Our White, Tan, & Turquoise Bathroom

Our White, Turquoise, & Tan Bathroom

When we moved into our house in September 2011, our youth ministry committee was kind enough to prepare it for us.  They spackled, sanded, sprayed, and painted our entire house white.  Later that week they helped Brad and I paint 5 of the 6 rooms a solid color.  However, the bathroom linoleum and plumbing were being repaired by another person, so we never got around to fixing up the bathroom.  I have to admit that I was disappointed when I saw the turquoise tiles.  I tend toward warm-colored neutrals, and I didn’t have a single thing that would suit turquoise tiles.

Do you have a room in your house that you dread entering because of the amount of work required to fix it up?  Well, that was our bathroom.  Gradually we’ve made one small change at a time.  We removed excess bars and towel hangers from the tile and walls.  We patched large holes.  We washed the light fixture.  We removed the contact paper from the windows.  We hung blinds.  We hung pictures.  We installed door stoppers.  A year after we moved in the landlord replaced all the plumbing in the house, including all the fixtures like the faucets and shower head.  Just last month I finally installed child locks and removed the old magnetic latches that refused to open or close properly.

Still, the room lacked unity.  I had a dark red rug on the floor that was a wedding gift, and the plastic trash can covered in a pastel baby design was a baby shower gift.  The only shower curtain was a shower curtain liner, which was looking worse and worse.  Last April when I cleaned the shower curtain for my 30-Day House Cleaning Challenge, it inspired me to think of other ways I could spruce up our bathroom.

Last fall I finally began shopping around for a shower curtain that would suit our turquoise tiled bathroom.  I had a number of Target gift cards, and began to look at their selection.  I fell in love with the curtain you see above, because it reminded me of a woman’s skirt.  I also picked up the silver curtain hooks, the tan rug, and the woven trash can to match.  There is still a lot of work to do: curtains, a curtain rod, sanding, spackling, painting walls, painting cabinets inside and out, and installing some new towel hooks.  However, I could not be happier with the accessories that I bought at Target (at no cost to me!)  They made an unbearable room, bearable.

Do you have a room in your house that you dread entering?  What small changes could you make to spruce it up?

How to Make DIY Shampoo & Conditioner

How to Make DIY Shampoo & Conditioner

Some time ago I decided to see how long I could go without buying shampoo and conditioner.  I had so many free samples on hand, and so many arriving in the mail each month that I just started going through them.  I started in May 2012, and last week I finally caved and bought my first bottles of shampoo and conditioner in almost 2 years.

When I had gaps between free samples, I began experimenting with going “poo-free,” a technique I had read about on Pinterest.  When a friend of mind admitted that she’d been going “poo-free” after reading an article by Tsh Oxenreider, I decided to give it a whirl myself.  I have naturally curly hair that is a mystery to me, so I’m up for trying anything to manage it.

I used the recipe Tsh suggests on her website, The Art of Simple:

  • 1 Tbsp Baking Soda + 1 Cup of Water = Shampoo
  • 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar + 1 Cup of Water = Conditioner

I actually hesitated to share my experiment with anyone, because I was pretty sure it would gross them out.  Even my husband thought I was a little weird for trying this DIY experiment!  The transition period to “poo-free” can last from a few weeks to a few months, so I often went back to using shampoo and conditioner again as soon as I got another free sample.  So I admit I didn’t really follow Tsh’s advice to the letter.

One thing that I noticed right away was that my hair was oilier, but for you non-curly folks out there, that was a good thing for my hair.  When my hair is too dry, it won’t curl well.  It needs moisture and its natural oils to curl well.  I also have very long hair now, which began to get more tangled without regular conditioning.  If I were to do this experiment again, I would also want to find better applicator bottles than the two empty soda bottles I used.

In the end, I have gone back to regular shampoo and conditioner.  Old habits die hard.  But I’m still willing to try going “poo-free” again, when I can spend more time adjusting the amounts of baking soda and cider vinegar to the right chemistry for my hair.

Have you ever considered, or gone “poo-free”?  What was your experience?

How to Save Time & Money Packing Lunches

As a stay-at-home Mom to three children who are also still at home, it may surprise you that I’m talking about packing lunches today.  Well, this month as I learned how to use Google Calendar for the first time, I again became aware of how so much time in my day is spent on meals.  I prepare meals, set the table, eat meals, clear the table, wash the dishes, put away the dishes, wipe down counter tops, and sweep the dining room floor all day long.  Meals consume my entire day!

