Monday, November 7, 2011

The $8 Organizational Tool

Just recently I saw an incredible idea on Pinterest to use a pocket shoe organizer for school & art supplies.  I just about broke the speed limit zooming away to Wal-Mart as fast as I could to utilize this great idea for my homeschool room/playroom.  I had been gathering pails and buckets for all of my organizational needs in our homeschool room but I was slowly running out of shelf space.  All of those markers, glue sticks and pipe cleaners can sure take up a lot of space!  I didn't know how much a pocket shore organizer cost but it looked like a great idea for my homeschool room.

I found them on the laundry and closet organization aisle at Wal-Mart for $7.47.  Awesome!

I then raced back home to install my new organization tool.  That is, after a quick stop at Sonic for a diet coke of course.  I hung the pocket organizer (the hooks are included) on the inside of the playroom closet door and now instead of being overcome with buckets and baskets and pails oh my, all of our supplies are located in one place.  I even have room for more!

Once I implemented this idea in the playroom I knew that there would be other great uses for these pocket shoe organizers.  One place I have found them to be of use is in my husband's closet.

Although we each have our own closet, neither one is very spacious and as a result I have to be extremely efficient in my attempts to organize our closets.  Georgia Boy wears a tie every day to work so he needed to be able to get to his ties easily.  I used a pocket shoe organizer on his closet door to organize both his ties and belts.  Now, instead of hanging randomly all over his closet they are conveniently located in the pocket shoe organizer.

I have used these shoe organizers in places where I don't mind seeing the hooks on the other side of the door.  However, if you don't like seeing the loops hanging over the door you could always use nails in the door provided that the door is strong enough and the nail is the appropriate size needed for the amount of weight that the organizer will be holding.

Other organizational uses for these shoe organizers would be for cleaning products inside a closet or laundry room door or in the bathroom under the sink.  To put it under a kitchen or bathroom sink you  simply cut it to fit and either hang it on the door using the hooks provided or tack a few nails to hold it inside the cabinet.

I'm sure I'll find some other uses for these pocket shoe organizers soon and when I do, I'll update it with any more ideas I have.  In the meantime, please share any uses for these organizers that you've found in your own home!

Happy Organizing Cheap Mamas!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

This is what I see when I look into my living room.  

And I think I want to change it.  

Let me explain.

When we built this house 5 years ago I had been saving pictures from magazines for months and months as inspiration for each room in the house.  You know, old school Pinterest.  At that time it was all about color, color, color and I was determined not to shy away from color by painting every room in the house off-white.  I painstakingly chose coordinating color palettes for each room making sure that each room would flow into the next.

Downstairs I favored warm colors with a definite french influence.  However, after 5 years of choosing items to fill my home according to this color palette I now feel like it's too heavy.  I feel the need to lighten and brighten.  But how to do it on a budget?

Some things will have to remain like furniture and window treatments which leaves me with one choice.  Paint.  As my old guru Christopher Lowell will tell you, the cheapest way to make the most dramatic difference is through paint.  So why am I hesitating?  Because it's a big job.  A really big job.  And it's one that I will undertake all by my little lonesome.  You see, when Georgia Boy and I got married he knew how much I liked to paint rooms and he promised to be their for moral support only.

I know that if I end up hating my lighten and brighten project I can always re-paint it but thinking about painting these rooms twice makes me want to lie down on the floor until the feeling passes.

See, the problem is that not only will I have to paint the living room but I'll also need to paint the kitchen.

I thought about staging this picture but then I just decided to keep it real.

I'm also planning on painting my kitchen island and the armoire in the living room.  Trying to figure out which paint colors to use and how to make it all work together without changing any furniture or fabrics is enough to make a girl go straight to bed with a diet coke and dark chocolate.

I've got my collection of paint chips ready to go and I'm almost ready to pull the trigger.  Almost.

