Archive for January, 2009

A No-Cost Room Redo!

Those who know me well know I have a real thing for rearranging. It happens at least once a year in almost every room in the house, wherever we’ve lived. One day I wake up and just feel the urge to move things around in a big way. It’s like nesting syndrome–even when I’m not expecting! I just love to try the furniture in different places. If you ever start feeling the redecorating bug hitting when there just aren’t funds to do anything big, then rearrange! It’s every bit as gratifying, and you can get really creative by rotating photos, knick-knacks, wall art, lamps, and more.

frombookcase1My rearranging bug hit the evening of New Year’s day this year. I walked into the living room and said, “I really want to get the couch out of the middle of the room. Who wants to help Mommy?” My oldest son, who has a tendency to think everything should stay exactly where it is, gave me his quizzical raised eyebrow look. “Why do you want to move stuff, Mom? I like everything this way!” My second-born son, who is always ready to dive into anything no matter how crazy or spur-of-the-moment, said, “What do we move first?” My toddlers, who thought this was all fun and games, ran around the front of the couch to help push. And that’s when the real fun began!

Our first discovery was this lovely stash of missing books, socks, toys, and, yes…that’s an old, dried-up apple core next to the sock:

undercouch1

Oh, joy. No matter how good you may think you are at keeping house, you just never know what’s lurking under the couch. Or the big blue chair, for that matter:

underchair

Okay, so that one wasn’t quite so bad. But we decided to keep going and pull out the jelly cupboard (which we use for school books) in the dining room to see what might have ended up there. Hmmmm….

undercupboard

So that’s where all the missing fridge art went! But when we swept everything out, still more was hiding beneath the pile of drawings and school papers:

undercupboard2

Crayons and pencils and hairbows, oh, my!

This, folks, is real life in my house! Ever notice how the beautiful photographs of inspiring home makeovers and remodels rarely ever show actual human beings in the rooms? That’s because people are messy. People drop things behind furniture and under the table and in that hard-to-reach spot between the fridge and the cabinets. It’s fun to take pictures of everything pretty and neat and nice, but just remember to enjoy the 2.5 seconds it actually looks that way and then go back to living in your house! That’s what makes it home.

So, back to our no-cost makeover! After we pulled the furniture out into the dining room, the children did a big clean-up, putting away the things we found under the couches and chairs and cupboard. We looped up the living room curtains and washed the windows. Then we gave the rug (a gorgeous hand-me-down from my father-in-law) a thorough vacuuming:

vacuumrug

Now we were ready to put the couch in its new place in front of the window (where the round table with lamp used to be):

couchinfrontofwindow1

You can see the big, blue chair back in its regular spot on the right-hand wall. It just really fits there very well and would stick out too far moved elsewhere. (It’s a good idea to measure things before moving so you know what can fit where. I’ve done the foolhardy thing in the past and moved something only to find out it wouldn’t go where I thought it would. Oops!) We moved the lamp that used to be next to the blue chair over beside the couch, where it fit perfectly and had an outlet waiting for it. Next we put the rocking chair and the wing chair directly across from where they used to be, meaning they basically traded places with the couch:

newfromdiningroom1

At right you can just see the round table and lamp that used to be in front of the window. They fit perfectly beside the big, blue chair. Here’s another view, this one from the front door:

newfromfrontdoor

And, finally, here’s the view from the kitchen:

newfromkitchen

This arrangement makes the room feel so much more open and easy to move around in. The original arrangement was definitely cozy, and I enjoyed it, but we’re really liking this new layout–even my oldest son says he likes it better now, so it must be good!  😉

Rearranging really is a way to get a quick fix when you don’t have the funds to repaint, reupholster, or do other large projects.  It’s also a good idea just to move things periodically to clean (as we found!), even if you don’t want to move furniture permanently. Finally, you can be really inventive and bring in furniture that would typically be used in a different room and repurpose it. A dresser makes a great entry table and can also serve as a storage spot for CDs, books, magazines, table linens, and the like.  A bedside table can serve as an end table. Play “flea market” in your own house and go “shopping” from room to room, seeing what you can move and use more effectively in another spot. It’s a lot of fun and gives your home a completely fresh new look without spending a dime. Have fun, and if you do any rearranging, come post a comment with a link to your own pictures so we can all be inspired!

newlivingroom1

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The Rat Who Came to Dinner

newfloor2I promised I’d tell the story of how we got beautiful new flooring in the dining room, and it’s a doozy. I didn’t share it back in July, because I couldn’t find the pictures I’d taken of the aftermath. Now I’ve got them, so it’s time to share about our little visitor last summer! 😉

If you’ve read the posts about my adventures in tiling over laminate, then you know it was a start-and-stop process due to my failure to buy enough mastic and then getting the wrong color grout when I ran out. I ended up having to stop in the middle of the grouting process and come back later to finish. The Saturday I quit, I cleaned up and left everything in readiness for the Wednesday following, which was supposed to be three days before our actual move (I know, I know; insanity runs in my family — as Cary Grant once said in a movie, “It practically gallops!”).

