Posts Tagged ‘Homemaking’

Brown Bag It! The Gift of a Meal (With a Free Printable!)

Monday, May 19th, 2014

free printable tag for meal gifting

“No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~Aesop

Sometimes the greatest gifts are the littlest of things. And random acts of kindness are beautiful and heart warming, not only as a recipient, but more so, when you give.

This post is inspired by a really great friend of mine whom I met at our kid’s kindergarten drop-off. I can definitely say that without her in my life these past 2 years, it would have been lacking tremendously. She is the kindest of souls.

Out of the blue, on a random day of the week, she made an extra meal for our family because she had enough ingredients. She popped by with dish and a little note that said “Bake at 350 for an hour. Enjoy!” I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Being a mom of 3, some days, I don’t even want to think about the next meal or dig through my pantry to see what I could possibly make! Of course, she didn’t think it was a big deal at all… but honestly, it made my week.

I returned the act of kindess last week when I popped by with a roast chicken meal from our grocery store. It wasn’t homemade, but it was a warm cooked meal that I know they certainly enjoyed. Even next day’s leftovers!

This back and forth got me thinking that I want to do this more often to unsuspecting mom friends who deserve a little mid-week break or pick me up. Hopefully this post will inspire you to do the same.

I’ve designed this fresh modern printable with a cute little poem to attach to your yums. Simply print a stack of them and have them handy when your eager kindness strikes. You can customize the printable with meal details, whether it’s homemade or store bought… and don’t dare forget dessert!

Download the Brown Bag It Meal Gifting tag here.

 

free printable bag tag for meal gifting

free printable tag for meal gifting
brownbagit-4

Download the Brown Bag It Meal Gifting tag here.

Oh, and we’d love to hear how you used these and the response you got!

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How to Make a Monogrammed Coffee Filter Wreath

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

When my book proposal went out in the literary world, I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into two bedrooms that were both in need of a serious overhaul, to prevent me from thinking about the big decisions being made. All of that nervous energy turned into fuel into creating my daughter and son’s room into what I had envisioned their new big kid spaces to be.

Over the next few weeks, I wanted to showcase some of the crafts that I created and how I decorated their bedrooms on a budget. The first tutorial I wanted to share was for this easy monogrammed coffee filter wreath for my daughter’s wall.  I am not the first to create a coffee filter wreath and I know I won’t be the last. I read a billion tutorials for making these and then decided to do it my own way with a few tips from each tutorial. When you create yours, I am sure you will do the same on your wreath to create a masterpiece for your home.

These are a beautiful accent to decorate any room in your house. These would also make fantastic holiday gifts for your friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, or teachers and cost about $8-10 in supplies.

Let’s get started. You need a wreath or wreath form of your your choice (I found this flat Styrofoam wreath at Hobby Lobby), a package of 200 coffee filters, hot glue gun, glue sticks (you will need about six for this project), a screwdriver, a lightweight monogram letter of your choice, and a can of spray paint of your choice.

Fold your coffee filter in half as shown here.

Fold your coffee filter in half again as shown here.

On the tip of this you will apply your hot glue and then fold the tip a bit to apply it to the wreath. Secure the glued end to the wreath, flattening it a bit and adjusting as needed.

The top of your filters will look like this. That screwdriver can go into the center to help push the filter into the wreath and save your hands from getting burned. You can risk it and just burn those hands up, but I found the tip of the screwdriver really works to help prevent burns as you add those filters in. I wish I could take pictures of myself doing this as I am doing it, but, unfortunately, I only have two hands and no one to work the camera for me.

Start filling the wreath in with the filters all over. Anywhere that you see that wreath form sticking out should be covered with your filters. You can bend and twist them into the spots, securing these with hot glue. Catch up on all of your favorite shows since you need to do this approximately 150 times.

Please don’t judge me on my favorite show. A girl needs an escape when doing her billions of loads of laundry and other mundane tasks around the house. It makes me feel hip and chic, unlike the 33 year-old woman sitting on her carpet making a coffee filter wreath.

Keep on going around and around and around. Don’t worry if it isn’t even, just do the best you can.  You can trim it all up in the end and no one will ever know.

Once it is all filled in on top, we need to cover the sides of the wreath so we don’t see any of the wreath form peeking out. Fold the coffee filters as I showed you above and this time we will lay them flat against the side to cover the wreath.

Just keep overlapping this final layer to cover up the wreath form as I have pictured here.  This wreath will be very full and the little spots that aren’t covered won’t be seen, so don’t worry!

Once you flip it over, you will see that the back layer is a tad longer than the other layers. Trim those up with a pair of sharp scissors and cut them down so they fit in with the other layers on your wreath.

