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Slight detour…

Well, we had a little adventure yesterday that involved broken glass, a child’s foot, and a seven-hour trip to the ER, getting back home around 10:30 pm in a state of utter exhaustion. Needless to say, I didn’t get around to checking entries for the contest after the deadline last night!

Son #2 is doing fine — four shots and three stitches later! By tomorrow we’ll have our heads on straight again, and I’ll put up the contest results!

Warmly,
Amanda

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Contest Deadline Extended ’til Midnight Monday!

I totally lost track of the time, because I remembered I needed to make my girls’ Easter dresses this weekend! That has kind of thrown off the blogging end of things — let alone checking for new entries. So I’m extending the contest deadline until midnight on Monday the 13th. Please do pass along the contest link — the more, the merrier!

Thank you!

Amanda

Don’t Miss This Fun Contest!

If you haven’t seen my April 4 post, be sure to check it out! I’m having a budget remodel contest — see if you can beat DIY Magazine’s bathroom remodel budget. The winner gets a one-year subscription to the wonderful Mary Jane’s Farm magazine. 🙂

A few ladies have already posted their entries in the comment sections on the April 4 post (that’s where to enter). I’m keeping the entries private until the end of the contest, and then I’ll reveal everyone’s finds and their bottom line budgets!

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Make sure the links to each of the items you find works — we need to be able to verify your finds.
2. Be sure you pick bathroom-grade paint rather than run-of-the-mill paint. It makes a difference!
3. It’s perfectly kosher to check eBay, Craigslist, and Freecycle for your bargains!

Have fun!

Warmly,
Amanda

This is a “budget” remodel?

Anyone who’s followed my blog for even a short time will know I’m big on bargains and remodeling on the cheap. I love do-it-yourself features in magazines and online, so I immediately clicked through to an article titled “Budget Bath Makeover” in the latest DIY newsletter. There I found a photograph of a very pretty master bath that had been remodeled on a budget:

img_budgetmakeover_1a

And here are the first couple of paragraphs of the accompanying article:

This master bath had many advantages: a separate tub and a shower, a window, and clean white fixtures. The effect, however, was cold and impersonal. A color cure and pretty accessories much improved the look.

Instead of damaging (and then fixing) the wall by removing the plate mirror over the vanity, the homeowner hung an antiqued flea-market frame in front of it. Then she switched out the contemporary light fixture for a classic three-bulb affair; replaced the basic faucet with a porcelain-handle Victorian-style model; and ditched boring cabinet pulls for brushed chrome knobs and cup pulls.

Okay, so far I’m all there. I’m all about painting, replacing ugly pulls, updating light fixtures, and repurposing antique frames. But here’s where the jaw-dropper hit:

The total cost for the room redo: $900.

Wait a second. Was that nine-HUNDRED dollars? Surely you mean a hundred and ninety dollars, right? Um, no. In the alternate reality of today’s crashing economy, it seems there are “budget” remodels and then there are BUDGET remodels. I wouldn’t class spending $900 on a few bathroom fixtures as a real saving accomplishment. In fact, I feel a challenge coming on! I bet you that any one of us could re-do this room in the exact same way for under $190. Wanna try?

Okay, here’s the challenge: Get online and see if you can price out this remodel for under $190. That means finding bathroom paint (one gallon does it for this size room), pulls similar to the ones used in the photo, a three-light fixture, vintage-style faucet, and a frame to go around the mirror (antique or otherwise–just see what you can find). Post links to your finds as well as prices and your grand total (no need to figure in taxes, as we’re all in different states) in the comments section. Whoever gets this remodel done at the lowest price wins a year’s subscription to Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine.

I’ll play along with you and post my BUDGET remodel on April 10. That gives you six days to get cracking! Invite your friends — pass along this post. The more, the merrier! I bet we can show DIY Magazine a thing or two about real budget remodeling!

PS (4/7/09): I’ve removed the current comments with their running totals and will wait until the contest is over to reveal everyone’s finds. That will make it more fun and won’t discourage anyone from trying. Keep the budget challenge going!