When I walked into the trailer Wednesday afternoon, I crossed the kitchen floor to discover this sight in the living room/dining room area:

aftertherat

Yes, that’s a huge empty area in the carpet with little “pills” of carpet pulled out by their roots lying all around. I gasped in horror, realizing that this was the job of a determined nest-maker–probably a rat. I ran through the other rooms and found little bits of carpet chewed up here and there, but nothing compared to the giant patch of “yuck” in the dining room. And now I must back up and give you a little story of the first visit we had from this little creature.

Back when I laid the sticky-tile in the kitchen, I had taken off all the floor vents so I could tile around the holes neatly and accurately. You may recall that I didn’t finish the tiling job on the first go, saving all the precise cutting for the end. But I left the floor vents off (there goes that insanity again), planning to come in a couple of days later, finish, and screw the vents back down. My husband decided we’d all just come out with our air matresses and a change of clothes and spend the night so we could get a lot more done. By the time we reached the trailer, it was already dark and time to put the children to bed. So I walked in with sheets and blankets while my husband pulled out the port-a-cribs and such from the van. I strolled into the kitchen, sizing up what was left to do on the sticky-tile, and saw the vent covers waiting to be screwed back down. At that moment, I remembered that our landlord had said he’d be replacing the ductwork beneath the house, so sections might be off. My eyes widened as I realized I should have put the vent covers back on, and I mentally congratulated myself that the house was not full of cockroaches. I knelt down, vent cover in hand, ready to screw the first one back in place…just in case any nocturnal visitors should get ideas. That’s when I heard the blood-curdling scream from one of the back bedrooms.

rattyMy heart leapt into my throat, and I looked up to see a black furball hurtling toward me across the living room floor, headed straight for the vent I was bending over. I shrieked  and jumped up, dropping the vent cover with a clatter. Seeing me blocking his exit, the rat screeched to a halt, turned tail and ran into the hall bathroom. My second-born son had by then fled to stand tiptoe on the hearth, so the rest  joined him, looking anxiously toward the hall. I stopped to put the cover back on the vent before hopping up on the hearth. At this point, my husband walked through the front door and burst out laughing. All of us started talking at once and gesticulating toward the bathroom. The girls breathlessly got out, “It’s a rat, Daddy! A rat is in our house! In the bathroom!” So our fearless leader grabbed the broom and headed in to do battle with the intruder. “There’s nothing in here,” he announced, at which point my oldest son said, “It went up the shower curtain, Daddy! I was standing in the bedroom and saw it run up!” So with all of us cowering on the hearth, hubby pushed against the shower curtain with the broom.

Mr. Rat decided his hiding place wasn’t all that great and came streaking out of the bathroom, through my husband’s feet, headed straight to the kitchen again. Finding the vent cover back in place, he veered left and scooted behind the stove. Ugh. By the time my husband made it in there, there was no sign of the rat. He called our landlord, who came over, and they both moved the stove. No rat. That fat creature had squeezed into a half-inch gap behind the cabinets and gone out through a tiny hole around the sink pipes! Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night, wondering if our little visitor might come back in the way he left!

I finished up the kitchen floor the next day and made sure all the vents were securely fastened back down. My husband and our landlord didn’t think the rat would be back, since he knew there were people in the house now, and the hole he’d used to leave was so small it must have been a painful exit. So we locked up and left, and on my subsequent visits to tile and grout, I didn’t encounter Mr. Rat. So we were sure he was gone for good. Until the Carpet Incident of 2008, that is.

As I stood over the messy pile of carpet fibers, I knew the rat had, indeed, come back through his exit and made himself at home once again. I looked around more carefully and noticed that my clean-up rags were all missing, too. I stepped back into the kitchen and glanced at the stove. In the space between the stove and the cabinet was a pile of rags and some scattered carpet fibers. I’d found the nest. I called our landlady, who sent over her oldest son with the shop vac. He very sweetly cleaned up all the rat’s “gifts” while I poked around to make sure our visitor was no longer in residence. When the landlord arrived home that afternoon, he came over to inspect the carpet, fuming over the damage the rat had done. “Oh, well,” he said, “this carpet really needed to be replaced eventually anyway.” I nodded, then reminded him that we planned to move in three days. His eyes popped wide, and I knew there was no way he could replace the damaged flooring in that short window of time. Thankfully, we’d given ourselves an extra week for our move in case of an unexpected emergency. Word to the wise: always plan a cushion around any move or big project! This was a life-saver for all of us.

So this brings us to the main point of this post: how ratty events can bring about unexpected bonuses in life. I would never have asked a rat in to share my home and chew up the carpet, but what was done was done. No use crying about it. We’d just clean up (thoroughly!) and move on. And our wonderful landlord put in beautiful hardwood laminate flooring instead of new carpet! So now we had a dining room with a floor we wouldn’t have to worry about at mealtimes. Talk about a wonderful providence! Here’s the beautiful result:

newdrfloor

So, while I certainly won’t be inviting any more rats to dinner (and I’ve plugged their entrances!), I am rather thankful for what resulted from Mr. Rat deciding to pull up the carpet and make himself at home! Just goes to show you that there really can be a silver lining in the blackest (furriest) cloud!

fromkitchentodr

Post Script: Our landlord did leave a cage trap in the kitchen after this episode, and Mr. Rat obligingly stepped into it. He was then sent packing and will not be visiting again. 😉

Hello, 2009! Let’s start the year off with some frugal links!

cardornament

I hope y’all had as wonderful a Christmas and New Year’s celebration as we did.  We had a fantastic time with family and friends and celebrated several birthdays in the process, too. It was a great way to end 2008!