Once the wreath is all trimmed up, you can mount a monogrammed letter of your choice. I spray painted mine green to match my daughter’s room. I found this little letter at Michael’s back by the wooden craft supplies. This letter was just, $1.99. The key to this is to find one that is lightweight so it stays on easily. Hot glue the back of the letter and secure it in place on your wreath. You can then hang your wreath with ribbon or just hang it on a nail, as I did here, to keep things sweet and simple.

This wall in her room is making me very, very happy right now. It is the first thing I see when I walk up the steps and was so inexpensive to do.  I framed three of my favorite pictures of her, all printed in black-and-white.

The, “Will We have Rainbows Day After Day?,” printable was found for free printing on Making It Lovely.  I found a frame for this at Michael’s for half off and printed it on my printer at home.  It is so sweet and fits perfectly with her personality and color scheme.

I could not be happier with how this wreath turned out and definitely recommend making one or two for yourself or someone you love.

Don’t toss the rest of your coffee filters out after making this wreath. Next week I will show you how I made this bouquet of coffee filter flowers to adorn a nightstand. No one will believe these are made from this household item and it can be a fun craft to decorate any table in your home.

What craft projects have you been working on? Feel free to share any links to what you are working on! Access all of our craft fun on MomAdvice by visiting our Craft Section. Happy crafting, friends!

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How to Paint a Kitchen Table: Our Kitchen Table Makeover

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

I never dreamed that I would ever paint my kitchen table when we bought it. For ten years though we abused it daily, it survived a brutal move with a terrible moving company, and the polyurethane coating never did look right after it was damaged in route to our house on the day we bought it. The table was loved to pieces, literally, and that is why we had to paint it.

Passing through our kitchen, you might not have noticed the table’s beat-up appearance. From far away or cleverly covered with a tablecloth when it got really embarrassing, the table just didn’t look that bad.

Upon closer inspection though, your eyes are assaulted with the damage that has happened to it. The polyurethane coating was flaking away, the ends were terribly damaged on the table, and a huge gash went right through the center of it that I never thought the table would ever recover from.

We decided that we would stain the table and restore the tabletop with a nice deep and rich color. We bought lots of supplies to stain the table and I couldn’t wait to get started.

For two days I sanded the table to within an inch of its poor little life. The polyurethane coating remained. I bought polyurethane stripper and left it on the table for twenty-four hours. The polyurethane remained. I sanded the table more. The polyurethane remained.

I cried.

I rocked in the fetal position.

I kicked myself for starting a project that I didn’t feel as confident in.

I gave up.

We ate at a sad folding table and chairs for an entire week, only to discover this staining would not happen at my novice level of furniture staining.

At this point, I had nothing to lose.

We decided to paint the kitchen table.

The chairs were in good condition other than a quick reupholster to the tired fabric that had been on them. The table legs also happened to be in decent condition so we made the decision to leave the table legs and chairs in their natural wood color (partly out of laziness and partly because we needed our kitchen table back) which definitely cut down on the work.

I am no expert on painting furniture so I consulted with my best friend who has been painting her furniture recently and the ever amazing and wildly talented Kate, from Centsational Girl, who has this amazing tutorial on how to paint furniture. Between the two of them, I felt a tad more confident than I did before.

Once the table was sanded and wood filled in the spots that were really rough on the table, we applied two coats of the Zinsser Cover Stain Primer over the table. Between each coat, once the tabletop was fully dry, I gave it another good sanding and wiped it clean with a cloth. I had to admit, even with just the primer, the table was already looking better.

Once the primer was dry, I applied two coats of paint to the tabletop. We wanted our tabletop to match our kitchen cabinets so we chose Valspar Blanched Pine (7005-15) for the shade of white we were looking for. Two coats of paint were applied to it. The first coat was applied with a brush and then the second coat, I used a roller and then used a brush to smooth out any roller marks.

I did take Kate’s recommendation and added Floetrol to the paint (as directed on the packaging) which really did seem to help cut down on the mistakes that I usually make when painting. This paint conditioner will definitely be used again when I tackle another painting project.

After the paint was dry, we then applied two heavy coats of polyurethane to the tabletop with an angled brush. We allowed the polyurethane to set on the tabletop for four days with no use. I think this was one of the hardest parts about the process, but we wanted to make sure that the tabletop would really be able to withstand our daily abuse once we brought it inside.

The table legs were reattached, the new-to-me chairs were slid under it. We were in business.

Here is our newly painted kitchen tabletop.  It is not perfect, but we truly did the best we could to improve upon something we already owned.

I am so happy to have a tabletop that I don’t have to cover with a tablecloth. I am just hoping that this will be able to stand up to our daily use, but I will be happy if we can get a couple more years out of this set.

I will tell you a secret.

