It’s almost spring!

The winter here was not too bad in the snow department, but I’m still ever so glad to have made it through until March.  I really don’t like winter, and I’m very much looking forward to springtime and flowers and warmth. Here’s a gratuitous flower shot — pure eye candy, isn’t it?

I’ve been the worst blogger ever lately, partly because of work, but also, I think, because I have been doing quite a bit more reading in the last few months.  (Latest fave book: 600 Hours of Edward.  Some adult content, but an amazing view into the mind of an adult with Asperger’s.)

The latest from work: the OB building flooded, which put our department completely out of commission for a few weeks. We’ve been keeping a skeleton crew of OB nurses in our ER each shift, just in case a baby decides to be born before a mom can be transported to the nearest open OB department.  The rest of our OB staff has been floated by turns to work at the Boise hospital, which has been quite a stress-inducing adventure.  So far, the shifts I’ve done have gone OK, but it is no small thing to be handed a patient load on a busy floor to which you have not been oriented.  On the bright side:  the Boise hospital is where John works, so a time or two we’ve been able to say hi and chat a minute between shifts.  (I’m still working nights and he works days.)

The latest from home:  Emily and Julianna have been practicing a piano duet and have gotten rather good at it.  I love that they’re enjoying playing together.  In fact, Julianna says she’d rather play duets than play alone.  They’re taking lessons from my mom, which I absolutely love.

Even tho there’s room in the house for the girls to have rooms of their own, I still have them sharing a bedroom.  They are such good buddies that I’m not quite willing to separate them yet, and they actually really do enjoy being together….  I may rethink that at some point– Em is almost 16, after all.  But then again, Julianna still sometimes gets anxious if she’s alone at night.  So who knows….?  Parenting is such a guessing game, isn’t it?

In other news, they now have guinea pigs, and the guinea pigs have a room of their own.  This keeps the girls from having to sleep in the same room as piggy stinkiness, but it does seem to me a bit over the top in terms of pampering your pets.  Ah well.

A reader recently asked me a question about grocery shopping splurges. I do still aim to feed my family affordably as much as I can.  Stirfry is a regular option around here.  We do homemade pizza and homemade enchiladas and fajitas, etc.  And I’ve been delighted at how many tomatoes our tiny yard can produce– enough that I’ve actually still done a bit of canning each fall.

But I have to confess that since I began working away from home three years ago, I’ve gotten worse in the grocery budget department.  Most notably, we eat out more now that I work outside the home. I’ve also been tending toward grocery splurges that are healthier options– things like salmon and blueberries and strawberries and easy salad mixes.  The overall budget difference hasn’t felt like much, because since I started working we also had four grown kids move out.  If anything, our grocery bill has gone down a dab…but not by much thanks to spendier food choices and more eating out.

In more kitchen news, I had fun organizing my pantry last week.  It is embarrassingly huge– in Idaho and Utah this type of pantry is often dubbed a ‘Mormon pantry’ since it is big enough for long term food storage for a very large family.  Yet somehow even with all that space, it still managed to become a total clutter bomb.  Here’s what it looked like before.

After a whole afternoon of rearranging and wiping down and decluttering all the various items, I got it looking a lot better.  This is definitely one of my favorite projects because it is free and very gratifying.

It also led to the unearthing of all sorts of odds and ends of food items, some which definitely and quickly got tossed, but others of which found their way into meals over the next couple days. Now I love walking in there because it just looks so much better.  Here’s what it looked like when the great decluttering was complete.

I would still like to do the following label with all the jars where I am storing dry goods. Doesn’t it look like fun?? But for now I am enjoying the fresh and tidy look! What’s new with you?  Thanks for continuing to stop in now and then even tho I have been so irregular in my blogging lately.

And– PS– if you’re planning a family trip to the Oregon coast sometime this year, swing by our beach house website and see what’s open.

What I’ve Read Lately

I’ve been trying to read more fiction lately, as I got out of the habit for awhile. Here are some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.  As I wrote about these books for you, I had to laugh at myself, because most of these ‘fictional’ stories are actually true stories, based on true stories, an exploration of other cultures, or exploring a facet of humans and their relationships that I would like to learn more about. No escapist fiction here, sorry!

Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women— During World War I, radium was  discovered to glow in the dark, and was painted on the dials inside military airplanes.  Since not much was known at the time about the dangers of radium, the girls doing the painting suffered terribly. Though this was a fictionalized account, the women and their challenges were real. This is the story of their fight to hold their employers accountable.

Indigo Girl— A fascinating story of a young girl in the 1700’s who was left in charge of her father’s plantation.  This was based on a true story and the fictionalized story was interspersed with letters that the girl had actually written.  The protagonist is strong and capable and very atypical of (my imaginings of) a woman in that era.  Woven into the story of the plantation was the story of her longing to find a marriage match of her own choosing, and how all of it was a fight against conventional expectations of that day.

The Forgotten Seamstress— This is a story set in two different times.  A modern day woman gets curious about a quilt that has been in her family for generations, and discovers that the quilt maker was doing more than just quilting when she created this heirloom.  She was trying to tell people about her life, while locked up in an insane asylum. Definitely adult themes in this one, but it is a fascinating read.

The Namesake— This one is a multi-generational story of a family who came to America from India.  I am fascinated with the immigrant experience, and found this description of life lived with your heart in two worlds to be both mournful and intriguing.

The Girl with Seven Names– this is the true story of a girl who escaped from North Korea.  I found it to be an interesting view into the country, and into the struggles of the North Korean people, and I cheered with the woman when she finally made it to a place of safety.

Turtles All the Way Down— This one was an interesting view into the mind of a person struggling with extreme anxiety and obsessive thoughts. It did a great job portraying the endless thoughts that hound folks with extreme anxiety, and gave me a new sense of compassion and understanding. Definitely a young adult book– I would have appreciated a little more depth.  But still interesting.

180 Seconds— This story is based on a fascinating experiment where complete strangers are set face to face to look into each other’s eyes for 180 seconds.  The main character in the book is a college age girl who has spent the majority of her life in foster care, and is struggling with issues surrounding attachment and trust.  This is definitely a romance and gets downright steamy at times.  But I found the protagonists believable and the big question in the book very intriguing– what does it take to break down walls in a person who has been very wounded?

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  What have you been reading lately?

Family and Christmas

Christmas is coming!  With the help of our youngest daughters and some of our grandkids, I finished all the wrapping a couple days ago– always an accomplishment with this big crew.  The little ones were sworn to secrecy– we’ll see how well that works!

Way back in September I had the fond idea that I was going to do a lot of the wrapping in cloth gift bags, but that didn’t remotely materialize, tho a few gifts do have cloth bags.  Ah well.  Paper bought on last-January-clearance prices worked nicely too.

We already had a nice early Christmas dinner with John’s family which was lots of fun. We made pulled pork and cheesy potatoes for dinner, along with lots of lovely sides and salads brought by our guests. So that left me time to fuss over the table which was fun.

Above is a photo of the table– all 20 feet of it– before everyone arrived, and another of it full of family.  I think there were 27 of us there.  What a blessing!


I also tried a new fudge recipe that we ended up liking pretty well.  It was much easier than other fudge I’ve made– and sometimes had failures with.  Here’s the website with the recipe.  All I did to get the dark chocolate version was substitute dark chocolate chips instead of white.  I also did a tiny dusting of sea salt for that sweet- salty flavor.

Here’s the family photo we got this fall.  Last year two of our clan were working and couldn’t make it.  This year we were only missing one.  Maybe next year we’ll get everyone!  In any case, here are some of the most precious faces in the world to me– love seeing so many of us together.

John and the girls and I have been watching a Christmas movie or two a week during this month.  Our perennial favorites are ones probably very familiar to you as well: White Christmas, Eloise at Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Nativity, Muppet Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street and The Santa Claus  (1 and 3 are our favorites.)  Though I know lots of people love it, Elf gets mixed reviews at our house — 15 year old Emily can’t get over a grown man acting like a little boy.  Home Alone is not a hit either– 13 year old Julianna still finds it horrifying that the poor little kid got left.  🙂

We’ve also watched a few newer movies on Netflix that I thought might be fun to mention.

Last night we watched Back to Christmas, which gets 1 star for the acting, but there was a bit of funny dialog that brought it up to MAYBE 2 stars for me.  Not a total loss.

