Found the Christmas Ornaments!

Okay, so with four months between posts, I’m sure it seems like I died. I’m still alive and kicking–just too busy with family and homeschooling to keep up with the blog. But I did want to come out of hibernation to post a follow-up to last year’s Christmas decorating post!

Several of you asked where we got our Christian symbol ornaments, and I was unable to provide any links or information, because I could not find the book that came with the ornaments. I had no name, no ISBN, no nothing. I Googled and Googled to no avail. I hoped I’d find the book when we moved, but no success there, either.

Then, today, reader Jen M. dropped me a line to say she thought she had found them. Sure enough, she did! The ornaments are called “Adorenaments” and are available from the Christian Stories website. They come with a book that explains the illustrations used on each ornament–symbols that teach us about Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection.

So, thank you to Jen for letting me know she’d found these. We’ve enjoyed them since they were given to us several years ago. They are on our tree now!

Blessings to all of you for a wonderful Christmas and Happy 2010!

We love LaundryPure!

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this handy gadget that you can hook up to your washing machine. It’s gotten some good press in the last couple of years. Watch the video below for a basic overview of what it can do:

I first learned about the LaundryPure about 18 months ago, but the $700 price tag was extremely off-putting. There was just no way I could justify spending that kind of money, even if the unit would eliminate the need for detergent, bleach, fabric softener, and hot water. I figured I could just stick to homemade detergent recipes and pinch pennies elsewhere.

money-down-drainHowever, in a family with as many children as ours has, laundry is a daily ordeal activity. We simply have to do it every day or it will pile up to levels unheard of outside of a hotel.😉 And hot water for whites was absolutely necessary with the kinds of messes my children can generate (they’ve never met a mudhole they didn’t like!). But hot water heater expenses are what nagged at my brain the most, because keeping water hot in a tank all day eats up one third of the electricity bill. OUCH. Any way you can eliminate the need for hot water is going to help the bottom line. I just shudder at the thought of money going down the drain….

So we tried the experiment of turning off the water heater for most of the day, turning it on late at night to cover morning showers, dishes, and the first load of laundry. Then we’d turn it off until just before supper time so we’d have hot water for the evening dishes and baths. This helped quite a lot. Our average electricity bill dropped by 25% over the next month, which was great. But we still couldn’t get around the fact that we needed hot water for laundry (whites just don’t get as clean without it). So I started investigating this LaundryPure thing again….

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Several independent dealers had “discount” prices around $450, but I still wasn’t tempted. So I started haunting eBay. Lo and behold, a barely used LaundryPure unit in its original box showed up with a starting bid of $19.95. Sounded too good to be true. I wanted to make sure the unit wasn’t broken. I contacted the seller, who turned out to be a military guy whose family was being stationed overseas. He couldn’t take the unit with him, so he was parting with it. He assured me that it worked fine and came with all its documentation. He’d even throw in a new water line to hook it up. Well, that was enough for me. I bit and put up a maximum bid of $159, figuring there was no way I’d win, but it was worth trying. Yet five days later, I won! Even with shipping added, the unit came in well under $200, and I was thrilled with my “steal.”

The box arrived just before we moved from the trailer, so we left it boxed until we could set it up here at our “new” vintage house. That’s when the real adventure began. My intrepid husband mounted the LaundryPure on the brick wall next to our washing machine and hooked up the new water line, tightening everything with a wrench. Then he turned it on and stepped back. The blue light from the ultraviolet purifier glowed, but the spraying/splashing noise alerted us to an oncoming flood. DH quickly turned off the washer and checked the unit. Sure enough, water was pouring out the connection between the LaundryPure and the water line. I had a faint foreboding that perhaps I’d been “had” and that the unit would turn out to be leaky no matter what. But my husband wasn’t ready to give up. He ran five minutes up the street to Lowe’s and got another $3 water line.

laundryhose20 minutes later, he triumphantly turned on the washing machine again, only to have water come spraying out yet again. He decided to completely remove the LaundryPure and check the insides to see if the leak came from something broken in the unit itself. Nope. It was all in good working order, so he decided it must be the cheap hose. Back he went to Lowe’s and bought a $15 water line. 20 minutes later, we held our breath while he turned it on. BINGO! Total success. Lesson learned: buy the pricey hose to hookup the pricey gadget! Three-dollar hoses just don’t cut it.

laundrypureAt right you see our unit doing its thing–ultraviolet lamp killing bacteria while the silver ions and oxygenation thingamabob make plain old cold water work like detergent. And how does it stand up to our kind of constant usage? I’m delighted to report that this is probably the single best investment in a household tool we’ve ever made. You really do not need any laundry detergent at all. No bleach. No fabric softener. I do keep a squirt bottle of Shout on hand for really stubborn or dark, set-in stains, but here’s what I’ve learned after using LaundryPure for three months:

  • Stains get lighter with each washing, even if you don’t pre-treat them. The unit really does what it says, and the oxygenated water lifts stains and grime out of the fabric (regular detergents just scrub at the stains).
  • Colors actually brighten over time as you wash them with the LaundryPure. Regular detergent leaves residues in your clothing, which can cause allergic reactions–not just make colors look dull. The LaundryPure really is pulling gunk out of your clothing with each washing.
  • Our sheets and towels have never felt softer, and we use NO fabric softener whatsoever. I don’t like fabric softeners anyway, since they just leave chemicals behind in your clothing, but I couldn’t get around all the static cling. Well, for some strange reason, clothes washed with the LaundryPure do not get staticky in the dryer! It’s amazing.
  • No more hot water to wash whites!!!! This has to be perhaps the best benefit of all.

Now, let’s be realistic and take a look at the money angle of all of this. In a large family with six or more children, you’ll do an average of two to three loads of laundry every day (with perhaps an occasional break when you’ve managed to catch up!). Make it five loads of laundry on weekends when you change all the sheets. That adds up to 1,040 loads of laundry each year (not counting Sundays — we all take a break then!). Even if you purchase bulk detergent from a warehouse store (120 loads for $10), you’re looking at roughly $90 a year just for detergent. Add in fabric softener sheets, and that adds another $70 (60 dryer sheets per box at $4 a pop). Now take the electric bill and grab 33% of it right off the top for hot water. You’re not going to completely eliminate the need for hot water, but you’re going to significantly cut it down if you don’t use it to do laundry. When we turn off our water heater, our bill drops 25%, so let’s just estimate 25% savings. In our household, that means about $62.50 per month we can eliminate from our bill. That’s a total of $750 per year. Add in the detergent and fabric softener (I’m not even counting bleach here), and your total savings in one year would come to $910. Starting to see the light? I sure can! That means that, even at the original price of $700, the LaundryPure would easily pay for itself in a year. But if you find it at a bargain basement price, you’re sitting pretty after a couple of months.

silverprobeBut surely there has to be a catch, right? Well, there is a small one. The silver ion part does need to be replaced every 12-18 months, depending on how much laundry you do and how hard your water is to begin with. But the cost is minimal when you consider all your savings: About $35 including FedEx shipping. When our unit arrived, the silver ion assembly was almost used up, as we learned when the LaundryPure started leaking again this month! My husband quickly tracked down the cause of the leakage, and we ordered the replacement part. Now we know to keep an eye on it and watch for the indicator light that tells us when it’s time to replace it.

All in all, we are extremely pleased with this purchase. I am delighted never to have to worry about running out of detergent and about eliminating the need for hot-water washes. My oldest children just enjoy the space-agey thrill of watching the unit run with its friendly blue glow. And my husband is happy to see the additional “fat” we can trim from the budget. It’s a great investment that we’ll enjoy using for years to come.

To learn more about LaundryPure, visit the EcoQuest site–and then start Googling for your own bargain!

Some Wonderful Links!

Just a quick post today to share some excellent articles and resources I’ve run across in recent days:

  • How to Practice Hospitality on a Budget – Hosted on the marvelous MoneySavingMom.com, this is a gem of an article with super tips for blessing others while living on a budget.
  • Tips for Reducing Electric Bills – Fantastic information from the great people at LivingonaDime.com. Lots of common-sense ideas, but you’ll also find some that make you say, “OH!” Great stuff.
  • Promotional Codes – This is a fantastic one-stop shop for online coupons, discount codes, and more. I love to find discount codes I can use when placing an order online. This is by far the most user-friendly way to discover new coupons!
  • Soda Stream – I admit it, I absolutely love sparkling water. It’s one of my big addictions. But it is SO pricey if you purchase it in the stores ($1.49-$1.99 a liter — ouch!). I was thrilled when I discovered this handy gadget that allows you to make your own sparkling water (and flavored drinks) at home for 20 cents per liter! I’ll be reviewing this nifty tool later on.

Enjoy!

© Podius | Dreamstime.com

© Podius | Dreamstime.com

Big Changes Sometimes Happen Overnight…

SunflowerWell, you can plan your life as carefully as you like, but you can’t plan for the unexpected! We’ve experienced that in spades this year with a sudden change in the health of a close family member. Within a matter of three weeks, we packed up, cleaned up, and bid a fond farewell to our wonderful trailer in the woods and headed out to resettle elsewhere. We’re now helping to care for a relative and have put plans on hold for building our dream place in the country.