Every time I see a crumb on it, I start freaking out that paint is chipping.

A major freak out ocurred after the kids dined on pumpkin bread for snack one day.

I am wondering when I will get over that.

Perhaps, never.

For now, my husband is just thankful I am done with this project, I am thankful to have reclaimed the garage, and we are all thankful that we didn’t have to purchase a new set of furniture for this room.

How to Reupholster A Chair

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

We have been hard at work on completely redoing our old dining set. My kitchen chairs were in solid condition and didn’t require any painting, but I was tired of the faux leather fabric that I had purchased for the chairs when my kids were little. Today I wanted to share with you just how easy it is to reupholster those chairs and add a little pizzazz to a tired dining set for very little money.

Supplies Needed For This Project

New Fabric (I am using outdoor fabric to help prevent staining from spills. You could also choose a faux leather fabric or any type of fabric and then treat it with Scotch Guard to prevent staining). This fabric should be measured to the width of your chair and then add 4 inches  to each measurement so you have enough fabric to reach around the cushion.  My chair seat was 20×20 so I needed 24×24 for each seat. For all six seats it required 2 yards of fabric total.

Upholstery Staple Gun (available at fabric stores)

Upholstery Staples (heavy-duty)

Needle-nose pliers

Screwdriver

Pinking Shears (or regular sewing scissors)


Invert your chair and use your screwdriver to remove the four screws on the bottom that are securing your cushion to the chair.

If the cushion has fabric stapled on it already, use your needle-nose pliers to remove the old staples and fabric from the cushion. If you only have one layer of fabric, it should be okay, but this chair had two so I had to remove my last round of reupholstering to get back to the base of the chair.

Now it is time to cut your new fabric to replace the old fabric that was on your chair.  This fabric should be measured to the width of your chair and then add 4 inches  to each measurement so you have enough fabric to reach around the cushion.  My chair seat was 20×20 so I needed 24×24 for each seat. For all six seats it required 2 yards of fabric total.

I prefer to cut my fabric with a pair of pinking shears instead of regular scissors because the fabric does not fray with these and I don’t have to mess with trimming and pulling strings on fabric. If you don’t have a pair of these though, you can always use regular shears.

When buying your fabric, be sure to ask if they offer any specials or discounts to customers. I got this fabric at Jo-Ann Fabrics and signed up for their email list while I was at the register. They gave me a coupon that took $16 off of my total fabric purchase so I was able to get fabric for six chairs for $25!

Once you have your fabric cut, it is time to staple. Center your cushion upside down and make sure there is approximately the same amount of fabric on all four sides and then pull the fabric tightly over your cushion and staple it. You are going to want to put your whole body into this one, friends.  Staple all the fabric down along the cushion securely.

Corners can be a tricky terrain, but they don’t have to be. I like to bring the top part down and then fold in the other side of the fabric on top. You can do your corners on your cushion however you like. I think the trick with this one is just to play with it, flip it over and take a peek, and then play with the fabric again until you find a corner you like. Once you figure out how you like your corners, replicate it with the three other corners and then again on your next chair. Trim the excess corner fabric.

Center your cushion back on your chair and make sure all of the fabric is tucked nicely underneath and on top. Secure your cushion back on with the four screws again.

Now just repeat the same process over and over and over again until all of your chairs are done. I was able to get six chairs reupholstered in one afternoon. It isn’t hard to do and is a great job to tackle while watching your favorite shows.

I am madly in love with this fabric that I chose and can’t believe how much more I love these chairs. They look like brand new and I only spent $25 to shine them up.

Of course, what are new chairs without a new-to-me table? Looking forward to revealing what I have been up to this past week and sharing with you our new kitchen tabletop!

This tabletop has needed attention for eight years now and I am finally doing it.

Procrastination is the name of the game.

I hope I am not the only one with an eight year project that has been bugging her.

What is one home improvement project you have been vowing to do, but just haven’t made time to tackle yet?

Back-to-School Round-Up of Tips, Resources, & Project Ideas

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I can hardly believe that our summer is coming to a close for our family.  I have to say, so far…it really has been the best summer ever. It’s not because we have done tons of vacations or been running nonstop, but it has just been being together and finally have kids at the age where outings have become as much of a treat for me as it is for them.  We have loved every moment of our summer and I am going to really miss the lazy days that we have been enjoying these last few months.

As another school year is fast approaching in our house it has been a flurry of activity- uniform shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, backpack shopping, school supplies shopping,  ice cream treating, lots of individual dates with each kid, and plenty of talking about the exciting year to come.

I just wanted to point out a few of my favorite resources for moms that might help you as you ease back into your busy school year! These are my favorite resources for organizing and feeding my family during this busy time!

Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas:

Lighter Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes & Tips for Getting Your Waffle On

Protein-Packed Strawberry & Banana Smoothies

Banana Cream Pie Smoothies

Slow Cooked Oatmeal

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (a great way to celebrate your week at school on Saturday morning)

Honey Nut Granola

Vanilla Scented Granola

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Getting Organized for Back-to-School:

One Month of Slow Cooking (perfect for those days filled with after-school activities)

The Essentials for Saving on Back-to-School

Weekly Planner Sheet

Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

Transforming the Paper Clutter

Choosing a Great Family Organizer for Your Family

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Ideas for Celebrating That First Day of School:

Back-to-School Close to My Heart Pin

Back to School Celebration Feasts with Recipes

Back-to-School Celebrations

World’s Greatest Homemade Slushies

Throw a Frugal Pizza Party

For Capturing Those Back-To-School Photos:

Capturing Your Children Through Photography

Making Lunch Special:

How to Save on School Lunches

Ideas for Making Lunch Fun & Healthy

Free Printable Lunch Box Notes

Writing Love Notes to Your Child

Fun with After-School Snacks:

Deliciously Easy Raisin Bran Muffins

Apple Pie Muffins

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Easy Cereal Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Showing Your Teachers Some Love

Creamy Hot Cocoa or Vanilla Chai Drink Mixes

Snickerdoodle Biscotti

Oreo Biscotti

Effortless & Elegant Quick Breads You Can Make

Homemade Peppermint Bath Salts or Oatmeal Cookies & Milk Bath Soak

Rolled Rosette Ribbon Rings

Good luck to each of you that are on this journey again with your kids! I hope you all get off to a successful school year start.  I am sending each of you a coffee cup this size (see above) to get through all of it!

I hope these links to these past entries will inspire you as you prepare for this next school year!

The Power of Living Small

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Miniature

Small space living comes with many challenges, but the rewards for a family on a budget are great. For a long time I considered our smaller home a temporary means to get us by until we could afford more.  As the years have gone by though, I have truly discovered the power of living in a smaller house and making the most of what we have been given. I will admit that it is all about our approach towards making our space our own, more than it is about the amount of square footage in our house.

Small space is all relative, of course, isn’t it? In full discretion, our home is 1,500 square feet for our family of four. While that may sound like a lot or a little, the space is made smaller and more challenging with a tri-level floor plan. If it was spread on one or two levels, I am sure it would feel much larger. I think it is the floor plan that is more of a challenge than the square footage of our home. Regardless, spatial challenges have existed and we have learned a lot from working through them.

Regardless of your square footage though, I wanted to share with you a few ideas for learning to embrace the power of living in the space you are in right now. There is so much that I have learned over the years about making our home the best that we can and I wanted to share with you some ideas on how to make the most of the space you are in right now.

Reconsider Your Furniture

Furniture can truly make a room feel larger or smaller depending on the size of it and the purpose it serves in your home. Our larger furniture that we purchased for our previous home was not well-suited for the home we had now, but replacing it was not a cost that we could really afford.

Instead, consider scaling back on the amount of furniture you have in your rooms. Do you truly use the side tables in your home? Is the coffee table really needed or would your space benefit from an ottoman that could serve as dual storage? Try removing pieces of furniture from the room and see if they make the flow of the space feel bigger.

When you do replace furniture, try buying items that could serve as a dual purpose or could maximize your smaller rooms. When my son needed a new bed, we opted for a loft bed that would allow him to have a desk underneath, one piece of furniture that he would truly need and one that would not have fitted with any other piece of furniture.

Cut the Clutter in Half

The best part about living in a smaller space is that it has forced me to edit the belongings I have and has kept me from buying as much as I would in a larger space. If your home closets that are small, if you don’t have a basement, if there is no garage…then these situations can truly work for you as a way to keep your clutter naturally under control.

Lately I have been trying to live my life by the infamous quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” If it is not bringing beauty or usefulness to my space, then I can feel good about passing those items on to someone else in need.  Suddenly, my kitchen counters feel spacious, the basement really does have a spot for everything in storage, and the house really does have enough space for us all.

Consider making a weekly date with yourself to devote an hour towards improving one spot in your home that you struggle with. If it is a drawer that never opens, an office that is filled with useless papers, a basement that has become an avalanche of misplaced items, spend your hour making those spots in your home better. Make it a goal to cut the clutter in half in these spots to make them more livable and enjoyable.

Make Wise Renovation Investments

Renovating your home can be costly, but it is usually not as costly as it is to buy a new home. If there is a particular area in your home you want to improve, consider getting an estimate to make your space more livable. Many homes have unused corners and smaller spaces that could be improved upon to make the home more livable.