Last week we watched A Christmas Prince, which we gave a good solid 3 stars.  This one kinda reminded me of the Princess Diaries, but it was cute and the ending was not as predictable as we expected.  We enjoyed this one.

Last year a new favorite was The Spirit of Christmas. We enjoyed this one a lot and rated this one 4 stars.  It would be a little scary for younger kids, as it is also kind of a murder mystery, but we liked this one enough to watch it twice.

Have you watched anything on Netflix that you’ve enjoyed recently?

Here’s hoping that your Christmas is warm and enjoyable and family-filled!

Pine cones on Pinterest

I found a couple of fun Pinterest ideas for fall/Thanksgiving. First off, this bleached pine cone idea caught my eye. I thought they’d be a great way to add a little seasonal decor to the beach house, ocean-style. Basically you plunk a bunch of pine cones into a half and half mix of water and bleach. The pine cones will close up and some will look like they’re not even changing color at all.

After 24 hours in the bleach solution, you take them out, rinse them off, and let them dry in the sun. They will take awhile to open up and look normal again, but once they’re dry, lo and behold, you’ve got these pale weathered-looking pine cones.


Here’s a photo of my pine cones after they were bleached.  Aren’t they pretty?  The little ceramic pumpkin that they are sitting with came from the Family Dollar and cost just a dollar.



Another idea I’m thinking about trying — again with the pine cones– is a fall/winter wreath.  You paint the pine cones a variety of different shades in the same color family, then attach them to a wreath.  I have a few grape vine wreaths that need a new look, so I will be experimenting.







And finally, doesn’t this dessert look absolutely yummy?  They’re Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars.  Honestly, how could you go wrong?  These are definitely on my list to try, maybe even today.  We are having our big kids over for dinner this evening, and I am thinking they would happily be my recipe testers.

I hope your fall is going well and that you are enjoying the season thoroughly!



Fall fun

Hi everyone!  Can you believe we’re more than half way through September?

We are back into homeschool full swing, which was a mite painful to the girls this year because we never completely quit school over the summer.  For good reason– last school year we took a week off almost every month, to go to the beach house as it was being built.  So we really needed to keep going with school over the summer to get things accomplished.

After the very first full day of fall school, Julianna declared that we needed donuts as a reward.  I told her we needed to survive at least a week of school before we deserved donuts.  And so that Friday morning on the way home from work,  I stopped at WinCo and grabbed a dozen, much to their delight.  We might survive.

Last week I got a dab of canning done– just some peaches and tomatoes.  I will probably do more tomatoes in the next week too, as our tomatoes are producing really well.

In years past, I canned SO much that I got really burned out.  But doing half a dozen jars at a time is pretty painless.  And I like the idea that when Emily and Julianna help me, they are learning the same skills that our other kids did in our mega-garden days.
Another project I had fun doing was painting and stenciling a little old dresser that we have had ever since Amanda, our oldest, was a baby. Here’s a photo of it a few years back in a different color.

Now with so many kids moved out, the dresser didn’t have a purpose at our house. But we were in need of one more dresser at the beach house,  So once again I pulled out my favorite color of teal paint, which I’ve used as a signature touch of color at the beach house on several other pieces of furniture.

This time, I also incorporated a bit of stenciling, along with some new black pulls on the drawers. Here’s the stencil I chose for the drawers.

The dresser is a very simple one, and I like the way the little black embellishments jazz it up and play off the new pulls.  I hadn’t really stenciled before, but once I figured out that it only takes a TINY bit of pain on the dabber, it all went well.

A final fun touch was a roll of black and white contact paper added to the outsides of the drawers:  just cut, peel, and stick.  Easy and adorable!

(Oh, and the owl stencil down near the floor!  I almost forgot about that.)



I ended up really pleased with the makeover, and I love the idea of more life for this sweet little dresser that spent years in so many of my kids’ bedrooms.

This week we are at the beach, and my daughter Erika and I have been talking about her possibly doing a bit of blogging her.   She is just embarking on the homeschooling adventure with her three little ones ages 2-5, and is interested in an ‘unschooling’ approach.  I am hoping she might find time to write here every now and then, to share more about this twist on homeschooling.  More on this later as we get the details figured out.

