Archive for the 'inspiration' Category

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

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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!

A Fantastic Frugal Homesteading Kit!

I just got an e-mail newsletter from Vision Forum with this wonderful package in it on sale (I ordered it!). I thought I had all the frugality and homesteading books out there, but these two were new to me, and I’ve not had a chance to see the videos yet, but I’ve heard rave reviews of them. Just click the banner below to read about the sale. You can get the books bundled, the videos bundled, or everything bundled together. There’s also a deal on the Entrepreneurial Boot Camp CDs. Check it out!

Fantastic Article Link on Building Smaller and Smarter

I’ve been out of the loop here for a while with family coughs and colds and general late winter ickies.  While playing catch-up, I ran across this excellent article about the sudden boom in smaller house plans–no more McMansions! Here’s a little blurb from this piece:

“You can save thousands of dollars” by using simple materials in a well-designed space, says [Sarah] Susanka, author of the best-selling 1998 book The Not So Big House.

For more than a decade, she has urged people to build better, not bigger. Now, as the U.S. economy struggles to climb out of a tailspin and environmental concerns rise, her message has gone mainstream.

New homes, after doubling in size since 1960, are shrinking. Last year, for the first time in at least 10 years, the average square footage of single-family homes under construction fell dramatically, from 2,629 in the second quarter to 2,343 in the fourth quarter, Census data show.

The new motto: living well with less.

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I own Susanka’s Not So Big House books and have admired her ideas for years while collecting my own folder of plans and ideas for the house we hope to build. Even with a large family, it is not necessary to build sprawling mega-houses with bedrooms in every corner. In fact, it’s far better to build smarter, making public areas (kitchen, dining room, living room) the focal point and devoting greater space to those. Bedrooms are really only necessary for sleeping and dressing, and I’ve never seen the sense of having a gargantuan master suite that you hardly spend any time in when you’re awake! We’d much rather have plenty of room to have guests around the table–not to mention places to spread out homeschooling projects, read books together, etc.

I’ll be posting more about our home plans/ideas here in the future, sharing what I’ve gleaned from years of tearing out magazine pages and reading dozens of books. I inherit all of this from my mother, who was designing “green” before it was ever in fashion. Being green may be hip today, but it’s really just going back to older principles of building to last for generations and using materials that don’t have to be replaced every few years. We’ve got high hopes of using reclaimed barn wood, as one of our neighbors is frequently called upon to tear down old barns and sheds and recycles the lumber. We’re looking into passive and active solar options,  structural insulated panels (SIPs), and  talking about tankless water heaters (did you know roughly one-third of your electricity bill is due to keeping a tank of water hot?).

It is a really fun challenge to figure out where you can cut costs without cutting any real corners. Who cares about granite countertops when the extra money you’d spend on those could go to a high-efficiency tankless water heating system? We love to think outside the box. Below are some of my favorite links I’ve bookmarked over the past few years as we plan and dream. If you’ve got favorites, post a comment and share!

Architectural Salvage Yards – Because salvage is now “hot,” it can sometimes be pricier than new, but check locally, because that’s where you find the savings. We have three salvage places within 50 miles of us, and their prices are much lower.

Valuebuild Panel Home Kits – These kits use the SIPs I mentioned above, which have an incredibly high “R” factor when it comes to insulation. Energy bills in SIP houses are typically 60% lower than in stick-built (i.e. “leaky as a sieve”) houses. And if you’re not brave enough to literally put your kit together yourself, a local builder can easily do it for you with far less waste than a stick-built home entails.

The Affordable House – These plans are so much fun to look at — like little storybook cottages. The designer works to put lots of usable space into a small footprint with charming results.

SIPA (Structural Insulated Panel Association) – This site explains how SIPs work and why it is better (and faster!) to build a house with them.

Greenblock Insulated Concrete Forms – Another alternative to stick-built, these pre-molded forms go in quickly and are solid and long-lasting. There are some drawbacks when it comes to certain heating methods, but if you’re in a hotter climate, they’re a really good option.

The Natural Home Building Source – A great place for information on passive solar design, graywater reuse, heat storage tubes, and more.

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:

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):

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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:

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!

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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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