As the economy continues its tumble (and we all start to wonder if it will ever hit bottom), I’ve been pulling out all my old favorite resources, including the following excellent books:

  • Back to Basics by Reader’s Digest- I pored over my mother’s copy of this book growing up, fascinated by all the amazing information it contained (how to site a passive solar house, how to build an underground root cellar, how to find a water source, and so much more). You can find copies of the original 1970s edition and the 1980s update on eBay — both editions are great.
  • Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery – This book has been through numerous editions. Mine is about ten years old and well-thumbed. This book covers everything from gardening to grinding grains, quilting to tending your own plot of mushrooms. Very helpful and fun to read, too!
  • The “Have-More” Plan by Ed and Carolyn Robinson – This is another book I just love to sit and look through (as do my children). It was written in the 1940s by a couple who moved out to the country and steadily built a self-sufficient lifestyle on a small homestead. It shows that a family does not need dozens of acres and a giant farming operation to live very comfortably. And even if you have no intention of moving to the country, the book shows what you can do on very little land with smart placement of plants and careful management of the pantry. I totally ignore the advice on insecticides (yikes!), since we do organic gardening, but the rest is a treat! This is available as a reprint from Storey Communications and as an e-book!

I’ve also been going through my favorite frugal bookmarks and gleaning from sites that provide coupons, links to special giveaways, tips for budgeting, etc. Here are some of my very favorite sources online:

  • Money Saving Mom – This one always gets top place. Mrs. Paine is a frugal whiz and pulls together the most fantastic deals every week. Be sure to subscribe to her feed so you don’t miss anything!
  • My Penny Pile – Another super site for coupons, deals, and freebies, from one penny-pinching mom to another.
  • TipHero.com – I have learned so many things from reader tips and tricks. Did you know you can cut drying time by 1/3rd if you put a dry towel into each load of laundry? Lots of practical, down-to-earth helps here. Get the feed, and pass on a tip if you have a good one!
  • Better Budgeting – This site is jam-packed with articles, ideas, practical how-to helps, and more. Get a “black belt” in frugal living here!
  • Living on a Dime – I love their fun sense of humor – this is a site that will encourage you and make you smile, even if you’ve got to dig your way out of serious debt or work hard to scrape together savings. Fantastic e-books and e-newsletter!
  • Sufficient Self – A forum for folks to share frugal ideas and tips for making do or making it yourself. Great place to ask questions.

Finally, let me share some favorite helpful articles that have inspired me:

  • “Seven Good Lessons from the Great Depression”We may not be getting ready for bread lines or seeing hobos selling apples for five cents on the corner, but all this talk of another Great Depression should have us looking back in history for lessons that we can take with us into the future of this wild and woolly economic mess.
  • “The Perfect Pantry”Stock up on the basics below for easy home-cooked meals. [If you’ve never stocked a pantry, this is a great starter article.]
  • “Frugal Living in a Tiny Town”Although far removed from bargain shopping and mainstream entertainment conveniences (we live 15 miles from the nearest grocery store and 55 miles from any real shopping), we have found that Tiny Town living lends itself nicely to our frugal lifestyle. [Reading this piece is like hearing from a kindred spirit. I love this!]
  • “Pantry 2009: Groceries and Your Budget”I love trying to cut costs and increase value at the same time.  I love a bargain but don’t like skimping on quality.  I love to be rich cheap.  I love the challenge of building a pantry.  I love buying bulk.  I love couponing.  That is why my dream outing is going grocery shopping with a load of coupons and stopping in at Goodwill on .99 cent day. [I look forward to reading more articles in this neat series.]
  • “Salvage Your Way to a Kitchen Remodel for Less”We bought a small 2 bedroom house, and put a new addition, with 3 more bedrooms, living room and bath. Four years into the project, I declared war against the original kitchen, which consisted of one wall of upper cabinets built with plywood, and a counter top below, that held the sink. This was the only storage/work space in there! My husband and older son said “There is no way you can even start this project without $5-10,000.” I said “Watch me!” [If you’ve read my kitchen re-do posts, then you know this is a topic I adore!]

Enjoy! I hope to be back soon with more stories about some remodeling fun (and serendipitous mishaps!).

Happy New Year!

windowlights


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!

Favorite Frugal Helps!


MSM is Frugality Central! Bookmark, visit often, subscribe to the feed, and save!

Organic Valley Family of Farms - Get coupons and special offers for delicious, healthy food!

The Coupon Mom - Another fabulous source for discounts and freebies!

Dave Ramsey will help you break the chains of debt and run to freedom!

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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