I am hoping to write here a bit more myself, as I have missed writing, and would like to do it a little more regularly.  I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing lately also.  Fall projects?  Crafts?  Activities?




Just squeaking in with a July update

playing frisbee at the beach

Grandkids helping me peel carrots

Wow, I didn’t realize it had been so very long since I’ve been here. We’ve been busy with all things summer-related including time at the beach, setting up a little pool here in Idaho, attending graduations, weddings and other family gatherings, going to camp, having the grandkids over, gardening, and painting the living room.

Garden ingredients prepped to go on a light summer pizza

Here are a few pictures of some of the happenings.




We decided to paint our Idaho living room Sea Salt since we liked it so much at the beach house. Love it here too!


Napping with auntie


Trying out the new pool




At a family wedding with some of our kids



And hey, I even have a couple of recommendations for you!  One of the things that I’m trying to do more this year is read fiction.  It’s not something I’ve done much in recent years and I decided I have been missing it.  Here are a few of the books I’ve read lately.

~ The Winter Sea  I’m only halfway through, but really enjoying it so far.  It is a story within a story, and is set in Scotland in two different time periods.

~I Am David  I read this in three days flat as I found the story very interesting, about a boy who escaped the concentration camps during World War II.

~A Quiet Life in the Country  This one is a detective story and has clever insights into characters and a delightfully surprising humor.  I borrowed it for free on my Kindle.

Then finally I have a bit of cleaning advice to share, compliments of the ladies in charge of cleaning our beach house between guests.  They lined our oven with this Non Stick Oven Liner   I never even knew these things existed, but I wish I’d known about them MUCH sooner!  Just set one on the floor of an electric oven or on the bottom rack of a gas oven, and it will catch all the spills and be incredibly easy to wipe clean as needed. Have you heard of them?  Do you use them?

Enjoy your last month of summer!!


Perfect for us

Recently I was wandering World Market all on my own, enjoying the peace, when I became aware of a young family also shopping.  Three preschool boys energetically spun around the axis of their slowly walking parents.  My first thought was of how much easier my shopping venture was than this mother’s.  And then I heard the voice of one of her little sons.

Enthusiastically stroking the length of a dining table, he said to his mother, “This table would be perfect for us!”

My heart clutched up, just from that one simple word: us.  Back in the hazy-crazy days of young motherhood, that’s how it was with our family too.  A solid cohesive ‘us’ was the center of our children’s lives.  Their happy place.  The place where they felt most secure.

Things change when kids grow.  Our married kids have their own ‘us’ now, created anew with the people they love and chose, and with their own children.  Our not-married young adults have a different version of ‘us’ these days too, more commonly encompassing friends and coworkers and roommates.

The day our oldest daughter headed off as a newlywed

Since our youngest two are still at home, they still use the word ‘us’ in that sweet way, asking what we’ll eat for dinner or when we’ll next go to the beach.  But even with them, things are beginning to change.  Their lives are more outward focused.

Nostalgia has me longing some days for those years when all of my chicks were in easy range, where they wanted nothing more than to be orbiting around me.  When ‘us’ meant they were all tucked into bed at night under the same roof. It was a precious time, in all its crazy chaotic busyness.

It is good and normal and right for our children to move outward and onward. To broaden their support system and welcome others into their closest circle.

Yet still connection also exists with us, and for that I am grateful.  Sometime it’s a skype chat with a son far away.  A late night call from a young adult needing a bit of advice. A Mother’s Day cake made with love.  A sweet note tucked into my lunch box. Texts back and forth about things monumental or mundane.  A visit from the grandkids with their mommas in tow.  A coffee date. Dinner together. A quick drop-by visit that ends up lasting an hour.

Though the moments are more scattered now, they are perhaps even more precious.  Each one represents the choice of a busy young person.  They have so many things to do, so many ways to spend their time.  And yet at these moments they are still choosing and affirming the ‘us’ begun so long ago.

The ‘us’ of years ago was perfect when our kids were small. But you know what? The ‘us’ right now (aside from my occasional momma-heart-twinges) is good and right and timely– maybe even perfect for us — now, in this new stage. We are counting our blessings.


Latest Stitch Fix

I haven’t done Stitch Fix lately, but when I saw I had some credit AND they waived the styling fee for one fix, I decided it was time to see what they had for summer. Wow, am I glad! They sent me such fun things!