Our little house got a much needed renovation this past year to make our space work for us for many years to come. With one wall knocked out and putting unused basement storage to work, our home was renovated into a spacious family room and a quiet home office in the basement.

Begin really thinking about the space you are in and how you could make it work for your family. Look for guidance in home magazines or consider spending the money on having an architect coming to evaluate your home to draw up a plan for making more out of the space you are currently in. You may be surprised to discover how much more square footage you might have right where you already are.

Make Your Space Feel Permanent

If you look at your home as a temporary place until you find something better, you might be overlooking the chance to really make the space you are in work for your family. I found that when I finally told myself that this was my home (whether I liked it or not) and put the elbow grease into it, it transformed not only the space…but my attitude towards it.  As with all things in life, it is what you make it and I am choosing to make it the best that I truly can!

If you are living in a smaller home or apartment, just remember to consider your blessings. Not only do you have a mortgage or monthly payment that you can afford, but you have less of a home to clean, a natural way to edit the excess from your life, and more importantly….cozier quarters that force your family to always be together. What could be better for a family than that?

First Photo Credit: mricon

How have you learned to embrace the space you are in right now?

An Old-Fashioned Birthday BBQ Bash

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

This weekend we celebrated Ethan’s 8th birthday with a good old-fashioned birthday BBQ bash for our family.  I have so many new recipes and ideas to showcase from this party, but today I wanted to share with you some of the decorations and strategies that I took to save money and make this birthday special. Over the next few weeks, I will be highlighting the new recipes that I used and tips for creating the dishes in your home.

We greeted our guests with this beautiful birthday wreath that was featured in our notebook and recreated in our home from How Does She. It can be created in about a half hour and requires zero craft skills. Everyone commented on how cute it was and it will be put away on a shelf until the next birthday. It took about $13 in supplies and I am sure we will get every dollar out of this wreath. Isn’t it adorable? I have a real adoration for anything that can become a part of our yearly traditions and the kids loved that this let everyone know we were in celebration mode.

One investment that I made into our future parties was a set of burger baskets. I found these at Gordon’s Food Service ($14.99 for 12) and I purchased one package of delicatessen paper ($4.99 for 500 sheets) for my family celebrations. I really am not a fan of paper plates and one time use party products.  I also hate the bulk of heavy dishes when you have an outdoor party. These seemed like a great  alternative and are a little studier than paper plates. I admit it is also a nod to my love of all things diner and retro. We can use these all summer long and everyone seemed to really love this idea!

When you are on a party budget, you have to evaluate every aspect of food preparation. A vegetable tray that is pre-made can be purchased for between $10-12, but making a vegetable tray at home cost about $5 in supplies. I saved a deli platter from a catered party that I had hosted and added to to my own party supplies. This sturdy tray has been reused multiple times and adds a more professional element to my party without the added expenditure.

Buying corn that has already been cleaned and is ready to go can save time, but it can add quite a bit to the party budget if you are trying to stay within your budget constraints and have many mouths to feed. With a little effort and time, preparing the corn yourself can shave an easy $5 off of your budget.

Drinks can also add a lot to a party budget and that is why we usually rely on a big batch of birthday punch to save on this category.  It is easy to spend $20 or more on the drink budget, but with one great batch of punch and a little decaf coffee for the dessert hour, I can spend $6 in supplies that will serve fifteen people with plenty of refills. Now that is a huge savings!

I will admit the cake process can be intimidating for me and many other moms. I took a cake decorating class and found the process to be a little…tedious. When I have more time, perhaps I will pick it back up. This year, I gave my son all of my cookbooks and he and his sister spent a Saturday morning flipping through them and selecting the most perfect birthday cake. To my surprise, he selected an easy chocolate bundt cake that he said would be, “the most perfect cake ever.” Do you think sometimes we put more pressure on ourselves as mothers than necessary?

This cake cost about $4 in supplies and still wowed everyone without the labor of homemade frosting and perfectly piped decorations. It was so simple, in fact, that I added a berry cake (another $4 in supplies) so our guests had two cake options. Both of them were perfection and cost a mere $8 versus two bakery cakes that would cost $15 to $25 each. Hurray for saving money and hurray for easy cakes! (recipes coming soon)

Thanks to waiting until after the fourth of July this year (instead of having a patriotic party like last year), we were able to take advantage of clearance party supplies to create the wreath and for the paper products that we did have to buy. A little ribbon added to a cake platter ties our theme in beautifully and we were able to take advantage of those clearance tables!

Does this look like the face of a child who has had the worst celebration ever because of his mother’s cheapness?

Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Birthday Party Punch

2 liter bottle fruit punch flavored soda or strawberry flavored soda (I found this at Walmart)
2 liter (half a bottle) Cherry 7-Up
1 (12 ounce) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 can pineapple juice

Mix all the ingredients together for the punch. This will fill one large punch bowl or two smaller ones.