First let me go sit down with a diet coke and think it over again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

How To Treat Lice Cheaply & Chemical-Free

In honor of Halloween I decided to post about the scariest thing I could think of, head lice.  I think the only thing scarier than head lice are bed bugs since, as I hear it, there is no getting rid of those little boogers.  Fortunately, there are ways to treat head lice all of which can be done cheaply and without using chemicals if that is important to you.  Happy Halloween!

Suffice it to say that it has taken me a few weeks to get over the utter shame and humiliation of being a victim of a lice infestation to be able to actually write about my experiences.

It all began on a Monday morning in September when I received a text from Georgia Boy that said, "[Bonus Son] has been sent home from school for lice.  Check Superman."  At that exact moment I was at a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) meeting in the home of a friend where Superman and Sidekick were happily playing {in close proximity} with about 5 other unsuspecting children.  I let the full shame of the moment sink in before I grudgingly turned to my friends and told them about the text urging them to check their children when they got home.

When we got home I checked Superman and discovered that he had head lice too.

We were on full Head Lice Def Con 5 at our house.

I sent Georgia Boy to the store to pick up everything necessary for treating head lice and immediately called the pediatrician's office for information and help.  After talking to the pediatrician's office, reading information online, and the wisdom born of experience here is what I learned on how to treat head lice.

Hair - You will need 1) A head lice killer and 2) A nit comb.
RID and other chemical treatments are the most commonly used items to kill head lice.  However, you don't need to use these pesticides on your kids to effectively kill the head lice.  Head lice simply need to be smothered in order to be killed and then you can pick out the dead lie and any nits with a nit comb.  To smother head lice you can use Cetaphil face wash or olive oil.  I discovered from my peditrician's office that these remedies are as effective as any prescription remedy when used correctly.  

To use these remedies completely slather the child's head in Cetaphil face wash, let dry and wear for 8 hours and then wash out.  Do this one time a week for 3 weeks and the treatment is 96% effective.  I did this in the evening and allowed them to sleep all night with it in their hair.  Once the Cetaphil dries it isn't greasy so it didn't stain their pillowcases or bed sheets.  Another option is to use olive oil in the same manner and either wear it all day or sleep in a shower cap.  My kids were too young for this one so I used the Cetaphil on both of them and did the olive oil on me.  That's right, I rocked a greasy, shower-capped head.  Nothing like insult to injury.

Each day pick through your child's hair with a nit comb thoroughly and in good lighting.  The Cetaphil or olive oil will smother them but they key is continuing to be vigilant about checking for any new ones and removing the dead ones.  You will need to do this for a couple of weeks.  A regular nit comb will work well but when I sent Georgia Boy to the store I had forgotten what a complete bug-o-phobe he is and how he doesn't always stick to my *frugal* ways.  He came home with a $30 electronic nit comb called a ROBI comb.  It makes a humming sound when turned on and will beep when it detects any lie or nits.  It worked great but the directions say to use one per person and at $30 a pop is a bit steep for my taste.  If you're a huge bug-o-phobe like Georgia Boy it may be worth it to you to fork over the cash for a ROBI comb.  If not, a regular nit comb will do the trick.

Linens - Know that you will be doing a lot of laundry during these 2-3 weeks but stick with it and you'll be glad you did.  Begin treating your linens by washing and drying everything that you can.  This includes bed sheets (down to the mattress pads), pillowcases, slipcovers, blankets, stuffed animals, etc.  Anything that can't be washed and that you think may have come in contact with any head lice can be put into plastic bags and placed in a hot attic or garage for 3-4 weeks.  This will ensure that there is enough time for any live lie to die.  After the 3-4 weeks you can either wash everything or run them through the dryer to freshen them.  The good news is that head lice cannot live without a host so any that may have fallen on the floor or furniture are actually considered nonviable, dying or dead.  Without a host, the head lice will be dead within 48 hours.  This is good news because it means you don't have to go crazy trying to chemically treat your house or figure out a way to fit your sofa into your washing machine.  

