Archive for the 'decorating' Category

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!

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!

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Another quickie from Country Living!

I just love Country Living’s online features. This link came in their e-newsletter today.  Check out their Small Space Solutions.  I’m not crazy about all the color schemes, but the ideas for arranging furniture and making the most of tiny spaces are great. I especially loved this bed nook, which reminds me of the one my mother created for me in my small room when I was growing up:

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Mine wasn’t nearly this fancy, and it wasn’t literally a niche’ in the wall, but it was heaps of fun. My room was 9×12, so my bed went at one end of the room, framed by bookcases at the head and foot and a wooden “valance” connecting them with a curtain rod behind. I had white ruffled curtains that made the nook feel like a storybook princess’s bed. I loved that spot! It wasn’t expensive to create, and it made my cozy little room very special.

There are so many good ideas for using small spaces — post your favorite links in the comments if you have some fun space solutions to share!

A quick link to share…

I get Country Living Magazine’s email newsletters, and they always have something fun to click on and explore. I thought this piece on renovating a small country cottage was charming: Country Cottage Small Budget Makeover — Easy, affordable updates give a characterless country cottage an inviting new attitude, both inside and out.

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Scroll through the slide show to see what a huge difference paint can make! You’ll see that the kitchen cabinets were repainted rather than replaced (and look totally new and different!) and that the owner used vinyl sticky-tile on the kitchen floor, just like I did. He also tiled over old kitchen counters to cover them inexpensively.

It’s so inspiring to see how much can be done with very little money. Just roll up your sleeves and get cracking! 😉

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:

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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:

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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….

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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:

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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:

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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):

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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:

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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:

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

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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!

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In the bleak midwinter…

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When the chill days of winter arrive, I’ve always recalled and savored the lines from Shakespeare’s sonnet 73:

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold;
Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

“Bare ruin’d choirs” — the phrase sent delicious shivers through me when I first read that sonnet, and it still evokes the grey, quiet feelings of this time of year. I thought of those words again today, looking through my kitchen window into a gloomy winter’s sky.

102_00321It has been one of those days when everyone wants to huddle inside, get the fire going, and read books. Which is fine by me. I love days like this. But today we decided the best way to keep off the chill and gloom was to decorate the house for Christmas, break out the Christmas music, and sip some egg nog. 😉

102_0021We had quite an adventure yesterday finding a tree. At first we’d thought the woods behind the house would oblige us with a small cedar, but the trees were decidedly too prickly for little fingers, so we gave up on that idea. I figured we’d easily find a local tree lot and just get something small for the living room, but, long story short, there wasn’t a tree lot anywhere to be found in an hour’s worth of driving and three small towns! Unbelieveable. So we headed down another road where we’d seen a tree lot on our way to get the milk at the dairy on Tuesday. Why I didn’t just stop on Tuesday and get a tree while I was at it is beyond me! When we finally reached the lot, it was already closed. Don’t tree lots usually stay open after 4pm?

At this point, the children were rather antsy and not wanting to sit in the van any more, so we headed over to the gigantic nearby Wal-Mart (sigh), which–sure enough–had live trees outside of the garden center. We picked a cute, plump little spruce (soft needles) that smelled faintly citrus. By then, rain had started spritzing down, so our tree had a shimmering mist added to its charms. Amid cheers and squeals of delight, we hauled the tree back home and squeezed it through the door. By the time my oldest sons had wrestled it into the tree stand, they were too exhausted (and covered with greenery and sap) to do more, so we saved decorating for today.

breadornamentWe had no trouble finding the ornaments, as we now have so few boxes in storage (wheee!). The children quickly pounced on their favorites, and everyone had an opinion of what should go where.  We have a neat little set of ornaments that functions as a sort of miniature advent calendar. Each ornament has a picture representing what we’re celebrating–the coming of Christ–and contains a description of His attributes.  This one here shows a loaf of bread. When you open it, there’s a story inside about how Christ is the Bread of Life. Each ornament contains a story, and we will be reading a different one each day over the next two weeks. The children enjoyed placing (and re-placing) ornaments on the tree, then stood back to admire everything all lit up. My oldest son was horrified when I told him that, before electricity, people used to put real, lit candles on their Christmas trees. He said our trailer would burn down for sure if we did that–LOL!

