Archive for the 'inspiration' Category



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

In the bleak midwinter…

102_0028

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!

tree2

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.

102_0019

Dave Ramsey’s doing it again — Everything’s $10!

Dave Ramsey did this great sale back on Labor Day weekend, and he’s doing it again through December 18. If you want the best, most down-to-earth, practical tools for getting, staying, and living debt-free, get Dave’s Total Money Makeover book or order his audio CDs.  I don’t get any kind of kick-back for recommending Financial Freedom products; I just want to encourage you to read, listen to, and learn from their resources.

Total Money Makeover

If you’re like me, you may have grown up in a frugal household but without ever learning how to budget, save long-term, or invest.  When I was a newlywed, I prided myself on being able to live on very little, but I quickly found out that I had a lot to learn when it came to thinking long-term.

Crystal over at MoneySavingMom.com has shared her family’s financial goals and also recommends Dave Ramsey’s excellent materials. Crystal’s story is incredibly inspiring. If a young wife and mom can keep the home and run a small business while her husband finishes law school–and still manage to save money–then so can you!

If you’ve never heard of Dave Ramsey, spend some time on his site and check his radio show archive. 60 Minutes also did a special on him recently that you can watch in segments online (if I can find my link I’ll post it!). Dave and his wife, Sharon, tell the story of how they came out of complete bankruptcy and financial ruin and learned to manage money and save carefully for the long haul. It’s good stuff!

Enjoy!

Time to show off the flowers!

I adore a cottage garden, and this is just the perfect place to have one! When we got here, there was a front flower bed with a lone trellis standing in it–just begging for some roses! I obliged by purchasing several “knock-out” (ever-blooming) rose bushes at Lowe’s. The great thing was that I hit Lowe’s when all the summer flowers were marked down 50-75%. I got my roses for half off, and I got some coreopsis and a rose “carpet” plant for 75% off. I also picked up another spikey blue flower that the bees and butterflies love, but I can’t remember what it is (should have saved the little plastic marker!). At left you see the triangle-shaped bed to the left of our front walk and at the corner of the deck. Right up against the deck are day lilies planted years ago by our landlord. They are glorious in mid-summer.

Here’s a close-up of the front bed so you can see the light pink roses in front of the trellis and the deep pink “carpet” rose in the center. I also have three more small roses (deep fuschia). The strange thing is that the one in the front corner is the same size as when I planted it, but its “sister” on the left-hand side next to the yellow coreopsis has tripled in size! Must be some good soil in that spot! I did use some organic dirt when I put these in, as well as rose food, but I guess there’s still a “sweeter” spot in the garden that the plants just like better! In the background of this shot you can see the little border garden along the front edge of the deck. It contains some boxwoods, hosta, and butterfly bushes. The children and I have been tickled pink to see both butterflies and hummingbirds flock to the flowers!

Here are two views of the house with the newly mulched flower beds:

And here’s a whole slew of shots to show off these blooming beauties. How I love the colors and scents!

Deep pink rose "carpet"

Deep pink rose carpet

And a close-up

And a close-up

Light pink knock-out roses

Light pink knock-out roses through the trellis

Closer still...

Closer still...

After a shower...

After a shower...

Gorgeous deep fuschia rose

Gorgeous deep fuschia rose

Looking down from the deck...

Looking down from the deck...

Finally, here’s a view of the garden looking down from the deck. It’s a delight from all angles. Next year the plants will have doubled in size and be even more colorful! I look forward to adding more to our landscaping. We have a lovely shaded bed on the western side of the house that will be perfect for a couple of hydrangeas. I’ll be sure to share pictures once we get to work on that part of our landscaping. We were delighted to get a free load of mulch to do the front flower beds. The front now looks really trim and tidy. Maybe I’ll start thinking about planting some bulbs now that fall is here…. Hmmm….!

Oh, and I do have another short-term project I plan to take care of this weekend. I removed the butterfly bushes I had in my deck planters and put them into the garden near the roses. That leaves some very leggy petunias looking rather spindly. Time to re-do the front planters!

Livening up the front door

First coat!

First coat!

While I don’t mind white in my kitchen (where soap and water are always handy for clean-up), I can’t stand a white front door. It always looks dirty, particularly with little hands (and feet!) constantly on the door. So with the approval of our landlord, I got a pint of “Spanish Red” (like a dark mulberry) from Lowe’s. On a day when the humidity wasn’t as extreme, I gave our front door a quick makeover!

The first coat of red over a non-primed surface is always scary. It looks hot pink (no matter how dark that color sample appears). If you opt for red on anything light, be prepared for at least three coats, if not more. If you prime first with a dark grey, it will still take at least two coats. This door took four coats before it finally looked solid and beautiful, as you’ll see in the photos below. I used a high density foam roller–the same kind I used on the kitchen cabinets–to get a nice, smooth finish with no visible “seams” or bubbles. If I’d been aiming for a totally professional look, I would have removed the door hardware or at least masked it off with painter’s tape. I did neither, as this was one of those spur-of-the-moment redos. The nice thing is that latex paint peels easily off of stainless steel, so I had no problem cleaning up the door knob and deadbolt later.

Here’s a close-up of that first coat of paint, plus a shot of my roller so you can see what it looks like:

Here’s the door after one coat of paint (looks frightening, I know!):

The second coat started looking better, but it was still “choppy” and pinkish in tone:

By the third coat, you start breathing easier and feeling like this is going to be a beautiful front door!