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.

susankax

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.

Getting into the Gardening Mood!

oldplanterYep, it’s that time again! It all started when I walked outside to get the mail the other day and stood looking around the front deck in disgust. The build-up of fallen leaves, tracked mud, mis-matched shoes, and other bits and pieces just finally pushed me over the edge. Time to Spring Clean the deck! My two large planters looked so sad with their dead annuals and crusty dirt. So I decided to get pansies and liven up all the pots on the deck, then clean up the mess when all the planting was finished. I nabbed two flats of pansies while doing the bi-monthly grocery shopping, then promptly came down with a raging sore throat, fever, and chills, and the poor plants sat on the front deck for a week with no one to think of them (or water them!). By the time I was up and around again, the pansies looked like a lost cause. But I decided to plan them and just see what happened.

plants

The most promising of the pansies...

I grabbed my potting soil and tackled the dirt in the two large iron planters. The soil was so compacted and tough that it took a while to get the crusty layer out and mix up a nice layer for the plants. But the pansies looked a little happier to be in nice, loose soil and have some water.

planted2

I tackled the next iron planter, then the two large “terra cotta” (plastic) planters:

messydeck2

toplantYou can see the mess of dirt and leaves waiting to be swept. But I wanted to finish planting first, and I’d fallen for some roses while shopping, too! I picked up two Chicago Peace bush roses and two coral-colored climbing roses for $4 each. Naturally, the package said, “place in ground immediately,” but mine sat out with the rest of the flowers while I was sick. They didn’t look the worse for wear when I finally got to them. Roses are tough. I used to be afraid of roses. I thought only master gardeners could care for these wonderful plants. I quickly found out this is a myth! Roses are easier to care for than almost anything you can plant. You only have to be vigilant through Japanese beetle season and watch for black spots on the leaves that can indicate mold — watering  early in the day prevents this, as the sun has a chance to evaporate the water and dry the leaves. What’s most wonderful is that roses positively thrive in a hot, sunny environment like the one in which I happen to live. Serendipity! So I happily picked up new roses to put in front of the deck.

Last year I planted annuals in this spot just to have some color. Now, with more time to plan, I was ready for more substantial, long-lasting plants. My children helped me prep the flower bed by raking out the leaves so we could work the soil and loosen it up a bit. We didn’t get rid of the leaves, since those are wonderful for compost and can also serve as mulch. Here’s a picture of the bed, ready for roses:

preppedbed

Next, I dug the first hole for the climbing rose I wanted to put at the far left edge of the deck:

dighole holedug

Now it was time to put some good soil into the hole and settle the roots of the rose:

addsoil

Then my oldest son and I crumbled the native dirt and filled the hole the rest of the way, leaving the “bud” of the rose about an inch above the soil line (this is where the rose branches out):

crumbledirt

Finally, my daughters grabbed handfuls of leaves to mound around the rose, since we weren’t quite past the danger of a nighttime freeze:

rosemulchclose

emptypotThe girls got into the spirit of gardening and quickly brought me an old pot they’d found behind their playhouse in the back yard. They wanted to have flowers in front of their doorway, too! So we scooped the leftover potting soil into it, and the girls planted the remaining pansies in their little pot:

plantingpot3 plantingpot

sweptcleanWith all our planting done, it was time to clean up the deck. The boys matched up all the outdoor shoes and lined them in a row. The girls gathered the toys and miscellaneous items into a pile to go inside. I swept all the fallen leaves out of the crack between the deck and the house and added them to the growing compost pile. We kept working our way from one end of the deck to the other, the boys stopping to exclaim over a long-lost Lego and my oldest daughter declaring, “This looks like a house now!” Because, of course, a messy deck just can’t look like much of anything, right? 😉

The finished results gave us all a smile. How nice to have flowers nodding from their planters and a clean, swept floor to greet the eye!

finished-deck

With more days of sunshine and water, the panies perked right up and looked fresh, too.  The welcome mat is out, so come on in!


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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