Archives for January 2013

Book Review: Puria (and my Mary Kay winner!)

The winner of my Mary Kay giveaway is Rena at The Girl with the Smile.

Today I wanted to tell you about a book I read recently.  I read almost no fiction these days, and so when my friend Rachael Wheeler asked if I’d be willing to read her book, Puria, I had a pang or two of concern.   Could I find time to read it?  But the idea of making time for a purely entertaining book was greatly appealing– why don’t I do that more often??– and it turned out to be a really enjoyable read. The writing is excellent and the story was engrossing.  Twenty pages in, I set the book down to go cook dinner, and found myself thinking about the characters as I cooked, and wondering what would happen next, which for me is always a sign that the story has caught my imagination.

The story is about a girl whose fiance’ is kidnapped into slavery.  She leaves her safe home and sets out into a dangerous world to rescue him.  Sacrifice is what is required in the end, and the book kept me guessing right up til the conclusion.  I had the whole book read in three days, and very much enjoyed the story.  (Parents, give this book a read before you hand it off to kids.  There is some violence, but right and wrong is clearly defined in this book, and good wins out in the end.  I’d consider it appropriate for older teens, but every family is different.)  This book is available in paperback, or you can get it on Kindle for only $3.99.

The author has given me a copy of the book to give away to one of you!   If you’d like to enter the drawing to win the book, comment below, and tell me the best fiction book you’ve read recently.  I’ve decided I really ought to find time to read more fiction, and would love some more good recommendations.

$20 thrift store challenge

The very fun folks from Young House Love challenged folks to see what they could find at a thrift store for $20 or less. That kind of challenge is right up my alley– here’s where you can add your own post to the challenge if you choose to join in too.  I had a great reason to go thrifting this week. Some of the ladies in our church are putting together a formal banquet this weekend for the young ladies in our church, and a formal banquet means my two teen daughters needed formal gowns.

We set out with some trepidation.  Shopping with teens can be challenging, more so if you’re limiting yourself to thrift store items.  Then add reasonably modest formal wear into the mix.  For two different girls.  Yikes.  I don’t ask for much, do I?

We ended up going to four different thrift stores in a couple hours’ time.  (I totally forgot to take pictures of the trip– sorry!) We found a deep red dress that was an almost perfect fit for my 17 year old.  We’re going to add black ribbon straps and a couple tucks and it will be perfect. It had a $15 tag, but was a pink-tag item.  Pink tags happened to be 50% off that week.  $7.50.  Sweet.

The next two stores netted nothing. (For some reason I couldn’t interest any of my girls in a gaudy 90’s-style wedding dressing with huge puff sleeves!  🙂  )  On to the final store in town we went, and there we hit the jackpot. We found a gorgeous turquoise dress for $6 for my 15 year old.  She loves it, and paired with a camisole or maybe a lacy shrug, it’ll be perfect!  We also found a cute little-girl sweater and several little girl’s dresses.

Since the four items on the right side of the picture were all from the same store ($17), I’m counting them for my under-$20 challenge.  But I had to include the dress from the other store in the photo so you could see how successful our little mission was!  I’m very thankful we found items that answered our needs so perfectly, and made our girls feel beautiful and elegant.  And all that in two hours time!  Hooray for thrifting!

(And yes, I do still have twinkle lights on my staircase.  In the winter I’ve gotta have LIGHT!)


More ways we save money with our passel of kids

House projects we’ve done recently

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Adoption questions

I’ve been working on my adoption book during my daughter’s early-morning driver’s ed– might as well get something useful done as long as I’m forced to be up.   I’m hoping some of you might be willing to help me a bit with this project by giving me some feedback now and then!

Today’s question is related to the early stage of the adoption process.  I’m interested in hearing how you decided where to adopt from and what type of child to adopt.  Did you adopt domestically or internationally, an infant or an older child, a child with special needs, or maybe even a sibling group?  I’d love to hear some of the thoughts that went through your head during that time and how you narrowed it down and made the choice for your family.  Were there people who spoke into your life at crucial times?  What helped make your decision clear?