Since summer is coming, and I’m not feeling especially svelte right now, I requested cool loose summer styles and they did a great job finding things that I like and that feel like thin I would really wear.

Item # 1 is the Janet Bermuda Short by Liverpool.  It is a stretchy pair of denim shorts (shown in all three photos) that I could picture myself wearing tons this summer.The denim has Lycra, and the shorts have a soft wide waistband. Super, super comfy. And of course denim is as versatile and practical as you can get. I am strongly leaning toward keeping these. Actually, I’m wearing them right this second.

Item #2 is the Fun2Fun Clybourn Scoop Neck Top, on the left in the photo collage below.  Loose and comfy, I really liked this top.  The armholes are a little deep.  But Stitch Fix now has a deal where you can exchange clothing for different sizes (when available) and I am considering requesting a smaller size to see if it addresses the armhole problem.  I also wouldn’t mind if it were just a bit less big in the tummy area.




Item #3 is the LeLis Yeaton Cowl Neck Knit Top. It is one of my favorite colors and is I think reasonably flattering. It is also made is a very soft silky knit. The cowl makes the neckline just a little fiddly, and there is also a fairly large vee in the back that I am not super sure about. But I think this top would be nice for summer, and for fall and winter layered under a jacket or cardigan.  It is definitely classy looking enough that you could really dress it up if you wanted to.

Item #4 is the Jella C Lace Bib Top.  It is possibly my favorite top in the batch, as is is feminine and (again) a favorite color for me, and feels more dressed up than a tee while still being very comfy. It does again have some armhole issues, and is NOT available in any other size. But I think I could do 10 minutes of tweaking/tailoring on the sewing machine and make it absolutely perfect.

The fifth item was the Shiraleah Porter Tote, a soft leather bag in taupe. I don’t truly feel like I need another bag, so I am leaning toward returning it. But as usual, there’s a 25% discount if you buy all five items. So if I do decide to keep the other four things it makes zero money sense to return the bag.

What do you think I should keep?  If I kept only two things it would probably be #4 and #1 …but I honestly like #2 and #3 quite well also.

Stitch Fix is a personal shopping service that picks clothing for you based on a questionnaire that you fill out.  You can also share your Pinterest clothing board to give your stylist more ideas of what you like. You can order a fix as often or as infrequently as you like.  Each fix consists of five items for which you pay a styling fee of $20. That $20 styling fee applies toward any item you keep.  Keep what you want, and send whatever you don’t want back in the prepaid envelope that comes right along with your fix. Easy peasy. Click on my referral link to order a ‘fix’ of your own. For extra fun, when you sign up and refer someone else, you’ll get a credit that applies toward your NEXT fix.  What fun!


A Week of Easy Food for Entertaining

As you have probably noticed, I am obsessed with all things beach house lately.  Sorry–  I’m probably boring some of you!! But in preparing for our next beach trip where we will be entertaining our biggest crowd yet. I thought it might be interesting (and of more general interest) to share a typical menu plan for times when I’m feeding a bunch of people with various eating styles for several days in a row.

I’ve found that the best meals are the flexible ones– ones that people can fine tune for themselves as they serve up. And often these types of menus tend to be the easiest for me to pull together as well. So here, for anyone entertaining this summer, or the next holiday, or maybe on a camping trip, is a week of easy meals for easy entertaining.



We make most breakfasts DIY.  I make sure we have fixings for cereal, eggs and toast, yogurt, and instant oatmeal, and leave the type and timing of breakfast up to everyone else.  Usually every few days I will supply something sweet, like muffins or cinnamon rolls, to supplement the DIY morning offerings, and usually at least once on a trip John or I will serve pancakes and bacon.  But mostly breakfast is on your own.


Lunches are a mix.  Sometimes I will do soup, salad and bread.  Other times I will set sandwich fixings alongside whatever leftovers are around from other days of meals.  This will again give folks flexibility to choose what sounds good to them, and also is economical by offering extras from other days for folks to finish up.


Dinners are where I tend to spend the most time, though many meals still have a DIY element so that people can customize their dinner for what they most enjoy.  Here’s a typical week of dinners for a crowd.