I instituted a "no sitting on furniture" policy for 3 days and had the kids sit only on the floor.  I vacuumed once each day and continued to wash all linens, towels and clothes daily.  A friend of mine gave me a tip on the bed linens.  Instead of washing, making, and stripping the beds each day, I gave Superman a sleeping bag and pillow and had him sleep on his bare mattress.  This way I only had to wash the sleeping bag and pillow case each day.  After washing those items I would add the pillow to the drying cycle on high heat since our pillows weren't able to go in the washing machine.  

The key to treating head lice is consistency.  You don't need to spend a lot of money treating head lice and you don't need to buy any special kits or products.  Use the smother method to kill them initially and then stay vigilant through the entire life cycle of the nits to ensure that they are gone for good never to return!

Treat your children, wash all linens, bag anything made of fabric that you can't wash and comb through your child's hair with a nit comb several times a day.  Do all of this and you'll soon be rid of the little boogers and will wear your badge of honor proudly.  I survived Head Lice.  You will also have a new appreciation of the term "nit picker."

Happy bug killing, Cheap Mamas.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Little Bench and Chalk Paint

For some time I had been wanting a little bench to go in front of my fireplace.  A little seat that beckoned  me to come sit and warm myself by the fire.  I had seen a few in some of my favorite catalogs but of course, being the Cheap Mama that I am, knew that I would never pay full retail price.

So I just kept my eye out when I would go consignment shopping knowing that one day I would find one that fit my budget.

And one day, I did.

Hello, the 1980's called and they would like their fabric back.

I am only kidding.  I'm sure one day my children will look at pictures from their childhood and ask me why I painted everything white and made it look old.

I wanted to make this bench look really worn, not perfect at all.  I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White and then did a coat of clear wax and dark wax which I rubbed into the wood in a circular motion with an old undershirt.  I recovered the seat in some scrap fabric that I had leftover from a previous project.

Every time I do another project with Annie Sloan's products I learn something new.  What I learned this time is that working on a piece with round legs can be tricky.  Because the legs weren't a flat surface I had to go slowly to make sure that the worn look didn't look too uniform and that it didn't get too heavy in places and not heavy enough in other places.  I also learned that to get this look it worked better to apply the dark wax in a side-to-side motion and then rub the wax into the paint in a circular motion instead of in the same direction in which I had applied the wax.  If I did that, then I ended up essentially wiping off the wax and erasing the effect I was going for.  By waxing in one direction and rubbing in a different direction, I got the old patina look that I wanted.

Did anyone else think of Karate Kid with all that talk about wax on, wax off?  No, just me?

Tell me what you think of my little bench project and leave any tips you've learned with Annie Sloan products.

Happy Waxing, Cheap Mamas!  (Not brow or bikini waxing.  That's another post for another time.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quick Bathroom Cleaning Tip

Several weeks ago I wrote about how I clean my house without a cleaning lady.  I basically break down my cleaning list into several daily manageable tasks that take about 20 minutes on average to complete.  I do this because 20 minutes is about all I can spare before one of the kids starts whining, crying, pooping or needs a snack.

I perform the same tasks each day of the week and the days that I dread most are Tuesdays and Thursdays. Why, you ask?  Because Tuesdays are dusting and Thursdays are bathrooms.  I finally figured out that the reason I loathe these days isn't the actual cleaning job itself but it's moving all of the STUFF out of my way so that I can actually clean.

Then I came up with a solution.

Here is my STUFF BASKET.

I simply took a tired plastic toy basket that wasn't being used and put it with all of my cleaning supplies.  I now use it as basket to hold all of the STUFF on the bathroom sink while I clean.  I love it because I can chuck everything into it FAST and then quickly unload it when I'm finished cleaning.

Does everything get put back in its proper place immediately?  Usually, no.  I unload it as quickly as I can and save the rearranging for the evening when I'm bathing the kids and washing my face/brushing my teeth.  The perfectionist in me would love for everything to be in its proper place immediately but the realist in me knows I'm on a clock before the baby starts whining so it's git 'r done and git on out.

I also use the STUFF BASKET when I dust and as a "take it upstairs" or "take it downstairs" basket for all of those things that seem to accumulate in the wrong place.  It's not rocket science but it really has helped make these jobs easier to complete in a short amount of time.