I hope to quote some of you in my book, and if I choose to use your words, I’ll email you to ask you how you’d like to be named:  full name, first name, anonymous, or whatever you prefer. Thanks in advance for any insight you can give me.

Here are some links to our adoption story if you’re interesting in reading how we made some of those decisions for our family!

DIY Coat Rack

I’m excited to show you a really fun project that I did last week.  We have a short wall that divides our front entry from our living room.  For years I just hung a few pictures there and called it good.  I’ve also wished for awhile that I had an easy solution for guest’s coats, since our coat closet is always packed, with rarely a spare hanger in sight.  When I saw this great entry revamp on Young House Love I decided it would be a perfect way to add interest to our entry AND provide an easy place for guests to put their coats.

Here you can see the beginning stages of the project–that’s as close as I got to a ‘before’ picture– and the end result.  I’d call that an improvement!

I spent a good hour or two at Lowe’s looking for interesting trim wood that didn’t cost a million bucks. Since I was hoping to complete this job without John needing to help me, I had the guys at Lowe’s cut the vertical boards for me to a 48 inch length. The vertical boards have pattern of straight narrow lines.

The board that I chose for the top edge has a curved profile similar to what you’ll see on lots of baseboards, but it was a wider version.  I really liked the square corner medallions that I found.  I think they add some nice interest, and were only about $3 each.  The coat hooks were $4 each.  The project also took half a quart or so of white paint.  Altogether the project cost around $60– more than I expected it would.  Those little dibs and dabs of wood add up quickly!


For awhile I was despairing of the project coming together at all.  The trim boards I bought were MDF, which is basically wood chips glued together into shapes, so it showed every hammer ‘miss’.   It took a few nail holes to find the studs so that I could attach the vertical boards in a sturdy way.  I had several nails that bent over sideways as I was nailing, which meant I had to pull out the nails and try again. More dings. If I did it again, I’d use real wood, not MDF, for more sturdiness.  But once I puttied and painted it all white, including the wall between the new trim pieces,  it came together nicely.  I especially like the two little coat hooks set down low for my littlest visitors!

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I don’t know how many of you actually listen to my Sunday music or enjoy this weekly feature on the blog, but music is such an amazing vehicle for expression that I love sharing it with you. This week’s song really spoke to me, and I hope you’ll listen if you have time.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

For the love of sleep

The good news is that we’ve survived a week of driver’s ed. I’m counting it as a week, anyway– even if the week started on Tuesday and included one snow day. The bad news is that we still have four–FOUR– more WEEKS of pitch-dark early morning waking. I may not survive. We homeschool for a lot of reasons, but I will not lie–a big one is my lack of functionality at 5AM.  Or 6AM.  Or– as long as I’m being honest–7AM.

In related news, I’ve decided I need yoga pants. Not for yoga. For lounging around all day semi-comatose after waking too early.  It doesn’t seem to matter how early I go to bed, I’m still whipped all day after getting up at 5.  And my hubby, bless his heart, is convinced that only ill people wear PJ pants ALL day.

Also related: early this week, I signed up to get a Bountiful Basket produce basket Saturday morning at 7:30. My daughter had to drive at 7AM that day at the school right down the road from the basket pickup point. No problem to go grab the basket since I’d already be up. Except in a cruel twist of fate her drive time got changed from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon. Meaning, now the only reason I have to get up Saturday is for onions and avocados. I’ve never hated produce so much.  Except I already paid for it, so of course I’m going to pick it up.

Finally, also related:  for years I’ve wondered how nice hotels make their bedding so darned cozy.  I’ve been experimenting with bed-making and discovered that if I tuck a long flap of the top quilt in over the top of the other blankets, it adds a nice cozy weight to the top edge of the bedding AND it keeps the bedding from getting so messy during the night. I took a picture for you so that hopefully you can see what I’m talking about.  Pure sleep bliss, I tell you.

