Category Archives: Frugal living

Summer of Plumbers

One of our kids needs to become a plumber. That’s all there is to it. We’re on our 3rd plumbing related incident of the summer. Today’s has been the most frustrating.

The first is the shower that won’t quit leaking. Three of us have tried to tighten the screw in the hot water knob to no avail. It appears fixed…for a minute. Then the dripping begins a gain. And each time I think it drips a little harder afterwards. I shudder to think what our water bill will be this month!

The second was a leaking gasket between the stool and tank in our bathroom. I discovered this one when I stepped on the wet bathroom rug. It took some investigation to figure out what was going on. Then I discovered the floor tiles were mushy. Thank goodness they are the peel and stick kind so an easy fix. For now there is a bowl under the leak until we can take it all apart and replace the rubber washers. I think that will fix it anyway. I hope.

Last night when I reached in the ice maker for some ice, my hand hit a solid cube. Apparently the ice maker is just making water. The tub that catches the ice was full of water that had frozen. But not before it ran over the edge and onto the bottom shelf of the freezer. Fortunately, the freezer is still freezing. So we cleaned it out and turned off the icemaker and went to bed. When Oldest Son came home I had him double check it. Thank goodness for that!

The water was flowing at a steady stream out of the ice maker and the tub was full and flowing onto the bottom of the freezer again. So, at midnight we emptied the upstairs freezer and put everything in the chest freezer downstairs. Oldest Son shut the valve to the ice maker and we put two tubs under there just to be sure. And we went to bed.

This morning we woke to water running from the freezer and all over the floor! Such a mess. Clearly the shut off valve is worn out. So now we have a valve to replace and an ice maker to fix.

Which takes me back to the need for one of our sons to be a plumber. And it would probably be good if one was a mechanic as well. We could probably save a fortune in repair costs with just those two!


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Filed under Frugal living, Home Improvement, Money

I have a secret…

You can’t tell anyone. I’ve seen some friends post about it on facebook. Making fun of those who do it. I almost admitted, I’m one of them. Just a little bit. And I liked it! A LOT! I wanted to do some more, but I ran out of time. It was kind of thrilling. And a little bit embarrassing. Not too embarrassing, or I wouldn’t have done it. 

Tomorrow is Tidy Town day in our neighborhood. That’s the day when the garbage truck will pick up all the huge pieces they normally refuse. So everyone in the neighborhood has piles by the street. Piles of their junk. But you know the saying…One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I love recycled crafts! I find it challenging to take something old and seemingly garbage, and repurpose it into something beautiful. Something creative and personal. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I’ve even blogged about a couple projects. And I have lots more to share with you. Maybe when you see the finished products you won’t judge me quite so harshly. Or maybe you still will.

So here’s my secret…I picked up things people had piled along the street! Several things. And I wanted to look for more! I kind of wanted to stay ahead of all the pickups that were casing the neighborhood. I might miss something good. Problem is, we were in the Camery. There isn’t a lot of room for great finds when you already have four people in a Camery. We put down the windows and let things stick out! And then, when we got home, I sent Oldest Son and Youngest Son back with the van for some things that didn’t fit in the Camery. Can you believe that?! 

You want to know what I got don’t you? I know you do. You’re thinking, “There’s nothing cool enough to make me stop along the road, get out of my car and load it up.”

Well, I disagree. And I didn’t have to get out of the car. Remeber I had three family members with me. The ones who are obligated to do as I ask. But they did go willingly. I didn’t even have to threaten them. They kind of got into it too. 

You’re gonna be jealous when you see what I got. If you have a creative eye. If you can see the potential. If not, I feel bad for you – you’re missing out. It’s so fun to look at something and imagine what it might become.

So you want to see? Here they are. My amazing finds!

The coolest ladders. There are three of them here. It was one big wooden extension ladder. The person who put it by the curb cut it into pieces. Bummer. But they fit in my flower bed perfectly. So, yay! They are old and worn and used. And I can only imagine what they have been through.