Here are two ways that I save time and money by packing lunches:

 

Save Time & Money: Freeze Your Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches!

 

1. First, I remember reading some time ago on Money Saving Mom that Crystal freezes her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I thought this was unusual (and a little gross) when I first read about it.  But recently I decided to give it a try.  I cannot believe I never tried this idea before now!  Freezing PB&J sandwiches in freezer bags saves me a lot of time and mess every day.  They don’t take long to thaw, and they’re ready for a trip to the park or when we get home from church or running errands.  I even like to eat them frozen, when the peanut butter snaps with each bite!  Using the freezer takes one day each week, instead of making fresh sandwiches seven days a week.

 

Save Time & Money: Cut Veggies & Cheese Once A Week

 

2. Second, I cut all of my vegetables and cheese once a week and store it in air-tight containers.  I save money by not purchasing pre-cut vegetables and cheese, but save time by only cutting them once a week.  Having healthy snacks already prepared is also a great way to encourage healthy eating.  Just open the fridge, grab a carrot stick or celery, and go!  Again, doing the work ahead of time means having snacks available when you’ve just come in, or are just going out of the house.

How do you save time and money on lunches?

 

Why Is It So Important That I Be Debt-Free?

WHY is it so important that I be Debt-Free?

When I first learned about debt-freedom from Dave Ramsey and Crystal Paine, I immediately became passionate about becoming debt-free.  Why?  Because we serve a big God, who has given Brad and I big dreams.

In September 2009, after 17 years of dreaming, Brad had finally accepted his dream job doing full-time youth ministry.  I had also just begun my dream job as a stay-at-home-mom to our first child.

But in the winter of 2010, our dreams were crumbling around us.  Brad’s salary was reduced by 50%, I started substitute-teaching, and Brad started refereeing soccer games.  I cried every time I had to leave my baby behind to go to work.  We were more than $500 short on our bills at the end of each month, and I was pregnant with our second child.  We were eating so much spaghetti and Sloppy Joe sauce that our daughter was getting nasty diaper rashes all the time.  Through that long cold Minnesota winter, we had little food, little heat, little money, little sleep, and a lot of tears and worry.

When I read about debt-freedom, and the inspirational stories of those who had come through dark days like ours, I was hooked.  I wanted to be debt-free like nothing else.  I desperately wanted to stay home with my babies, and I wanted Brad to be able to do the work that God had called him to do.  God placed these passions in our hearts when we were mere children.  I cannot imagine facing my Savior and telling him that I did not do the work He had called me to do, because I had too many debts to pay.

Brad was eventually laid off from the position in Minnesota in September of 2010, we moved into my parents’ basement, and gave birth to our second child.  Those 2 years (June 2009-August 2011) were the most humbling years of our lives.  We learned so much the hard way.  We climbed out of the pit we dug for ourselves even more determined to pay off our debts for good.

We want to live without fear of a reduced paycheck, give joyfully to others, and have the mobility to go wherever God calls us whenever he calls us.  We know what God has called us to do, and we will do everything in our power to serve him with our lives.

I want to be debt-free so that I can do the work I choose, when I choose, where I choose, for whom I choose.  Debt-freedom is exactly that–freedom!

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”  –Proverbs 22:7

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” –Romans 13:8

Why is it important that you become debt-free?  What motivates you?

10 Tips from 2 Amateur Gardeners

10 Tips from 2 Amateur Gardeners

Brad and I both come from gardening families.  Both of our mothers grow flowers, and both of our fathers have a vegetable garden.  Our grandfathers also had vegetable gardens, and we grew up seeing our relatives tending their little backyard plots.

Yet when Brad and I moved to Northern California, we knew very little about how or what to grow in our backyard.  We have both been very surprised by Brad’s green thumb, and his success in growing all manner of things.  So here are 10 tips from 2 amateur gardeners:

1. Designate a compost bucket, and choose a location to empty it in your yard.

2. Compost your leaves, fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea, stems, nuts, charcoal, and even hair clippings!

