The Great Chopstick Rescue

A few weeks ago I noticed the red lacquered chopstick we keep on the kitchen counter near the French press was missing. It was usually found either on the dish drainer or resting in the press waiting to stir coffee grounds the next morning. Yet somehow it had vanished. We have several multitaskers of this sort in the Everything Else drawer that could serve the same purpose, but I wanted to know what happened to that chopstick.

Several days later, a flash of red in the drain caught my eye.  Upon further inspection, I realized I was looking down the drain at the head of the chopstick. Oh, you saucy redhead! How did you get into that predicament? This case was baffling. I suspected that sometime during the night the chopstick got up the volition to leap up off the counter into the air, and after completing a toe-first dive through one of the six peensy openings in the strainer body, it now rested in the drainpipe at the curve of the P-trap. We’ll never know exactly how it happened, but there it was, trapped with no means of escape, and not on the disposal side of the sink. Oh no, that would have been too easy.


One of the cast of characters in this story

So, how to resolve this?

Solution #1: Call a plumber to disassemble the pipes and remove the chopstick. Ha, ha, ha. Don’t be ridiculous.

Solution #2: Buy long, skinny industrial tweezers and try to grab the head of the chopstick and hope it all fits in the drain hole.

Solution #3: Don’t look at it anymore and pretend it didn’t happen. There are three identical chopsticks in the drawer–just dig out a new one. No one will know and if they do see it, will think that red thing is just a piece of pimento.

Solution #4: Sell the house and move. So tempting…

While most people would have chosen Solution #3 (or #4 if they live in Illinois like we do), that would be my tell-tale heart: I would always know it was there, calling to me. I could not resist looking at it every day. I feared I might someday shriek in the face of a prospective homebuyer, “Get out! Get out now! There’s a chopstick in the sink!” Okay, maybe not, but I also don’t want people to think I’m a slacker who leaves pieces of pimento stuck in the drain. I had to search my Mind  Palace She-Shack for another way.

There it was, amid all the brain lint: The Little LuLu Solution. Like most kids in the 60s, I had comic books: Richie Rich, Barbie, I Love Lucy, Classics Illustrated. (How do you think I got through The House of Seven Gables in seventh grade?) And then there was plucky, resourceful Little LuLu.

I recalled a story where LuLu had lost a precious quarter down a drainage grate. She borrowed a piece of bubblegum, chewed it up and tied it to the end of a string, which she lowered down through the grate and onto the quarter. The quarter stuck to the gum, and she successfully pulled it back up. Genius!

Knowing I needed something much stronger than bubblegum and string, I used a glue gun to place a glob of molten plastic on the tip of a kabob skewer, working quickly to get the head of the chopstick to adhere before the glue hardened. It took several attempts and barrage of colorful words to wrangle a slippery mini-flashlight with one hand while quickly lowering the skewer past the gatekeeper with the other, dab the chopstick and oh-so-slowly pull it up out of the hole without knocking if off the skewer. But eventually it did work. What a team! Captain Glue Gun, his trusty sidekick Skewer, Little LuLu, and me.


Participants in the adventure

Moral(s) of the story:

#1: Search your Mind Palace and your junk drawer for ordinary things with which you can MacGyver out of extraordinary problems. Don’t call the plumber for stuff like this. You can do it.

#2: Keep the strainer basket in the sink at all times, especially at night when kitchen items try to commit desperate acts of escape.

#3: Never discount the wisdom of comic books.














Kitchen Magician

No trips to Home Depot for this small remodeling job. This is a job for Photoshop! I had to take that blinding reflection from  the mirror on the far wall in the dining room (not visible in the shot) off the freezer door. The mirror itself is reflecting the patio door in the living room which is on the other side of the kitchen wall (also not visible–duh). But how to wipe out the reflection but keep the texture and the shadow of the handle on the freezer door without a LOT of cloning? I SHOULD have put a black cloth over the mirror. But…you know. Here’s the Before…kitchenbefore

  1. Noticing the refrigerator and freezer handles and their reflections (shadows really) were very nearly mirror images of each other, I made a generous selection (I thought) of the lower door with the lasso tool that included the area around the handle and copied it onto its own layer (CMD+J Mac, CTRL+J Windows).
  2. I used the Move Tool (CMD+V / CTL+ V) to place this selection layer over the freezer door, lowering the opacity of the selection layer to 50% so I could see how it lined up. Next I enabled Free Transform (CMD+T / CTL+T), flipped the image vertically, resized and adjusted a bit to fit. Had to warp the right side a touch because (dang!) I didn’t make a big enough selection on that side.
  3. Added a (white) layer mask and painted away the excess with a black paintbrush at 100% opacity and flow. I prefer this to using the Eraser tool, because I’m a clod and sometimes erase too much. At least with a layer mask you can fix your oopsies.
  4. I brought some of the reflection back in for realism by painting white and using Blend If and also using a dodge preset I had previously purchased in a preset bundle from Phlearn.
  5. I could have taken out the glint between the two doors, but I thought since that was metal, it would look too flat, so I left it. Probably did a few other adjustments too, but I’m old and I’ve already forgotten all I did because I merge layers as I work so I don’t accidentally move something and screw it up.

Here is the result of reflection removal. Handle shadow is still there, slight reflection from mirror is still there (or there’d be no handle reflection, eh?), but much less distracting. And that’s when I saw them. You see them too, don’t you? Heart sink!


No, not a heart-shaped sink. MY HEART SUNK. Before I took any shots in the kitchen, I had the owner remove all the stuff hanging from the front of the refrigerator, the plastic bags stuffed between the refrigerator and wall, the dish towel off the door handle, the dog bowls from the floor. All the things an observant photographer is supposed to do, right? But as soon as I finished the reflection fix in post, I finally saw them. There they were, mocking me: the dreaded REFRIGERATOR MAGNETS! How had I missed them?! I had taken my first shot of the kitchen from the other direction but forgot to walk back and evaluate the room from the other angle. When I did set up to get this shot, I was overly concerned with trying to work around the ginormous slab of counter top that was photobombing my frame. You can see I clearly gave up on it. [Sigh] Maybe the magnets were messing with my brain.

But now it was time to go back to Lasso Tool & Copy Ranch, lil’ buckaroos! As I did with the front reflection, I copied clean sections of the side of the fridge and placed them on their own layers (as close as I could to the object so the color and luminosity were at least in the ballpark), first over the white clip magnet, then the bottle opener. Did a few more touchups on those pasted patches to get them to match: reducing brightness, adjusting levels, painting and using Blend If technique*, etc. When it came time to do the larger items, I lassoed a big ol’ chunk of the now kinda-clean side, pasted the copy and cleaned that up using various previously-mentioned methods.

The result…


*For more information and excellent instruction on how to do some of the methods I used, go to And don’t forget to look at the WHOLE room before you take your first shot!