But, you know what? That’s perfectly okay! We’ve just rolled with it and rolled up our sleeves to tackle what needs doing in our “new” place (which is a 55-year-old house that can use a loving, creative touch!). I haven’t had a moment to update the blog or even think about posting any new projects, but I want to assure you that “Queen of My Trailer” will still go on. We may not be in a trailer any more, but we’ll still be tackling a lot of DIY jobs in the coming months. We don’t know how long we’ll be needed here, but we’re going to do our best to make a wonderful nest where we are, blooming where we’re planted in this season of life.

Thank you so much for all the kind comments and emails. I promise I’ll get back to posting again soon and will have some great book reviews, website recommendations, and more ASAP! I’ve also started taking my DIY pictures and creating how-to articles over on eHow.com, so be sure to stop by and post a comment and say hello!

Warmly,

Amanda

Putting out housefires and holding down the fort!

Putting out housefires and holding down the fort!

Yes, we’re still alive!

It has been such a busy spring around here. We spent a good deal of time putting in our raised garden beds, which I’ll post about soon. And we’ve had lots of other projects going on as well. Big changes are coming for our family soon–I’ll share when I have time so spare!

Warmly,

Amanda

Here’s a great $10 challenge!

I was scanning through radio stations while running errands this week and ran across a really neat feature on NPR — a challenge to create a delicious meal for a family of four with a $10 budget! Now, these aren’t just run-of-the-mill casseroles and crock-pot meals (though I’ve certainly got tons of recipes for those). These are chef-created meals using delicious, easy-to-find foods and spices.

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Check out the links below for the first three challenges (including recipes!), and bookmark the page to get the rest as they are posted:

From Chef Jose Andres, A Family Favorite for $10

Chef Ming Tsai’s $10 Dish

Navy Chef Gets Creative with $10 Skate Meal

Enjoy! Also consider submitting your own $10 meal recipes to NPR. They’re going to share the best on the air. And if you’ve got budget-friendly meal secrets you’re willing to divulge with the rest of us, share them in the comments section! I love to bargain shop and bargain cook. It’s amazing how creatively you can stretch the grocery budget when you’re willing to try!

PS – For some of you old pros out there, this challenge is a walk in the park. When we had a family of four, our entire weekly grocery budget was $40 — never $10 a meal! But if you want to make something really special for a birthday or to take to a friend as a gift, these $10 menus are fantastic!

The Contest Results!

img_budgetmakeover_1aThank you all for your patience during our busy weekend and the crazy ER trip day! It has been really fun to see your budget remodels — you beat DIY all hollow! A few ladies didn’t post their entries as comments but emailed them, and, though I wrote to ask them to post, they never got around to it. If those of you who emailed want to repost even now, you’re welcome to do so. It’s just fun to see what you’re able to do!

Rather than forcing you to go back and find the posted re-dos in the comments, I’ll put them here so you can see them all in one place. First I’ll share mine:

  • Knobs – $4.36 (4 @ $1.09/ea on eBay)
  • Cup pulls – $15.42 (6 @ $2.57/ea on eBay)
  • Light fixture – $39.99 (on eBay)
  • Faucet – $24.99  (on eBay – Someone bought it after I saved the link, though!)
  • Frame – $24.95  (on eBay)
  • TOTAL: $137.19

I didn’t include shipping, nor did I expect others to do so. If I added in all my shipping, I’d come right in around the $190 mark, though. Now, here are the other entries…. First, the winner!

Sibyl’s $160.47 remodel:

Congratulations, Sibyl! That was almost $30 under budget — and almost $740 under DIY’s budget! Woo-hoo!!! You’ve won a year’s subscription to Mary Jane’s Farm!

Now for our second-place winner:

Sandy’s Redo:

Great job, Sandy! This comes almost $20 below my top end and $730 under DIY’s!
Finally, here’s our third-place winner, who would have come in first except that she linked to a quart of paint rather than a gallon — multiplying out the quarts is what killed the win. OUCH! Still, this remodel is almost $14 under my $190 limit and beats DIY by almost $725! Fantastic!

Michelle Z’s $176.23 bathroom redo:

This was so much fun, I think we’ll have to do it again sometime with another remodel challenge! Maybe a kitchen refresh on the cheap? Thanks so much for participating!

whitekitchen1


About the Queen…

Amanda Livenwell is the pen name of a stay-at-home mom who shares the adventure of living large on one income in, yes, a double-wide trailer! Join our family as we say goodbye to suburbia, trim down, and start saving to build our own home. We're going to talk about doing it yourself, living beautifully on less, making do or doing without, and counting it all joy in the process. We'll cover prep-work and painting, refacing kitchen cabinets, flooring on the cheap, tiling over laminate, upholstering furniture, and just rolling up our sleeves in general. If you love home improvement, this is the place for you. Let's get cracking!

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What Inspires Me Most!

"She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." ~ Proverbs 31:13, 17-19, 27

"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings;he will not stand before unknown men." ~ Proverbs 22:29

"The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich." ~ Proverbs 13:4

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