Here's to a clean bathroom, Cheap Mamas!  Or, at least until the kids spit out their toothpaste globs.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Scents For Less

One of my favorite things about fall is all of the wonderful scented candles that come with the season.  I love all of the warm and cozy scents like gingerbread, pumpkin, vanilla and others but I don't like paying a lot to enjoy those scents.

In my pre-Cheap Mama days I used to plop down a lot of money for candles and scented oils to make my home smell great but when you're on a budget those expensive candles just aren't on the priority list.

This is why I was pleasantly surprised to find that the line of Better Homes & Gardens fall candles at Wal-Mart not only has a line of great scents but the quality is also there as well.  These candles and accessories fill my house with warm fall scents just as good as the expensive ones did.

The candles are priced just under $5 and there are also bricks of scented wax cubes that can be used in a tea-candle diffuser priced at $2 each.

$2 gets you 6 cubes that you break off and use one at a time.  The great part is that they aren't a one-time use.  I have used the missing cube for several uses.  The wax will re-melt with each use and I keep using it until I think that the scent is waning.

Below is a candle and a cube in a diffuser which I purchased eons ago from Bath & Body Works.  I added some small pumpkins and pine cones from my yard for a fall arrangement.

All of these can be found in the seasonal aisles at Wal-Mart so they probably won't be around forever.  So if fall candles are in your budget, get them while the gettin's good as they say!

Here's to enjoying the scents of fall, Cheap Mamas!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Antique Tool Caddy Turned Desk Accessory

This week Donna of Funky Junk Interiors presented her readers with a challenge.  The challenge was to choose an object in our home and to think outside the box.  To find a different way to use that item instead of the original purpose for which it was intended.

When she issued this challenge I had just finished claiming our back-door-desk-junk-holder into my own official desk and was having fun adding items to make the space mine all mine.

I also had an antique tool caddy that I had snatched up at the Habitat store which I had intended to use for floral arrangements.

Isn't it so cute?  When I bought it I had imagined all sorts of floral arrangements for each season.  However, every time I tried to find a place for it in my kitchen or living room I could never find the right spot.  It was either too small or too big for every space I tried.  Thus, it was left sad and lonely in the laundry room while I tried to find another use for it.

Enter the Funky Junk challenge.

As I carried the tool caddy around my house I had an epiphany.  (Or I may have had the epiphany while I was lying in bed at night thinking about my house projects instead of sleeping, which I tend to often do.)  What if I used it for my desk to store pens, sticky note pads, and other Cheap Mama desk items?

And a desk organizer was born!  I love it here.  (I'm actually sitting at the desk right now typing this post).  It brings my style in a small way to my desk and actually serves a useful purpose instead of merely a decorative one.

If you, like me, are interested in turning trash to treasure, blogging, home decorating and spending time with a great lady please visit Donna at Funky Junk Interiors.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seven Years of Good Luck

This past weekend Georgia Boy and I celebrated 7 years of marriage.  The success of our marriage has actually had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with the grace and guidance of God.  When Georgia Boy and I married we created a blended family with the two of us and my Bonus Son Cole who was 4 years old at the time.  As anyone who is in a blended family can attest, the road is difficult and full of struggles.  But we knew that God had put us together for a reason and we were determined to create something beautiful with our new family.

Two years into our marriage we were blessed with the birth of Superman and four years after that we were again blessed when we added our precious Sidekick to our family.  After seven years of living, loving and creating shared memories we have built a family that is as wonderful and flawed as any family.  I am blown away with what we've been given and look forward with anticipation to the memories that are still to be created.

In a perfect world Georgia Boy and I would have celebrated by dropping the kiddies off with a set of grandparents and heading to New Orleans for a couple of kid-free days to enjoy everything that our city has to offer.  However, since we're approximately a 12 hour drive from any set of grandparents and BOTH babysitters were busy, we went out to eat with the kids and gave each other a high-five at seven years of hard work...and God's grace.

At a 2010 LSU/UGA baseball game in Baton Rouge.  You can't see it but I'm 7 months pregnant with Sidekick.