3. Choose a few vegetables to plant.  (We have tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, and carrots.)

4. Plant fruit trees.  (We have lemon, lime, orange, and peach trees.  We also have a grape arbor.)

5. Plant flowers.  (We have roses, geraniums, sunflowers, wildflowers, and even a bottle brush tree in our yard.)

6. Try container gardening.  (Brad grew carrots in a rubber-maid tub!)

7. Water your garden, and give it lots of space to grow.

8. Enjoy the harvest!

9. Learn to cook from scratch, using your harvest.  (Don’t forget to compost your leftovers!)

10. Use your fresh produce for holidays, or share your abundance with others!

As you can see, the main thing you need to do is venture out into your yard, and begin experimenting.  Some things will work, and some things will not.  Some plants that grow in one place, won’t grow in another.  But you don’t need a fancy box garden, expensive fertilizers, or high-end gardening tools.  Go outside and get your hands dirty.  Plant some seeds, water your garden, and see what grows!

What tips would you give amateur gardeners like us?

Baking Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Libby's Famous Pumpkin PieLast year we had a bumper crop of pumpkins grow from our compost garden.  As a result, I cook a lot of pumpkin recipes for my family.  Surprisingly though, I had never tried cooking pumpkin pie.  I guess I thought that pumpkin puree from backyard pumpkins might prove inferior to canned pumpkin when baking.  However, when I recently looked up Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Recipe, I was amazed at how simple it was!  I decided right then and there to try it.

As I predicted, baking this recipe was a cinch.  I did encounter a few problems though.  First, I got regular pie shells instead of deep dish.  Oops!  I had a lot of filling left over, and ended up baking more pies the next day.  Second, my pumpkin puree is more watery than canned pumpkin, so my filling was thinner than expected.  Finally, the thinner filling also resulted in longer cooking times.  Some pies required doubling or even tripling the cooking time on the recipe.

Despite the challenges I encountered, my pumpkin pies have been delicious!  Our family and friends have really enjoyed them.

What is your favorite pumpkin pie recipe?  What pumpkin recipes does your family enjoy?

The Gift of Curtains: Our Master Bedroom & Dining Room

Our Red, Brown, Tan, & Gold Master Bedroom

Last year for Christmas (2012) my father-in-law gave Brad and I curtains and curtain rods for our living room, and then helped us install them.  It may amuse some of you to know that we’d been living in our house for 1 1/2 years, and still didn’t have curtains anywhere but in the kids’ room.  In fact, we still don’t have curtains in our bathroom or office.  But, as Dave Ramsey always says, “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else!”  So we were living without curtains.  We do have blinds throughout the house, although they did not look nearly as cozy.

Once the living room had curtains, I used some of our Christmas money to buy sheers for the dining room window, curtains for the master bedroom, and rods for both locations.  I bought the curtains and sheers at Lowe’s, and bought the rods at JCPenney.  I’ve got to tell you, it’s amazing how much more finished a room looks with curtains!  Our dining room is still very humble in appearance as you can see below.  Eventually we would like to save up for a solid wood dining room set, but for now we’re making due with a folding table and chairs that were a gift from my mother-in-law.

As I look at these pictures, it’s incredible to me how many things we’ve been given over the years.  In the photo below, my mother gave us the mirror, and my mother-in-law gave us the wicker cabinet.  In the photos above, Brad’s grandfather made our bed-frame and bed-side tables as a wedding gift, and my parents gave us our mattress, box-spring, comforter, and sheets for our wedding.  We love to walk around our house remembering all the ways that our family and friends have blessed us over the years, and helped to make our house a home.

What gifts make your house a home?

Dining Room Sheers

Freebie Friday!

Freebie Friday @ The Abundant Wife

Thank goodness it’s Friday!  It’s been awhile since I shared a “Freebie Friday” image, so I thought I’d share this one from back in November.  Suffice to say, most of the freebies in the photos have been used up by now!  As usual, most of my freebies come from following Crystal at Money Saving Mom.  As you can see I receive free magazines, coffee, make-up, stationary, shampoo, conditioner, books, perfume, calendars, coupons, and more in my mailbox!  If you’ve never tried requesting free samples, I highly recommend it.  It makes going to the mailbox an adventure every day!

From Night Owl to Early Bird: 9 Things That Keep Me Up At Night

From Night Owl to Early Bird: 9 Things That Keep Me Up at Night

As long as I can remember, I have tried to stay up late at night.  I begged my parents for one more TV show, talked with my brothers and sisters until all hours, procrastinated on schoolwork until the last minute, watched movies with my husband, and refused to be left out of any late-night fun there was to be had.