#1– Taco bar.  Cook up some hamburger with an onion, a generous mash of garlic and some taco seasoning.  (I usually do this before the trip to decrease vacation kitchen time.  Then I freeze it to add a cold item for the cooler on the drive over.)  When serving, add tortillas and taco chips and all sorts of other fillings  (homemade guacamole if I have avocados on hand) and let folks make their tacos as they like them.

#2- Clam chowder and fresh biscuits.  I like to have at least one meal at the beach feel like proper beach fare, and clam chowder is a great affordable thing to make for a crowd.  I don’t have my exact recipe written out  (and sometimes I even buy canned) but you can use this recipe and substitute canned or fresh clams instead of chicken. You can even do it in the crock pot ahead of time if you know you’ll be busy all afternoon.   And then biscuits–who doesn’t love biscuits?

#3– Chili and cornbread.  I plan this strategically AFTER taco night, so I can toss the leftover taco meat into the chili pot along with a bunch of cans of beans and tomatoes.  Here’s one recipe that I like, but I sometimes make it with fewer ingredients and it still turns out fine.  This is wonderful with cornbread (or perhaps leftover biscuits) served with honey or jam.  Yum.

#4- Baked potato bar.  This meal comes strategically after chili night, because lots of folks like chili with their baked potatoes.  Add in ham and cheese, butter, sour cream, and a nice salad, and you havve a whole meal for just a few minutes of prep.  And again, it’s a meal people can customize as they see fit.  Sure to be a crowd pleaser.

#5– Pizza night. I make homemade crust right after lunch and let it rise all afternoon.  At dinner time people gather in the kitchen with an assortment of pie pans or throw-away tins.  They spread crust onto pans and top pizzas as they wish.  Our favorites are pepperoni, sausage, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, and cream cheese (this last one spread in little dabs across the top.).  Again, because folks are choosing toppings for themselves, they get what they want, and most people really enjoy doing pizzas for themselves, especially once they see how easy it can be!


#6- Chicken enchiladas.  Here’s my favorite recipe.  I usually make a couple casseroles before a trip and pack it over frozen in the cooler.  I’ve listed this one out of order, but it is likely to be served one of the very first nights, since it will be half thawed by the time we arrive.  I usually serve these with salad, sour cream, chips and salsa on the side.

#7- Molly’s 10 Minute ChickenThis is a great easy chicken recipe that tends to please a crowd.  You can make it with just legs, or a mix of legs and thighs to suit different appetites.  I will serve it with bread and salad, or maybe even homemade mac and cheese if I’m feeling ambitious.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite meals to serve when you’re entertaining?  I would love to hear your best ideas!



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Save Money Furnishing Your Home

Over years of furnishing and decorating our family homes, I’ve always done it slowly and organically. Freshly married, we found living room furniture and a vacuum cleaner and my sewing machine at our local St. Vincent’s. Our kitchen table– adorably yellow Formica like the photo to the right– came from my grandmother.  Our bed came from my childhood bedroom.  Bookshelves came from John’s house.  And here and there were other small things we bought or were given.  Suffice it to say, furnishing our first home didn’t cost much.

Each time we moved to progressively larger spaces, always it worked like this.  Something old, something new, and almost always things that were hand made or thrifted.

As we were planning to furnish an entire new house, my mind was really challenged.  I knew that so many things needed to be shiny-new:  sheets, towels, mattresses, sofas.  But we were, after all, still on a budget. Rather than completely abandoning my usual way of furnishing a home, I decided to try mixing old and new and hand made together.  I was also going to need to find bargains, lots of them.

So in the fall as the walls of the beach house went up, UPS packages began arriving at our Idaho home, to be squirreled away until we needed to decorate this crazy dream of ours.  And in the end we were able to furnish a very large home for a fairly reasonable cost.  How’d we do it?  Here are my best tips.