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Perfectly Pulled Pork Sandwiches (Adapted from All Recipes)

1 (4 pound) Boston butt (or pork shoulder)
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle root beer
1 (18 ounce) bottle your favorite barbecue sauce
8 hamburger buns, split and lightly toasted

Place the pork meat  in a slow cooker; pour the root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily (I cooked for eight hours).  Shred the meat and drain the root beer from the slow cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce and toss gently. Serve over hamburger buns.

Many more recipes to come…

I Did Not Sort My Laundry This Week…And We All Lived

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

It has been a crazy week for our family, just as so many other families, as the school year is drawing to a close. Last week I crammed in some work, read a literary classic to share for our great reads for moms section, frantically tried to finish some knitted projects, volunteered at school, hit the gym three times this week,  went to a end-of-the-year concert, hosted a mom’s night out, and tried to work on new summer recipe ideas for the site. Did I also mention that my book proposal will finally be going out into the world this week after spending the week editing it? I am a little scared about that one!

The craziness seemed to take whole new levels and my husband, at one point, said he wished he could have photographed me in one of my crazier moments. He came home from work to find me entertaining the kids, on the phone with a conference call, threading shrimp, whispering directions to him on the grill for the new recipe, and then putting the phone on speakerphone so I could take photographs of our dinner before we sat down. Ironically, it is hard to even tell you what we did last week because it was such a whirlwind. Have you ever had a week like that?

I admit, I can’t do it all and felt a little overwhelmed.

The laundry continued to mount and so I decided this would be the perfect week to try the not-sorting laundry idea that had been highlighted in our Notebook two weeks ago. When I told my husband that I was doing this for a Notebook Experiment,  he said, “That is going to be one expensive experiment if it doesn’t work.” Obviously, he does not know how awesome my friend Laura is and how I was willing to take a gamble and see if it would work.

We have a front-loader (which I absolutely love) and so I had to read through her comment thread to figure out where to put the vinegar, which was supposed to help set the color in my load. I have used vinegar in the past as a fabric softener, particularly when we were cloth diapering, but had never thought of it as a tool to set color.

After reading through the thread, I put my regular detergent in the detergent dispenser, my fabric softener in the softener dispenser, and the 1/2 cup of vinegar in the bleach dispenser. I ran it through the Normal cycle selection and then ran the dryer on the Normal cycle selection after it was done washing.

Here are  my son’s uniforms after this mixed-up load went through the dryer. The whites were still white and the blues still blue. I won’t say I didn’t feel completely weird about this experience and can’t say if I would do this all of the time, as I value my pearly white socks and white undershirts a lot and love using my Whites cycle on my washing machine to make everything look like new again.

For a week like this one… it was exactly what I needed to get things done.

What are some ways you save time or money on doing your laundry loads? What system of sorting/tackling laundry seems to work with your family? Do you sort? I would love to hear your ideas!

Mistreating My Windows the Type-A Way

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Decorating is not my thing and window treatments are really not my thing.  I think this is why I am really excited to showcase an idea for home decorating that anyone can do… especially people who don’t sew and love to wing it! I don’t sew, but am very Type-A so this project was a bit of a challenge for me. Regardless,  I am so pleased with the results and it was worth every little minute of my type-a-ness to complete this project!

Now that we have completed our home renovations,  I needed to do some focusing on the details of pulling my two rooms together to create one room. Pictured above is an example of a detail that needed to be addressed… the window treatments. The office had bamboo shades while the family room had faux wood blinds. Now that this room was one large room, I needed to match the window treatments up and make it look like a uniformed space.

We had curtains before, but trying to find curtains and hardware that matched exactly would have been impossible to do. I don’t sew, although I have tried, and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on new curtains for five windows. I decided to do a little window mistreating courtesy of The Nester that had been featured in the notebook a long time ago.  She said it can be done in ten minutes per window so I was completely on board!

I also had this piece that I wanted to dress up and pull into the rest of the room. It originally was a buffet in our kitchen that held our glass stemware. It is now the place where we house all of the kid’s coloring books and crayons. Life has certainly changed, hasn’t it?  I wanted to try to dress this up inexpensively on top and keep the chaos inside (unlike how it is pictured here)

Two trips to Hobby Lobby, sweating in the fabric aisle, hardcore number crunching to figure out the perfect amount of fabric, $25 in materials to make the curtains and I was ready to roll. I kicked off my super awesome shoes and I was ready to get to work.

