Archives for August 2014

Join my spending challenge?

small treasure

It’s Frugal Friday today, and  after rassling with the contents of my fridge, pantry and freezer this past week,  I decided it’s time to give myself another spending challenge. I usually spend around $700 on groceries in a month and during the month of September, I’m going to try to get by on $300. Honestly, I think we should be in pretty good shape– I have LOTS of meat in the freezer right now and the produce is pouring out of the garden lately.   I’m going to start by challenging myself to see how many days I can get without shopping at all.  7 days?  10 days? 2 weeks?  We’ll see.

Would you like to be part of this challenge? Pick a dollar amount that seems doable yet is a decrease from what you usually spend.  If a whole month seems too intimidating, you can challenge yourself for a shorter time– maybe just two weeks?  But the goal is to use what you have as much as possible, and decrease your spending for the month in the process.  If it goes well, you’ll have a bit of cash left over to tuck away, maybe for Christmas spending in a couple months?

I’ll report every Friday how I’m doing. I’ll share what we’ve been eating and how I’ve been making do when we run out of things here and there.  I always find it to be an interesting challenge. If you want to play along,  comment each Friday and share a report of your own.


Notes from other years I’ve done this challenge

A funny post from our 2006 Spending Challenge

Start of the 2009 Spending Challenge

Day 1 of the 2013 Spending Challenge


Faux plaster or stone finishes for sheetrock

faux plaster or stone finishes for sheetrockJohn has been busy sheet-rocking in the boys bathroom, which is really exciting, because that means paint is coming soon.  One of the ideas we’re tossing around is doing a decorative finish on the wall with kind of a plaster-look finish.  This morning I found several different tutorials for adding a bit more texture to a wall using sheetrock mud  (aka joint compound).

Here’s one way to do it that involves adding a tube of caulk and some bonding primer to your joint compound, which actually makes good sense to me, since it sounds like it would really help the textured layer adhere to the wall.  However–no pictures here.  I’d really like to see some ideas for actually making the patterns on the wall.

Here’s a tutorial that uses Ardex, something I’ve never heard of.  Turns out it is also used for giving formica countertops a facelift that looks a lot like concrete.  I like that this tutorial has pictures.  You can see the pattern is really random, and it looks pretty simple to do.

stone stencilThis tutorial from Home Depot has some close photos of how to pattern it– we’d just do step 1 and 2 I think, since we’re not really planning on adding a glaze to the wall.  I think it also might be a good idea to add caulk and bonding primer to the joint compound like the first tutorial.  Maybe also add some tint to the joint compound?  Not sure.

Finally, I happened across this fabulous raised plaster stencil  that allows you to do a faux stone finish on a wall.  I am guessing this is pretty labor intensive, but I’d love to try it, perhaps on just one wall in the bathroom? Here’s the etsy shop where you can buy this cool looking stencil.

Have any of you done textured finishes on sheetrock?  I’d love to hear your experiences.

Just keep swimming

My 9 year old a LONG time ago!

Oh my goodness, this is looking like a busy week. On the agenda, with probable additions as the week goes on:

  • Two doctor’s checkups
  • Our 18 year old daughter’s first days in the dental program at college
  • Three soccer games
  • More tomato picking and canning.  Ditto for cukes and plums.
  • 6 drives to 3 soccer practices (to and from)
  • Six drives to Dominoes pizza (to and from for 3 shifts for a teen)
  • A kids’ play afternoon
  • A kids’ sleepover
  • A bit of furniture-moving and rearranging.  Should be good fun!
  • More work on the boys bathroom.  Maybe it’ll be done in the next week or two.  Maybe.
  • School planning for this school year, as well as a revamp of the job chart.  The new school year is always a good opportunity to give kids a crack at new jobs that they may not have yet done, and to reassign their old jobs to different siblings.

AND school starts next week.  It’s going to be one of those ‘just keep swimming’ weeks.  I may or may not be checking in much here.  Hope your week goes well!

Frugal Friday


I’ve got almost nothing for you this week.  It was a very busy erranding/soccer practice/school prep kind of week which always results in eating fast food more often than is strictly necessary.