  1.  Make it yourself. Begin by thinking about the things that you might be able to make yourself.  My husband has mad woodworking skills, and was able to make a beautiful dining table, nesting end tables, a bathroom counter, and even a bar.  Not having to buy these items saved us a bundle and also gave the home some great one-of-a-kind features.  If you can sew, you might be able to make curtains, table cloths, place mats, or throw pillows for the home.
  2. Hunt at thrift stores, yard sales and Craigslist. Things we found include wall art, furniture, baskets and other small decor items.  We did well in the kitchenware department too, finding a salad spinner, serving bowls, utensils, and other items in good condition.  Most recently we found a great dresser for the master bedroom at a thrift store right in the same town as our beach home, a big plus since it also saved us the hassle of having to get the item from our Idaho home to our Oregon place.  After a good polish and a set of ‘new’ knobs that I found at a local ReStore, the dresser looked great.  A solid wood dresser like that would probably have cost at least $300 brand new, and we paid $100.
  3. Give an old item a facelift! I was able to paint several dressers and end tables that ended up going over to the beach house, which gave a dated-looking item a completely fresh look.  You might be able to re-cover an older piece of furniture that needs updating.  One super-easy DIY reupholstery projects is replacing the fabric seats on chairs.  Here’s a great youtube that walks you through the whole process, and it doesn’t take a stitch of sewing.
  4. Don’t forget clearance shopping.  Target often has reduced items on sale on the end caps of various departments.  Fred Meyers is another store that regularly marks down merchandise.  I found quite a few sets of nice quality sheets at Fred Meyers.  Ross was a place I went over and over, for wall art and for curtain rods.  IKEA has a whole ‘as is’ department in each of their stores, typically near the check stands.  There it is possible to buy already assembled versions of some of their items. Some things may be slightly damaged, but it’s worth looking.
  5. Be willing to consider a less conventional solution.  When it came to buying mattresses, I was prepared to give up a huge chunk of change.  After all, comfortable mattresses are hugely important to most people.  However, a friend told me of a great experience she and her whole family had with mattresses in a box.  There are lots of retailers these days, including Tuft and Needle, Purple, Leesa, and Loom and Leaf.  But the ones she and her family got are on amazon, and that’s the one we ended up buying, for 5 out of the 10 beds in our new rental.  It is called Classic Brands, and the best thing about it is that a king mattress is (at this moment) only $284.  HUGE budget savings there, and after sleeping on one of the mattresses for a couple weeks now, John and I can’t say enough good things about it.  It is very comfortable.  It has no box spring, just a frame, and that can also be bought on amazon, and delivered to your front door in a box.  Doesn’t get easier than that.  Or (we think) more comfortable.  Read the reviews yourself before buying to get an idea of whether it might be a good solution for you.  We did also buy conventional mattresses for five of the beds in the home  (hedging our bets), and those we got as high quality closeout models at a local furniture store.  Hopefully there will be a bed to please everyone at the house!
  6. Say the Magic Words: As Is.  Some online stores sell returns and one of a kind items in ‘as is’ condition.  To locate those special deals, type ‘as is’ in the search bar of the website. has hundreds of items for sale on any given day. Some items have true flaws, and not all will be listed.  I bought an 8×10 rug for $80 that had a two inch cut in an edge.  I was able to position the damaged area under a couch where it won’t catch your eye or be prone to great damage.  No big deal. I bought many beautiful sets of curtains on overstock for $15 a pair where the only listed problem was ‘dog hair’  I can live with that.  Here’s a picture of a dining light I just bought for our home here in Idaho. As you can see, the original price was $184, marked down to $90.  Add in a 10% off coupon and I was able to purchase the light fixture for $81 with free shipping.  I’m not 100% sure what I will find wrong with the light.  But reading the reviews, several people mentioned an imperfect paint finish that they were able to fix with just a dab of black spray paint.  Sounds like a very doable fix to me.  Another store that offers as items is  They call their items ‘open box’ or ‘closeout’. You never know what you’ll find.
  7. Use a coupon code finder.  Any time I am going to spend more than just a few bucks online, I will take a few minutes to hunt down coupons. is a great place to check for coupon codes.  Honey is a similar helper.  It is a browser extension that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at  checkout with a single click.  Very often I can buy ‘as is’ items on, and use a coupon code to lower the price another 10-15%.  And believe me, when you’re buying two sets of new bedding for 10 different beds like I did recently, small discounts can add up to big savings.

Do you have any cost cutting ideas for furnishing a home affordably?  I’d love to hear your hints in the comments section.  As always, if you found this post helpful, I’d LOVE a pin on Pinterest. And if you’d like to see the result of all my careful shopping, here are the finished pictures of our home.