Isnt’ it awesome?! I love it. I have one more piece that is just two or three rungs long. I haven’t decided what to do with it yet. Something will come to me.

Then there is this one.

Look at the paint spatters. They’re real. This ladder has been used by someone…for a long time. It’s pink! And Blue! Do you see the potential? I do!

It’s going to become something cool. I just don’t know what quite yet.

I do have a plan for these though. {No, I did not drink all this wine. Like I very emfatically told Middle Son’s study partner that saw them tonight. And there are more bottles…lots more!}


It involves removing the labels and painting them. It’s going to be a great centerpiece when I’m done. But, I needed something to put them on when I spray paint them. I was thinking about poking sticks in the yard so I could put the bottles upside down on them and paint the whole bottle. I was thinking it might look quite odd. That’s when I drove by these.

It’s PERFECT! I can spray 16 bottles at once! And it was laying by the street.

One man’s garbage…exactly what I was looking for.

I’m going to mark my calendar for the next Tidy Town and make sure I’m driving the van!

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Filed under Creativity, Decor, Frugal living, Home Improvement

Mine’s Gonna Be the Hottest!

Another interesting conversation at the dinner table today. We had our Easter dinner, just the 5 of us, before Oldest Son went to work at 1. It felt so good to worship together then sit down to a meal together. We always have the best talks around our table. Today we talked about living on less, the green movement and simplifying our lives. {No we are not downsizing our house and riding bikes to work.} The boys have such interesting perspectives on this. They are growing up in a very different world – in so many ways. One could argue that its preached in the schools, plastered in the media and ultimately “tight” {that’s cool to my generation} to be environmentally conscious. Like anything, there will be many who “join the cause” because its the in thing to do. But all that aside, I truly enjoy hearing what they are thinking, what they hear from others and how they see things like this impacting their lives. It was a good conversation.

Middle Son and Youngest Son share a bedroom; we have a three bedroom house. When they were younger, all three boys were in one room. We had three bedrooms, but office and crafts took over one. They were small enough then, they didn’t mind. In fact, you’d be surprised how often they bring up something they did back when they all shared a room. Some of it I knew, some is a surprise:)! I never shared a room {until college} with anyone – I had three older brothers who shared a room while I had my own. Maybe it is my own jealousy of this chance to connect that makes me believe its good to share a room with a sibling. They can fight like cats and dogs, but I also hear deep, uncontrollable belly laughs late at night. 

During the dinner conversation I reassured them that when they are all grown, married and have children of their own we will gather around this same table {probably in this same house} and they will reminisce about their childhood. And one of the the memories that will get them laughing is the talk about what happened in that room after Mom and Dad thought they were sleeping. I thought it was a profound moment.

Until Youngest Son pumped his fist and said, “Mine’s gonna be the hottest!”

Blank stares all around.

“My wife is gonna be the hottest.”

And that’s Youngest Son…

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Filed under Family, Frugal living, Randomness

All that and a White Picket Fence

When we were first married we moved around a lot. Hubby’s company has lots of locations and moving up meant moving around. We lived in four cities in the first six years we were married. And the beginning of the seventh year found us in a new state. Because of all these moves, we chose not to buy a house. We rented apartments, duplexes and houses in each new town. I grew to detest white walls and dreamed of some day buying a house that we could make our home. I redecorated in my mind a thousand times. I couldn’t wait until we could have a house of our own. Isn’t that everyone’s dream; a house wit a white picket fence?”