This is where I do everything wrong. I measure every curtain to make sure they have exactly the same amount of fabric, I carefully pin the corners of each piece, fold everything in and make sure nothing is showing, line them all up on top of each other and pin them again, practice hanging them, make my husband hold them up and then stand back, go down the steps and look at him holding them to make sure I still like them, pin them again, tack them, then re-tack them into the wall, practice different poofing techniques (not a word according to spell check), etc…. This is why Type-A personalities do not do well with projects where you just wing it.

It is now about ten at night before I finally finish with my measuring and obsessing. I then try to hang them, but because I am a girl of small stature, I realize that there is no way I can even reach that high. My poor husband has to do the hanging with my constant barking. He gets out a glass of wine to soften the blows of my barking and then we end up having a great time.

Here are my perfectly imperfect window mistreatments. I had my husband practically tack them to the ceiling so that the walls looked taller since this is our basement and the windows are so squat. I think the chocolate brown was a good choice of color since the walls were light beige and we had chocolate throw pillows on the couch. I also love that these can be switched out easily and fairly inexpensively when we need a breath of fresh air in the room.

Did I save money doing these? Absolutely! The curtains at Target ran about $20 per panel and the hardware was around $10-12 per window. Including the upholstery tacks, I only spent $26 on four windows.

The fifth window will remain without curtains due to the fact that it is right at the top of a lower wall and doesn’t need window treatments. We did have to buy more faux wood shades, but now everything will match in this room and we still did it inexpensively with these DIY window mistreatments.

I decorated my little corner of this side of the room with black-and-white photos of my children that I took of them (zero cost for photographer). I printed them on my little photo printer (no purchases made) and then got inexpensive frames at Hobby Lobby for $5 each. The glass container ($14.99 at Target) was filled with some fillers in green and brown to tie in the rest of the room. I look forward to switching the items inside with the seasons and switching the photos to keep this corner fresh!

Thanks to The Nester for inspiring me to mistreat those windows and visit  Nesting Place for more great ideas on budget-friendly home decor!

What are some ways that you have saved your family on home decor? Any DIY projects that have kept your budget low? Please share!

Welcome to Our “New To Us” Home

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Small space living has never defined who I am or stopped me from being the best hostess I can be in my house. While some might shy away from space challenges, I have opened our home until it practically screamed for mercy to every friend and family member I possibly could.

Of course, small space is all relative, isn’t it? Our home is 1,500 square feet. While that may sound like a lot or a little, the space is made smaller and more challenging with a tri-level floor plan. If it was spread on one or two levels, it would feel much larger. I think it is the floor plan that is more of a challenge than the square footage of our home.

Despite the challenges as they existed, I can cram an entire Bunco group of 17 in my little house, I have hosted large birthday parties for my kids, an entire Redbook photo shoot in my home, a news crew out monthly so I could share frugal tips, and  Thanksgiving dinner was made and people shoved into the crevices of  two rooms for a delicious family feast. Small spaces should never stop you from sharing your home with others… although it might take a little furniture rearranging to make it happen!

That being said, I knew that there were ways that we could make the most of the spaces we already had. It started with the knocking out of a wall to create more open space in our kitchen. We felt like we had an addition to the space we already owned. What other possibilities could happen within our existing walls?

In the middle of the night, one January evening, I sat up in bed and had a vision for what we could do to make it work. I cornered my husband in the wee hours of the morning and explained my vision for the space. He looked at me like I grew another head and said I could get estimates, but the ball was in my court.

The estimates rolled in, the numbers crunched, the contractor for the job chosen, and just three weeks later, we have a brand new home.

All this said without the agony and woe that I experienced over the difficulties of living without flooring, a film of dust on everything I own, the close quarters that we endured, the challenges of keeping two children out of the way, the demise of our marriage, the demise of my parenting abilities, the irritation of losing my privacy, the crap food we ate, the budget we completely blew on eating out/entertainment, the cluttered and disgusting home I have had to live in, the short fuse that I never knew I possessed, the copious amounts of coffee I drank through the project, the glass of wine I drank to unwind in my dusty tub every night,  the day I cried in the garage in my bathrobe in front of one of the workers because I couldn’t find a specific paint color…Yeah, all of that is shamefully shoved under my welcome mat to never be spoken of again.



Pictured above is my family room before. This is where our family spends the majority of our time. Our two couches were crammed and people had to scoot their legs through a narrow opening to get behind the coffee table. One rocker in the corner couldn’t rock because the space was too narrow and had to be shoved against the wall. The room was long, but narrow, making it a difficult space to navigate. My furniture was bulky, but bought for a house in Massachusetts that we owned that fit that space perfectly.

The television was placed into an empty closet and framed with curtains. This definitely helped us free up some space since the entire television unit was out of the way, but the space was still small.