However, being a mother has changed all that.  Not only do my littlest babies still wake up in the middle of the night on occasion, but all of my children are up by 7:00am every morning.  So it has become necessary for me to stop being a night-owl, and transform into an early-bird.

During the month of February, I made it my goal to be in bed by 10:00pm every night.  I put a pad of paper and a pen on my bed side table, and every night I documented what time I went to bed, and my “excuse” for staying up late.  I was not surprised to see that technology (my laptop computer and smart phone) was the #1 culprit keeping me up at night.  Here are 9 things that kept me up at night during the month of February:

  1. Watching Movies/TV shows with my Husband
  2. Scheduling (I spent this month learning how to use Google Calendar)
  3. Social Networks
  4. Talking to my Husband
  5. Reading eBooks
  6. Proofreading for Others
  7. Editing Photos
  8. Shopping On-Line
  9. Writing

As I looked over my list, I realized that nothing on my list was bad in and of itself.  In fact, many of the things I did late at night were very good.  The problem is that I continue to begin new tasks late at night, when I should just call it a day.  One of the primary ways that I can make myself go to bed earlier is by turning off my technology.  True story; my earliest bed time was the night my iPhone battery died.

At the end of the month I averaged my bedtimes, and found that on average I was in bed by 11:10pm each night.  Although I was disappointed that my average bedtime was later than I’d hoped, I was pleased to see that I was going to bed earlier than in the past.  It helps to remember some of the reasons why I’m going to bed earlier each night:

  1. I want to be well-rested as I begin each day with my 3 children.
  2. I want to yell less and laugh more.
  3. I don’t want to miss spending mornings with my kids.
  4. I want to get through the day without needing a nap.
  5. I don’t want to depend caffeine to keep me awake all day.
  6. I want to be dressed by a reasonable time.
  7. I want to make it to my morning activities on time.
  8. I eventually hope to get up before my children each day.

One of the things I have been reminding myself of recently, is that “Staying up late is a punishment, not a privilege.”  As a child I believed that staying up late was a reward for age and maturity.  However, when I have small children, staying up late punishes me (and everyone who has to interact with me) all the next day.  I want to greet my husband and children with cheerfulness and gratitude (instead of crankiness and fatigue), so I will continue to work on going to bed earlier each night.

Do you struggle with going to bed late every night?  What strategies work well for you?  What motivates you to go to bed earlier?

Why You Need to Save $1000 For A Rainy Day

Save $1000 For a Rainy Day

16 months ago the “Check Engine” light began glowing on our truck’s dashboard.  We paid a local mechanic $40 to run a diagnostic test, and he turned off the light, assuring us that our truck would be fine.  However, we would need to have the small problem fixed before our truck would pass its smog test.

In December, we received notification that our truck was due for its annual registration, and bi-annual smog test.  We chose a different mechanic this time, but received the same news.  The “Check Engine” light would need to be fixed before we could pass our smog test or registration.

Well, the “small” problem turned out to be a very “expensive” problem.  Our truck needed a new oxygen sensor, a new fuel/air sensor, and a new catalytic converter.  These 3 repairs cost $1109, plus $40 for the smog check, and $126 for the registration.  We had been saving for the registration fee, but still we ended up spending $1275 on truck expenses this month.

Some of our friends who know how tight our budget is, wondered aloud, “How did you pay for that?”  And we told them, “We used our Emergency Fund.”

When we started learning about Dave Ramsey and following his “Baby Steps” in 2010, the first thing we did was save $1000 for a rainy day.  In fact, due to our experience with job loss we later increased our Emergency Fund to $2000 so that we would have a bigger cushion in the face of crisis.

Murphy’s Law states that “Anything that can go wrong–will go wrong.”  Your $1000 Emergency Fund is insurance against Murphy’s Law, for the unexpected events in life that you can’t plan for.

Our Emergency Fund kept our truck repairs from turning into new debt, while we are paying off our old debts.  This set-back will probably slow down our student loan debt pay-off, but it feels great to be able to pay for our truck repairs in full without any damage to our monthly budget!

Do you have an Emergency Fund?  Have you ever had to use your Emergency Fund?

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