsville — “temporarily,” if you will — and I haven’t missed most of it. (OK, I totally missed my cookie scoop, but I grabbed it on my last trip back.)

It’s been like losing a lot of weight that I didn’t even know I was carrying around. It’s freeing, being surrounded by only the things you actually use, the things you actually enjoy looking at.

It makes for way less noise in my head. I like it.

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I’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out how the heck side-by-side refrigerators got so popular in the ’80s.

I grew up thinking my family, with our old-fashioned one-door, freezer-on-top model, was missing out, that somehow the families with side-by-sides were enjoying better meals and tastier snacks. They were certainly enjoying hipper, more modern kitchens.

Oh, the misguided assumptions of youth. I finally got my new-fangled side-by-side refrigerator when we moved to Huntsville (at the same time, I might add, that the hippest homeowners were purchasing refrigerators with French doors and freezer drawers on the bottom).

I quickly ascertained that side-by-sides are virtually useless for anyone who actually wants to USE a refrigerator. I was constantly rearranging things to try to make other things fit. The freezer was a disaster, with two extremely deep, extremely narrow drawers that quickly turned into a tumbled mess of freezer bags and containers no matter how careful I was to try to keep them organized, and shelves that were difficult to navigate despite their small size.

Organizing the refrigerator shelves was like playing a game of culinary Tetris. A gallon of milk and a container of orange juice was pretty much all the top shelf could handle. My love for greens fresh out of the salad spinner required a dedicated bottom shelf. The small salad spinner, mostly reserved for fresh herbs, sometimes had to reside in the crisper, a problem given that the drawer usually already contained an array of veggies.

We never got around to getting another one, partly because someone had kindly custom-built the cabinets around the refrigerator, severely limiting the potential replacement models.

Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’m once again living with an old-school, freezer-on top refrigerator with one non-French door. Only this time, I’ve decided that old-school is pretty awesome.

The refrigerator shelves offer wide, open spaces — currently, the salad spinner is residing alongside half a gallon of milk, a carton of goat cheese AND a jar of jelly. The freezer’s a huge open space — no shelves, but a couple of small plastic boxes can help sort a LOT of frozen foods. It even has a working ice maker, an innovation that I have, until now, not enjoyed in my own home.

The whole setup is so much more usable than the side-by-side that I’m not even curious about freezer drawers on the bottom anymore. I just want space that makes sense.

I guess the moral of this post is to be careful what you wish for, because you might be stuck cursing at it for five long years when you finally get it.

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Posting has been erratic here for several weeks because my brain has been occupied with big decisions. Like whether to apply for another job, accept another job and move to another city.

In short, the answers were yes, yes and yes.

The husband and I will be moving to Atlanta in short order.

I want to say it was a difficult decision, but it really wasn’t. Huntsville is a nice enough place, but I’m getting antsy.

I haven’t been sure about my career path for the past five years. I’ve wanted to be in the newspaper business since I was a teenager. I never quite recovered from leaving the industry, and the transition to technical writing has never felt quite right to me.

People say your job doesn’t define you. I would reply that no, it certainly does not, but you sure do spend a heck of a lot of time doing it, so you may as well try to enjoy it.

Thus, I’ve accepted an Atlanta job that I think will be an excellent fit for me — the company has already hired several former newspaper folks with great success. I’ll be doing lots of reading, analysis and writing, pretty much all the graduate school activities that I’ve been missing ever since graduation last December.

Atlanta itself? Pretty cool. Lots to do, lots to see. It contains a very busy airport that I’ve never been keen on flying through (in truth, I haven’t been very keen on layovers for several years), but that I’m more than willing to fly out of and into. Two-hour direct flights to New York City abound, and I could spend every vacation day I ever earn in Manhattan if I had the chance. Which I might.

I’ve been packing and getting rid of stuff for the past week. We’re hoping to live in Atlanta, not outside in the commute-stricken burbs, and the tradeoff for this is space. This is going to be the first move in which I really analyze what means enough to me to take. Stuff doesn’t just go in boxes because I own it; stuff goes in boxes because I want it, love it and/or will definitely use it.

I’m excited and nervous, a combination that probably indicates this is going to be awesome. It’ll offer plenty of blogging material, at the very least.

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Yesterday, we hustled this beast of a piano into a rental truck for a short trip across town to one half of The Owl Sisters, two Huntsville ladies who refinish old furniture. After they remove its incredibly heavy harp, one Owl Sister will move the piano (which will really be a former piano at that point) into her home, where she’ll probably turn it into a bar. Or, possibly, something even cooler.

I’ve learned that old pianos are essentially worthless unless they’ve been completely reconditioned, a process that can cost just a thousand dollars or two less than the newly reconditioned piano’s value. I’m not taking that wager.

In the past, I’ve called this the accidental piano. When I was helping my dad clean out his mother’s house, it seemed like a good idea to take it home, not because I had fond memories of it (or even played piano), but because I had always thought it was a groovy piece of furniture. I had no idea that nearly 10 years in Mobile’s humidity would render its delicate wheels virtually useless.

For me, it has held family photos and knickknacks, along with whatever objects happened to be attracted to a flat surface at any given moment. I will miss its unique addition to the general decor, but I won’t miss moving it to another house or worrying about it scratching/denting the new floor when we get around to ditching the carpet.

Au revoir, beastly piano. Enjoy your third life.

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