  • One day when the fast food craving hit, we did go with McDonald’s instead of Jimmy John’s which would have been twice the cost.  So I guess that was a victory, kinda.  Another day we had Chinese food at the restaurant where my daughter has worked all summer. Not the most affordable but I’d been wanting to try her restaurant out for awhile, and it was fun to see her there, hard at work.
  • This week I canned 25 quarts of tomatoes and 15 quarts of pickles.  I also did about 8 pints of raspberry plum jam. And still there are cukes in the fridge and tomatoes and plums on the counter.  Yikes!
  • I stocked up on school notebooks on sale.  I still need to get more though.  I think I only have a couple dozen, and that’s not enough to get through the year.
  • Our pool pump broke this week, so new parts are being ordered.  Bah humbug.  Definitely a ding in the budget, but I guess we should just be glad we got nearly 6 years of use out of a pump that was old when we got it.  (Hooray, Craigslist!)
  • I combined a whole bunch of errands several days this week, so at least we got good use out of all that gas and time in the car!
  • We are opting to go to the fair on the very last day this year, which means half price admissions.  We are giving the kids $10 each to spend, for food or rides or whatever, and the rest is up to them.

That’s all I have for you this week.  I’d love to hear more successes from you!


End of summer


I always mourn the end of summer. This one was busier than usual with kids jobs and activities,  but it was still slower-paced than the school year.  I love sleeping in, having time to swim and camp, and just not feeling the press of school assignments.

tent cityOur most recent camping trip included Jared’s girlfriend and a couple of the grandbabies.  Such fun to see them at the place we’ve loved for so many years.  As usual we had a little tent city set up next to our travel trailer. Though there’s lots of sleeping space inside the trailer, most of the kids prefer to have their own space in various tents.  There’s lots of swimming and fishing, plus games with cousins and visiting by the camp fire.


But now that summer is winding down, I’m back to thinking about school.  Last school year we had lots of finishing-up to do with our then-senior, so we hit school pretty hard and got a lot done. The current juniors benefited from that intensity, and also got a lot done, so I’m planning for this school year to be a bit less ambitious.


I’ve never been an unschooler-type mom– I like structure too much. But we’re going to try  taking Mondays off, as I wrote about before. Sleep in, plan only a little. I’ll still have the kids do chores, as well as an hour of reading, but it can be something of their own choosing.


Subjects with our three juniors will include:


Our two younger daughters (4th and 7th) will be doing:


How about you?  Are your kids back at school?  If you’re homeschooling, are you trying anything new?




Also of interest


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Free online resources for school

Free Online Resources for SchoolWith school just getting underway, I thought I’d share some online learning resources that are out there for folks who don’t have a lot of money to spend.  Twenty websites, all free– what a beautiful thing!  If you know of other free online resources for homeschooling or for enrichment learning, please share them in comments, below.  And if you find this post to be helpful, please feel free to pin it so that others can find it.


  • Starfall — an online phonics learning website, complete with lots of games
  • Young Minds — free printable handwriting pages
  • Arcademics— this site combines math learning with the fun of arcade games.
  • Calculation Nation — here’s another math learning website
  • The Teacher’s Corner– offers free printable worksheets
  • Seterra — This is a great free geography learning resource
  • Youtube Primary & Secondary Channel— ] learning videos on scads of topics appropriate for elementary school learners
  • Music Appreciation, Charlotte Mason style– hints on teaching music appreciation to children
  • Patrick Math — this is a website devoted to math tutorials, some on very complex topics
  • Free Rice Grammar– English grammar drills for junior high and high school kids
  • Free Rice Vocabulary— vocabulary drills for kids and teens
  • Free Rice Math — review of pre-algebra skills
  • MOOC—lists classes you can take online for free.  In some cases you may need to pay to earn actual credits.
  • MIT Open Courseware– offers many different college level classes for free
  • Textbook Revolution — has many textbooks available in pdf’s or other forms online for free.  Check here before you buy a spendy book.
  • — free online speed reading course–what college student doesn’t need that?
  • Khan Academy — bills itself as providing a free world-class education for anyone.  Many topics.
  • Duolingo — is a great little language learning website that offers 14 different languages.
  • –offers free sheet music and instruction for a variety of instruments
  • Code Academy — teaches basic beginning computer coding step by step.



one word

frugality this week

Time for frugal Friday again! We’ve had a busy week.