At the happiest place on Earth.  As you can see, I'm wearing my Cheap Mama uniform.  Oh how I love the zip-up hoodie.

The night of Bonus Son's guitar recital.  Yes, that is a boa poof bow on Sidekick's head.

Here's to 7 more years of God's grace and provision.  And 7 more after that.  And 7 more after that.  Well, you get the picture.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Potty Train Without Pull-Ups

I have nothing against Pull-Ups or anyone who uses them.  I use the brand name here as a general term for all training diapers because it is the one with which we are all most familiar.

When it came time for me to potty train Superman he was 3 years old and not showing the slightest interest in the subject.  I had been waiting for him to show interest - like the books tell you to do - but he was as content as a pig in mud to keep pooping in a diaper.  However, this Cheap Mama was sick and tired of changing those diapers and so I determined that the month he turned 3 years old we would begin potty training.

See, completely adorable with his bubble beard but absolutely no interest in the potty.

I also knew that after changing about a zillion diapers over three years I didn't want to spend the next year changing poopy Pull-Ups.  I decided to go old school and potty train cold turkey.  No diapers.  No Pull-Ups.  Just a boy and a toilet.  I wanted to do it to save both money and time in the potty training process.

I began by scouring the internet to see what tips I could find on the subject and came across a website that I used with complete success.  It's called the 3 Day Potty Training method and it's the brainchild of a woman named Lora Jensen.  I have absolutely no affiliations with Ms. Jensen other than the fact that I used her method and would highly recommend it to anyone beginning to potty train.  It is very positive for the children, encouraging for the mothers and offers online help.  I realize that there are probably other methods out there that work well also.  The bottom line (get it - bottom line?) is you don't have to spend a year using Pull-Ups while trying to potty train your child.

Now as a disclaimer, we did have the normal setbacks associated with potty training such as little accidents here and there and an occasional poopy pair of underwear, but I can tell you that we never once had to use a training diaper.  I may have had to replace some of those poopy pairs of underwear but the savings of never having to buy a single pack of Pull-Ups greatly outweighed any extra money I had to spend on underwear.  One word on buying underwear - don't get sucked into buying your kids the expensive character underwear unless you're using them as a prize in the potty training process!

Hopefully this will help you become a potty training Cheap Mama and save on your bottom line too.  Sorry, had to get that pun in there just one more time!

Good luck Cheap Mamas!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hot/Cold Faucet Trick for Kids

When my son got tall enough to reach the faucet in the sink I was thrilled because this meant he was gaining some independence and could wash his own hands without me hoisting him up to the sink.  Woohoo!  It also meant that I was worried about him scalding himself with the hot water.  Because he couldn't read yet, I knew it would have to be a simple way for him to remember which side was hot and which was cold.

I decided to use rubber bands on the faucet handles; red for hot and blue for cold.  After that he never had a problem remembering which one to use!

Hopefully that will be a little trick you can use for your own kiddos!  Thanks for reading, Cheap Mamas!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Great OPI Nail Polish Knock-Off

Warning:  I am not a hand model.  Or a manicurist.  You'll see why below!

As fall rolls around I begin to pull out some of my favorite dark nail polish colors.  One of those favorites is the OPI color You Don't Know Jacques.  It is a wonderful matte greige and I wear it practically throughout both the fall and winter seasons.  I didn't know what 'greige' was until I read a fashion magazine and discovered that this was the new moniker given to this gray/beige color.  I love it because it goes with almost any dark color throughout the season but it doesn't make me look like I'm trying to look like a teenager.

OPI nail polishes have been one of those little happy items that I would occasionally treat myself with as a little reward for all that I do to scrimp and save.  However, even just occasionally purchasing these items was still difficult.  It just seemed a little steep to pay $8-$9 for a bottle of nail polish.

As luck would have it, though, this week I stumbled upon an exact replica of You Don't Know Jacques completely by accident with a price tag of only $2!  I was passing the time in Walgreen's while my son was in his karate class when I found the color Nirvana by Sinful Colors Professional.  I brought it home to compare and here are the results.  I painted one hand with each and you can see for yourself below - you can't tell the difference!