Next to our family room was the office/home gym equipment. The main challenges with this space…well, there were a lot of challenges with this space. It was in the heart of the activity of the home so I could hear the television through the walls when I was trying to work, the closet couldn’t be shut because of the length of our desk so I had to look at my clutter all of the time and if the treadmill was used in the mornings, it woke everyone up in the house.

Below that level of the home, was this half of the basement that was not being used for anything except to hold a bunch of junk in our house. As I was partying it up at BlissDom, my hubby was clearing this room for a major transformation to happen. It was a underutilized space that could potentially be awesome.


The kitchen had some storage challenges that I wanted to address. My pantry was so small and lacked the storage space that I needed for our food. I had to keep our food in the basement and go down two sets of stairs to get to the food storage at the bottom of the steps.

The console table in the kitchen made it difficult to maneuver around the kitchen table. We liked having the computer in the kitchen, but we needed to create a space for it that wouldn’t conflict with our eating space or make it difficult for our guests to dine at our house.  We knew that when the computer is phased out, we would likely put a television in that spot for our fun family nights.

Our entryway was fine, it just needed a spot for wet boots. We would love a new front door, but it wasn’t in the budget for now.

The kitchen floors were not my first choice for flooring, but I was okay with them…until the flooring started falling apart. The floor had not been installed properly and we had potential problems on our hand. For example, no flooring had been installed behind the dishwasher which makes it difficult to spot leaking if it occurs. Around the stove, the pieces were shifting. When the contractor agreed to give us the floors at builder’s cost and not charge for the install and give us a new entryway (in exchange for my husband’s web design services), we were on board!


The entire project took three weeks of them working on our home from 8-5 every weekday and two of the three weekends we had drywall and electric being done. That being said, the changes in that short time are jaw dropping. I still can’t believe that this much can be done in such a short time span.

Welcome to my new-to-me home! Pictured here is the new entryway that has been tiled for all of those muddy boots and then transitions into our new laminate flooring. We chose this plank-style laminate flooring because it had a beautiful faux grain to it and looked like hardwood without going the hardwood route. The tile was leftover from another job that the contractor had done and I loved the beautiful earth tones this porcelain tiling had in it.

This is the new kitchen wall with the cubbyhole built in for our computer. We added an extra shelf above for decoration or to hide the DVD’s and CD’s that we pick up from the library. I love that the kids can pull a chair into this spot to work on the computer and that we can watch family movies together in this room. They added a light above it to light this little area in our home.

All of the doors were updated with new six panel doors and new door hardware. This was one of the twelve doors that was replaced and painted white. Just these details alone made our home feel so much more modern!

The pantry shelves actually extended further than the door and I requested that they make them as big as we could fit into the space that we had. They are heavy-duty shelves that were painted white.

To me, this is truly one of the most exciting things in the house. I have always wanted a pantry in my kitchen and this space is going to be put to good use. I am in heaven and was so excited to organize and fill this space with our food.  Grocery day just got a whole heck of a lot easier!

I have plenty of space on bottom so I put our potatoes, extra soda, and my reusable grocery bags there. It is so nice to have all of this extra room!

Heading down the stairs is our brand new family room. You can see how it is one room now instead of two. A supporting beam was put in and the wall was taken out to create one room instead of the two smaller rooms that we had before.

I am so proud of how the family room turned out and amazed at how much more spacious this room is. The kids are nuts about their new space, in fact, they have been running themselves silly around the room with all of this extra space. The updated trim, canned lighting, and textured ceiling really made this space so much more updated!

The disorganized home office closet has now become a functional space for our kid’s toys and family games. The doors can keep the chaos away and the kids love that they each have their own shelf in the closet for their toys.  A special spot for my vacuum was also carved out so I don’t have to figure out where to put it anymore!

Down below our basement is the subbasement where we decided to put our new home office. I can keep the door open and have coffee downstairs while the kids play or I can lock the door and keep the chaos away or just leave the door slightly closed so I can get a little quiet time to work.

This is our new home office! The flooring matches the kitchen flooring that was installed and we brought our double desk downstairs where it would have more room to fit. Two shelves, the length of the desk, were installed for office storage.

We saw these chairs at Value City Furniture and just had to have them. The painting was one that we had already owned from Target and the bench that rests between them was a recovered Goodwill purchase years ago.

We would like to thank J. Wilson Construction for completing our renovation on time and within our budget. We could not be happier with our new space and highly recommend them if you live in the Michiana area. I am happy to be your referral too!

I hope you enjoyed the tour and thank you for your patience as we get ourselves organized and situated back into our home!

I just want to say that I am so thankful for your support and am so proud that we did this the way we wanted to- by saving and paying cash for this moment. It makes everything about this whole experience so much sweeter and that much more gratifying!