Nine years ago, we finally took the plunge. We bought our first home. It’s not a big house and its not new by any means. But we’ve spent the last nine years making it our own. We’ve learned so much! We’ve added walls; from the studs up. Framing, sheet rocking, taping, mudding, texturizing, priming and painting. We replaced flooring; pulling up the vinyl that was glued to the underlayment and laying a floating laminate floor. We took out a wall {not the one we put in} moving an outlet and closing an air vent. We tore out a tub surround and replaced it with subway tiles. We painted kitchen cabinets and put in oak stairs. So many projects! We have become quite handy over the years. Doing everything ourselves has saved us a ton of money! I can’t imagine what it would have cost to hire someone to do all the work. Doing it ourselves was thanks in no small part to my Dad. The hands-down-all-time-best handyman I know. We joke that he could build anything with green treated lumber and angle iron. He should have been an engineer. He can design anything in his head and 9 times out of 10 he will build it and it works! He has helped on nearly every project we have done. And those he hasn’t been physically present for, he provided the expertise, encouragement and confidence. It’s been a lot of fun! We’ve done things neither Hubby or I thought we could.

But its also been a lot of work! We spend a lot of time taking care of the house. Besides just the redecorating stuff, there’s the maintenance and upkeep. Mowing the lawn, trimming the trees, painting the garage doors. It goes on and on.  And then in a big rainstorm, you notice a drip. A pretty steady drip. Through the ceiling into the shower.

At 9:30 pm.

On a Thursday.

Ugh! It would be fun to pretend like I didn’t see it. If I was a renter and it wasn’t my house getting damaged by the rain. Actually, if I was a renter I would just call the landlord and it would be his problem. I wouldn’t have to figure out who to call or pay for it when they come. It would be so simple. And then I’d be done. Problem solved. But instead, I dreamed of my own home. Where I could paint the walls and make it my own. So, it’s my own. My own leak in the ceiling.

At 9:30 pm.

On a Thursday.

So into the attic we go. Except I have to empty everything out of my closet before I can get to the attic door. Convenient location if you ask me. Oldest Son was nice enough to go first; he has his grandpa’s engineering genes. And he’s pretty good at fixing things. {Hubby has strange hours at work and so was sleeping at 9:30 pm.} We climbed through the attic, balancing like a surfer on the boards that straddle the ceiling joists. We find the leak. While we’re looking at it and surveying our options, I feel a drop on my back. Another leak. It’s gonna be a long night.

So, in the midst of an uber-busy weekend we will figure out who to call and get our roof fixed. And we will probably drop a wad of money. Is it worth it? To be able to paint my walls and make a place our own?

Ask me after I get the bill…

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Filed under Frugal living, Home Improvement

Perfectly Pretty Plate

I found this really cute, simple idea somewhere in blogland. I didn’t bookmark and haven’t been able to find it or I would give credit. {After searching for the original post I saw, I now know there are lots of samples out there!} Some of you know my love of second hand shopping. Well this project was the best of both worlds; a great idea to feed my need for creativity and repurpose a thrift store find. This is so simple…you have to try it yourself. I found these cute snowflake plates. I like them because you could use them for Christmas, and through winter – and they fit with my snowman theme. Use your imagination in finding a “foot” for your plate. I tried lots of different things to see what look I liked.  I used a candle holder – they had several of them at the thrift store.  I spent 99 cents on the plate and 49 cents on the candle holder! Wow, $1.49 – kinda pricey:).

You will need a protected work surface, toothpicks, a dry erase marker, ruler and paper to cut a pattern. You’ll also need the right adhesive. I like E-6000. It’s a one-part epoxy so it holds great, but you don’t have the mess of mixing it. I use if for lots of things; fixing shoes, craft projects, you know, everyday stuff.


First you need to find the center of the plate so you know where to place the candle holder. Turn the plate upside down and lay the paper on the bottom of the plate. Rub the bottom edge of the plate to make an impression on the paper. This gives you a pattern the size of the bottom of the plate.

Cut the circle out on the crease to make the pattern. Then fold the circle in half.

Lay the half circle pattern on the bottom of the plate and use your dry erase marker to draw a line along the edge of the pattern. Turn it and make another line. If you do this several times you will end up with this:

Notice the lines may not all line up, but you will be able to find the center of the plate this way. Then measure the diameter of the candle holder that you will glue to the plate. Divide that number in half to find the radius of the candle holder. {It sounds more complicated than it really is.} Use this number to measure out from your center and make little marks. This is where you will place the candle holder.