Now, can I go to bed?

Oops, guess not.  It’s actually time to take my daughter to driver’s ed again.

But a girl can dream.

Pinterest fashion for frugalistas


Pinterest is lots of fun, but the down side is that it can sometimes leave you wishing for things you can’t afford. One of my favorite pin boards on my Pinterest page is my Style and Loveliness board. If you check it out, you’ll see I’ve got my fair share of ‘if I were a princess’ pins. But the real value of that board to me is the way it helps me look at what I’ve already got with new eyes.

I already own most of these neutral items. Accessorizing isn’t something I am especially good at, so this pin, and other similar ones on my board, give me nice hints to pull outfits together in ways I haven’t considered before.


The next few pins were inspired by my much-beloved jeans jacket. I found the jacket for $8 at a consignment store, and wear it OFTEN. I love the pearls and denim look, and have a long brown skirt just the style of the grey one in that third pin. Any of these ideas would also look nice with a lightweight denim shirt, I think.

Source: via Mary on Pinterest

Source: via Mary on Pinterest

Source: via Mary on Pinterest


I love to pin haircut ideas. These caught my eye lately, and will be helpful in communicating with my hair salon lady the next time I go in for a haircut.











I also like to pin nail polish ideas for my girls. They’re always painting their nails, and ideas like the cute ones here can be found in abundance on Pinterest. What’s your favorite way to use Pinterest in a frugal way?

Source: via Mary on Pinterest

Source: via Mary on Pinterest


I’ll be rude next time

The other day when I stopped by the package store, the first thing I heard upon walking into the store was an elephantine sneeze from the back room.  The store was full of customers, and the ding-ding of my arrival bell apparently signaled the manager that too many people were now waiting in line.  He hollered for help.  Out came the sneezer from the back room, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand.

I looked down at my already-addressed package, glad it was ready to go.  I shouldn’t have to touch anything this guy touched.

Wrong.  Turns out I needed to fill out the store’s form.  He handed me a flowery pen, which I looked at dubiously.  Should I be polite and pretend I hadn’t just heard his hack?  Or wisely germophobic, refusing to touch anything he’d touched?

Almost before I’d formulated the debate, my polite southern-lady side had gingerly taken the nasty pen and prayed a prayer of germ protection.  They’re everywhere, after all.

Today?  I’m sneezing.


I’ll be rude next time.

Six things I’d rather buy at the thrift store

I love shopping at thrift stores!  I don’t buy everything there, but there are some things I buy almost exclusively at thrift stores.

1.  Dress shoes for kids and young men–  Our kids only wear them a few hours a week, as did the previous owners, so it’s possible to find very lightly used shoes at the thrift store.

2. White dishes to add to my collection.  I now have a full collection of dinner plates, bowls, cups sand saucers, serving bowls, and dessert plates, all from the thrift store.  I’ve collected several different styles but all look great together because they’re white.

3.  Junior girls clothes in the smallest sizes.  Young ladies tend to grow through these sizes very quickly, or tire of styles rapidly, so most thrift stores have a huge variety of lightly used items of clothing in sizes 0-5.  Teach your teens to bargain-hunt here first, and you’ll set them up to save lots of money both now and into adulthood.

4.’Splurge’ items for my own wardrobe.  When I’m sick of my wardrobe and find myself wanting something– anything!– new, I always try to satisfy my longing for variety at the thrift store.

5.  Kitchenware:  If I need canning jars, orange juicers, pie pans, or other specific kitchen items, I usually check thrift stores first.  Latest bargain find:  a vintage 8-cup measuring cup in perfect condition for two bucks.

6. Exercise Clothing/Fitness Gear: We’ve found running pants, shorts, bike helmets, soccer shoes and lots of other good sports items at thrift stores.  Folks often use these items lightly and then give them away, which saves us big bucks.

What do you like to buy at thrift stores?   Here’s Money Saving Mom’s take on this topic. And here’s a post I wrote awhile back sharing more of my hints for thrift store success.

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