With the fourth coat in place and nicely dried, we have a beautiful, deep red front door. I love it! This exterior Latex is washable and weather-hardy. Best of all, it really doesn’t show handprints like the white door did. This door makeover took about an hour total (because the day was warm, each coat dried enough to paint over in about 20 minutes). It’s so easy to make a quick change without the cost of replacing a door!

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Come into my living room!

Just a quick post tonight to share a few pictures of my cozy living room. It is my favorite room in the house and is the best living room arrangement I’ve ever had. I am absolutely tickled pink with how it turned out!

I wish I had a better camera so I could capture the ambience of the room with its warm lighting, but when I tried photographing things with no flash, the pictures were just too dark. So you’ll have to settle for “flashy” pictures and just imagine the warmth and comfort of this cozy room!

First, here is the view from the inside wall when you stand with your back to the dining room and kitchen. The corner cupboard that used to be in the dining room of my old house now has a place in the living room due to the corner fireplace in the trailer dining room. I really love it in here, though, because it adds a lot of cottage character!The rocking chair was a gift from dear friends when we had a new baby, and I never seemed to have a place for it in the old house (in spite of its being a larger home!). It works so nicely in this room.

As you can see, we have  French Country color scheme going here with the reds, blues, yellows, plus black accents. I hung the curtains right at the edge of the ceiling (about a foot above the windows) to give the illusion of greater height. The curtains are a mixture of ones that were in my old dining room (blue) and ones from my old bedroom (the sheers over the windows). I love the soft, flowing look. The overall effect of the room is so homey and cozy that I find myself using this room far more than I ever did a formal living room in the past. The children and I love to cuddle up on the couch and read together.

I pulled the room together with a wonderful oriental rug we received from my father-in-law. This creates a defined area for the rest of the furniture. At first I was afraid it wouldn’t fit without blocking some of the air vents on the floor, but my husband figured out the best placement, and we just love the look. At right is the view when you first come in the front door. You can just see the hallway and the end of the dining room behind the couch. We have lots of artwork from our old home, and we’ve managed to find space for almost all of it. We figured we’d just imitate the British and cover the walls with paintings, prints, and photos! The red couch is probably my favorite piece of furniture in the room. I have plans to slipcover it so I can change its look from season to season. I have about 12 yards of a blue and creamy yellow Waverly stripe that I found on eBay for $41 — that’s 12 yards for less than the retail price of two! Gotta love it. Don’t know when I’ll get around to that project, but I’ll be sure to blog about it. I’d love to have the cover made by next spring, since it will make a nice change in the room and will make things seem cooler when the hot weather rolls around.

Finally, here is the view of the entry wall with the plates over the table that I’ve shown in a previous post. I still have plans to make the table skirt, and now that I’ve found the fabric, I hope to get that done in the next week or so. It will really soften up that wall, which has a lot of hard lines with the long painting, the table, and the bookcase. You can see a hat in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. That’s hanging on a hall tree stand that my husband loves to use for his own hats. Now they are right within reach when he goes out the front door! I put one of my favorite hats there as well. This is just a really wonderful room.

I’m filing away mental notes for our future dream house (the one we hope to build ourselves one of these days!). I’ve learned so many things from the various houses we’ve lived in, and I’ve got a big folder of notes about what has worked and what has not. Some of the things that work so nicely about this house are probably the very things that would make a double-wide unappealing to some folks. Yes, this is a fairly small house, but the smaller size makes housecleaning a real breeze! It takes half the time to clean this house than it did to clean the old one. I also love the fact that the kitchen, dining room, and living room make up a friendly triangle where I can be with my children and easily carry on conversations with family and friends. The walls are thin, yes, but that makes it easy to hear my children and speak to them without having to raise my voice as much as I did in the old house with all its far-flung corners!

Just before bedtime tonight, the children and I sat together in the living room, tired but happy after a long day. I looked around at all the smiling faces and said, “Children, don’t you love living in this cozy cottage of ours?” There was a loud chorus of “YES!” followed by lots of grins and comments about how great it is to live in the country and have plenty of room to explore and play together. Have I mentioned that I love this place? 🙂

Now’s the time to get “gazelle intense” with Dave Ramsey!

If you know nothing about Dave Ramsey and his “Financial Peace” series or his “Total Money Makeover,” there has never been a better time to get acquainted with this excellent system for becoming debt-free and living free. Jump on over to Dave’s website, because everything is $10 through September 2nd! This includes all the books, DVDs, audio CDs, and software.

If you want to learn how to break free from the bondage of all-American debt up to the eyeballs, then you need to read Dave! He also has a radio show that streams from his site, so if you’re not ready to plunk down money for books, take a few days to listen to what he has to say before you make a decision.

I don’t get any kind of kickback by promoting Dave Ramsey; I’m just extremely happy to be able to recommend  his common-sense approach to spending wisely, saving for the future, and staying debt-free for life. Yes, that even means mortgage-free! Dave uses biblical wisdom and old-fashioned common sense to demonstrate how easy it is to get control of your finances and “tell every dollar where to go.” If you don’t tell your money where to go, it will just grow wings and fly away of its own accord!

Whether you have debt or are debt-free and just want to save wisely for the future, you can’t beat Dave Ramsey’s excellent resources. Check them out!


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

Blog background by