Because we used a dry erase marker, you can wipe the lines off before mounting the candle holder. Just don’t wipe away the four marks that indicate the circumference of the candleholder.


 I used a toothpick to apply drops of epoxy to the lip of the candle holder. Follow the directions on the glue.

Carefully place the candle holder on the bottom of the plate using the marks you made.

Now comes the hard part…don’t touch it for 24 hours! It’s hard to wait. But worth it. You want the glue to set completely.

And you’re done! I made three with the snowflake plates and one with a pretty white plate. The snowflake ones all have the same foot, but the white plate has a shorter, wider foot. You can make yours however you want. I like crafts like that! I get the general idea and then I get to make it my own. So, go find a pretty plate and a foot and make your own! Then send me a pic of yours…I can’t wait to see what you come up with.


I had to include this pic cause it made me laugh. This is me. Carefully marking the center of my plate. I had Oldest Son take a couple pictures. I told him to only shoot my hands. When he handed the camera back, this is what I saw. And I think my tongue is sticking out. I do that a lot when I’m concentrating. It’s a family trait.

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Going Green

I guess its actually happened. I never thought it would.

If you know me, you know there’s nothing earthy about me. No one has ever used the term granola or tree hugger to describe me. Not even close. I think global warming is a figment of Al Gore’s imagination. I think we have plenty of oil we should be drilling for right here in the US. And don’t even get me started on the whole insanity about putting a limit on CO2 emissions  (ok, everyone hold your breath….hello, what do plants need to survive?!) its just plain nuts.

BUT, our family is actually going GREEN! It started with little things, filling the little green recycling bin that came from the garbage company. Then we started mulching the lawn instead of bagging. Innocent enough. Then Middle Child said, “We need to compost our food scraps!” I had to think on that one for a long while. But this past fall, we dug through all the used lumber we keep in the garage.  {I thought we were just being frugal…we will use it for something someday….now I hear we were being green!} Using the wood we had, we designed a compost bin. Yes, you read that correctly, a compost bin! I guess I should have seen this coming, Middle Child has been throwing his apple cores in the yard for years. When I realize it and called him on it he first said he wanted to grow an apple tree. Later, he said he wanted to feed the squirrels and birds. He was a child ahead of his time. So, the new compost bin sat in the back yard for a while, unfilled. Then he started putting leaves and table scraps in it. I collected the coffee grounds from my work (no one in this family drinks the stuff). Now we have a container under the kitchen sink where we throw the food we compost.

Then our church offered a class on going green and Hubby and Middle Child went. When they came home they were so excited! I was anxious to hear what they learned. They both had a page of notes about what they had learned. It all sounded good and so easy. We could do these things. And then they said something crazy about turning down the water heater and taking shorter showers. Now, hold it right there. You’ve gone too far. I’m a frugal girl. I don’t go to the spa. I don’t get mani’s and pedi’s. Don’t tell me I have to take a short, cold shower! They quickly realized they had crossed a line. They did a little back peddaling and showed me  the cloth napkins they got at the class. They’re all navy blue, but have different patterns of white; mine is flowers, one is big dots, another small dots. Now this I can do, and buy fewer paper napkins! There’s a lot about going green that appeals to my frugal side too.

So 2011 brought another big change at our house. We took the plunge. Jumped in head first. Are you ready for it? We switched our tiny little bin we used for recycling with our giant kitchen garbage. What does that mean, you ask? That means our regular garbage can in the kitchen is now our recycle bin! And that tiny bin we kept in the island for recycling…its now our garbage can. So, the amount of recycling we produce is bigger than the amount of garbage! Can you believe it?! I can’t.

It’s happened – we’ve gone green! And we still wouldn’t be called granola, or tree huggers. But we are doing a better job of  decreasing out impact. We’ve gone from 6 bags of garbage a week to 2-3! There are so many simple things you can do. Like switching to compact flourescent light bulbs. {Side note: I don’t need the government to regulate my light bulbs, I think they have bigger fish to fry!} Using fabric napkins, keeping your grass longer and mulching when you do mow and taking reusable bags to the grocery store.