One of my sons (Josh) started soccer practice this week and had two-a-day practices ALL week long, so I deliberately avoided most activities besides that, but I still had at least a couple days wheresoccer practice I probably drove 80-100 miles in one day alone. Thankfully I was able to drive John’s tiny car a few times, which helped decrease our gas use a bit. Josh has been hunting for a good used car to buy for when he gets his license in September, but hasn’t had too much luck yet.  I guess we’ll keep looking.

When uniform shopping with my daughter who’s doing a dental assisting program this fall, after buying the required scrubs, we checked the thrift store for the required white leather work shoes.  Found a very nice lightly worn pair for $6.  She then was fortunate enough to be given another scrub top for free by a student who’d finished the program.  Hooray!

From the garden we got at least 30 cucumbers,  a dozen zucchini, several dozen tomatoes, a cabbage, and about 12 cups of plums.  For lunch I made this pasta salad with long thin shreds of zucchini as some of the ‘noodles’. We are definitely moving into the season of garden abundance, and I need to get serious about using those veggies!  Today I canned 7 quarts of pickle spears using this recipe and still have a heap of about 15 cukes to use.  I also have a huge bowl of tomatoes sitting waiting to be canned.

One day this week I bought two chickens for $1/lb, and roasted them in the turkey roaster on the back patio so that the house would stay cool.  $9 of meat gave us two different dinners for 8 people:  one of roast chicken, and the other being a very hearty chicken noodle soup, complete with zucchini, carrots, garlic, cilantro, ginger, and lime– yum.

Today I spent awhile talking with the banker at our newly merged bank about checking account options for our young adults.  It seems the only option for folks who don’t keep at least $750 in their checking account is one that charges a $6.50 service charge each month.  The good news  (according to the bank) is that for every time you use your debit card in a month, 25 cents is taken off that service charge.  So if you use your card almost every day, you don’t pay a service charge.  That might be an okay option for me– I probably use my card almost that much.  But it’s not so great for my daughter who uses her card maybe 3 times a month.  So we may be bank shopping.

How did the frugality adventure go this week at your house?



On suicide


In light of the tragic death of Robin Williams, so many people are writing on the topic of suicide, some with compassion and some with judgement.  Here are two excellent reads from friends of minds that illuminate the suffering soul and offer encouragement along that hard path.  Please, let’s be light-bearers, reminding each other of the only true hope that exists in this hard and painful world.

Where Are the Ravens?

Up From the Suicidal Abyss


Storage ideas for tiny bathrooms

Our bathroom project is progressing really well.  We’ve got the toilet and shower in working order, are hard at work on sheetrock, and hope to have the sink functional within the next day or two. Of course then comes taping, mudding, texturing, painting, and trimming out.  (Yikes– there’s lots still to do!)

One of the things we’re planning is some built-in storage space. Since our bathroom is basically attic space, it has a slanted ceiling.  We’re planning on using space behind the new wall where the ceiling slopes down toward the floor for additional storage.

In thinking about what to do, I’ve been pinning interesting storage solutions on pinterest.  Most of the ones I’m showing you here involve using the space between studs for storage. Here’s the one that first caught my eye.  Isn’t it pretty?  I like the dark wood, and think that whatever we do, we’ll probably do in dark wood, since that’s the color I stained the old yellow-oak cabinet.



This next one was designed to utilize a slanted ceiling like the one in our bathroom.  I like the beadboard trim inside the space. It is also a similar blue to what I’m considering painting the walls.



This one looks like it has a ton of storage, and I really like the trim work.  It also has some good step by step photos of the process.  Kinda makes me want to start making holes in walls and adding storage in other rooms around here.



This next one looks like a great idea next to a toilet.  I couldn’t find a link to the actual project, just the photo, but I like the idea of recessing the toilet paper in the wall a bit, especially in a tight space.



And isn’t this final one a great way to incorporate a mirror AND some storage? This project is a good option if cutting holes in walls isn’t your cup of tea. I also really like the rustic stain she put on the wood.  You can click here to see step by step pictures of this project.  And if you want, you can also follow me on Pinterest by clicking here.

I’m still not sure what form our bathroom storage is going to take, but I’m hoping we’ll have the entire bathroom done for the big reveal soon, maybe even by the end of the month?  I’m so excited to show it all to you!