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102_00021After finishing the tree, we created a simple wreath for the front door, and I gave my girls the leftover ribbons to decorate their room with. My four-year-old came out ten minutes later sporting two stuffed animals with new bows around their necks. My older daughter led me by the hand and showed off her own decorations, which included her pajamas neatly folded into a “present” and tied with a bow — and two bows on either end of her bed. Ah, girls! The boys all wanted to head out into the woods and cut down some boughs to decorate the mantel and front deck railings, but the wind had really started to pick up, and the rain was coming down again, so we decided to put that off ’til another day.

I’m now sitting in a quiet house, the only sound the ticking of the clock and the click of my keyboard. All my “mice” are snug in their beds, and I’m enjoying the warmth of the Christmas lights and some soft Christmas carols playing in the background. This is one of my favorite seasons, and we’re going to enjoy staying snug inside our little cottage while the winds blow outside.

In the kitchen, the tea kettle is calling me for a nightly cup of Earl Grey, so I’ll head in there and fix it by the warm light of the countertop lamp (one of my all-time favorite thrift store finds!). I hope wherever you are, you’re enjoying the season and finding time to reflect. When I look outside at those “bare, ruin’d choirs,” I’m all the more thankful for a place to be at home with my family–a place to focus on what’s really important. The economy may look grimmer by the day, but we can hold on to what really lasts–and what Wall Street can’t take away–can’t we? Gather them in close–family, friends, neighbors–and tell them how much they mean to you. These are the riches God gives us all.

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Fall flowers on the front deck!

Last time I showed you my sad-looking front planters (the day I mulched the garden). A week later, they looked even more pathetic, as the summer petunias had almost completely died out. It was time to put some color on the front deck! The first order of the day was to pull out all of the dying plants, making sure I got all the roots. The pot on the right-hand side in this picture is quite deep (about 16″), so I intended to leave some of the original dirt on the bottom third, adding new soil to the top and mixing it with the old before adding plants. The day I did our grocery shopping, organic potting soil was on sale at two 10-pound bags for $5, so I grabbed two bags. Wal-Mart had a good selection of fall annuals on sale (I started rather late, so many of the annuals were half off).

Here’s a picture of the plants I got, along with the two bags of soil:

The fiery orange flowers at the back are snapdragons (a favorite with my children). The deep fuschia flowers did not retain their little identifying tags, and I am not sure what they are, unfortunately! They look like miniature asters. The two pots at the front contained a mixture of trailing plants and one tall, spikey flower that I also cannot identify. Anyone who knows what I have, post a comment! I love to learn!

Here’s a closer shot of the snapdragons and the deep fuschia flowers. I love these!

Here are two of the pots cleaned out and ready for new soil. You can see that one pot is a wire basket with a liner. It used to be a hanging basket, but I don’t have anywhere to hang it. I was tickled when I found two black iron stands for these pots in the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart for $3:

Here are the pots with the new soil mixed in. Rich!

I placed the deep fuschia flowers in the center of each iron basket , then surrounded the edges of the basket with the snapdragons. In this photo, you see the plants still in their plastic containers. I did this just to see how many flowers would fit comfortably. I had some snapdragons left over, so I planted them in my front rose garden. I’ve discovered that snapdragons are actually perennials in my region of the South because of our long growing season. At my old house, they came back yearly, bigger and brighter every year. I can’t wait to see what they do here!

I placed the mixture of flowers into the larger pot all together. They’d have more room for their roots and could stretch out a bit. Here are the two pots finished and full of beautiful fall flowers:

And here are all four of the pots next to the front door. Cheerful!

It’s amazing what a little bit of foliage can do. These should last us through November and even early December, depending on how cold it gets. Then we’ll have a month when everything just dies or goes dormant, and I’ll be back at it again in February when the pansies are out and the daffodils are thinking about popping up. I love a long growing season!


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!


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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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