I’m still taking long hot showers and we don’t have solar panels on our our house. But we’re having fun seeing what changes we can make. 

Going green is a journey.

Is your family Green? Share you ideas in the comments below…I’d love to hear them!

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Filed under Advice, Family, Frugal living, Lifestyle

The Thrill of the Hunt

I am not your typical female shopper. I don’t love shopping for clothes – I’m just not a fan. (There’s probably a whole other post on why, but we’ll save that for another day.) When it comes to clothes shopping my motto is -shop often and shop clearance. Don’t judge me…I think I have pretty good taste. But, I almost never pay full price for anything! Full retail kills me. I just think of how much more that money could have bought if I found it on sale.

Now take me to a thrift store or flea market and I’m in HEAVEN! Garage sales used to be my treasure, when the kids were younger. I loved a free Saturday morning. I would stake out all the community garage sales and work my way around the neighborhood. The kids got into it too, maybe because they could take a few dollars and make some choices themselves about how to spend it. There were some great lessons learned on those Saturday mornings.

Somewhere along the way I discovered Goodwill. I think it was while searching for the perfect components to create Halloween Costumes. We found some great pieces that I turned in to awesome costumes. There was the scarecrow made from women’s Capri’s with raffia sewn on the hem and a sweatshirt with patches and raffia sewn on. There was also the costume that could only be called the pimp – a great pleather trench coat. But my favorite has to be Elvis. I started with a woman’s blouse and Capri’s. I found a gold stretch tank top and pants that I cut up to add a little gold flair to the legs. Add a great gold belt and chain and he looked awesome! I love Goodwill! But, not all Goodwill stores are created equal. I know this because I’ve shopped at a lot of them. The quality of their goods match the neighborhood the store is in. South Johnson County has better junk than Shawnee:). They have China galore down there! If only I needed another set of dishes (Hubby thinks the 5 sets I currently have is quite enough). Your best bet really depends on what your searching for; Halloween components, home decor, furniture.

Shopping second hand is a unique experience. And it’s not for everyone. But if you get a thrill from a surprise find and love a bargain, second hand is where its at! I love the anticipation of what I might find on any trip. Its fun to scope out what’s there and see something you think might be the item for you. For me it’s always about seeing the potential and envisioning what it could become. It’s rare that I buy something at a garage sale, thrift shop or flea market and use as is. Its all about making it over – I guess its called upcycling. Who knew I was so ahead of my time – I’ve been doing that for years!

Finding the really good bargains takes patience, tenacity and a good eye. You have to shop often to find the bargains, and you have to know you may walk away with nothing on any shopping trip. And another day you hit the mother load. Here are my top tips for second hand shopping. 

  1. Go with an open mind – if you go looking for a particular item, you’ll probably be disappointed, better to have a long mental list. Which leads to number 2
  2. Keep a mental list of things you’re shopping for – then you have lots of options when you hit the store. Think about the different rooms you are working on, craft ideas you’ve seen, the accent piece you need.
  3. Take your time – really look at the items in front of you. We are so used to doing things quickly its easy to scan the shelf and miss things. Look at the shape and form of things – colors and finishes can be changed really easily.
  4. Don’t be afraid to try something out – if you end up not using the item consider it a donation and pass it on to a garage sale or thrift store.

As I look around my family room while I’m writing I can’t believe how many of the things in this room are second hand! What image does that give you of my family room? Its not early American garage sale. You’ll just have to trust me on that. There are two things in the room that we bought new – the keyboard and a bar table and stools. BUT, both of them were on SALE. I really like the room and I love thinking about where I found each item.  I hope you catch the bug! Second hand shopping is such an adventure!

I’ll post some pics of my favorite second hand finds over here on my photo blog later today….or maybe tomorrow:).

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Filed under Creativity, Decor, Frugal living, Lifestyle