Now, I love my OPI colors as much as the next girl but if you're in need of a great 'greige' for fall and winter I think you'll like Nirvana.

In the bottle...

On the hand...

I told you I'm not a hand model.  Where's George Costanza when you need him?

Happy nail painting, Cheap Mamas!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bulletin Board Bow Organizer

Having a little girl is like having an accessories explosion inside your house.  My first child was a boy and to clothe a boy you need 4 things: shirt, pants, shoes, socks.  Sometimes you don't even need the socks.

When clothing a girl the number of necessary items grows exponentially.  One of those necessary items is, of course, the BOW.  What little girl would be complete without donning a bow approximately the same size as her head?

As Sidekick grew, so did our bow collection and I knew I needed some way to keep them organized.  I had seen bow organizers in our local boutique stores but the Cheap Mama in me just couldn't quite bring myself to fork over the money for one of them.  The one day: LIGHTBULB!  I decided to use a criss-cross ribbon bulletin board that I already had as her bow organizer.

This is all about using what you have so I would never say you need to run out and buy one but if you have one lying around the house, use it!  Ours is hung inside her closet so if the one you have doesn't match the room's decor, it won't matter because no one will see it but you!

Have a blessed week Cheap Mamas!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Decorating With Odd Numbers

In college I loved to come home from class and watch Christopher Lowell's home decorating TV show.  I should have known I needed to change my major when all I wanted to do was watch decorating shows and read home interior magazines instead of wasting away in Organic Chemistry lab.  Oh well, I probably wouldn't have made a very good pediatrician anyway what with my internet addiction and homeschooling ways. While watching Christopher's show I learned many tricks from him.  Namely that you can make just about anything with guns of the both the staple and hot glue variety, a tip that I use to this very day.

His show was almost like a how to decorate show or Home Decorating for Dummies and I loved it.  One of the tricks of the trade that he shared was the power of decorating in odd numbers.  Be it a single picture or a grouping of 3, 5, or 9, using odd numbers often works well when creating vignettes for a mantel, side table or table scape.

To show the power of decorating in odd numbers I have pulled some photos from Pinterest to show how it can work in different settings.

However, don't think that even numbers are left out in home decorating!  In my next post I'm going to show how symmetry and even numbers can be used as well.

Here are some of the absolutely lovely photos I pulled from Pinterest.

Three throw pillows on a sofa.

Three candles on a table.

Three pumpkins for fall.

Five stems in a vase.

I love how the 7 candlesticks are broken up into groups of 4 and 3.

Three topiaries on a Christmas mantel.

Three canisters in the kitchen.

A simple but beautiful vignette of three single items.

Three pieces of artwork in a child's room.

And, of course, the power of one beautiful floral arrangement.

I can't wait to share all of the great ideas I found in decorating with even numbers.  It'll be great for all of you quasi-OCD people like me!

Happy decorating Cheap Mamas!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Williams Sonoma Inspired Pumpkin Wreath for Cheap

I would love to take credit for this idea all on my own.  I would love to tell you that I was scouring the web trying to find great fall inspiration to do on a dime.  I would love for you to think all of that and more.

But it just wouldn't be true.

This idea was sent to me from my friend Magnolia via a Facebook message.  She sent me a picture of this pumpkin wreath that she found on the Williams Sonoma website that she was planning to redo for cheap.

This wreath was listed for $99.95 which means that would have cost me one whole benjamin plus shipping so I decided that I, too, would try my hand at reinterpreting this pumpkin wreath for cheap.

One of my least favorite things is trying to glue moss to anything so I decided to use a grapevine wreath instead of a moss covered one for my wreath.  Using this method meant I only needed 3 items to make this wreath: grapevine wreath, pumpkins and brown ribbon.

The WS wreath is listed at 16 inches.  I used a 24 inch grapevine wreath.

The supplies.

I used 10 pumpkins on a stick to make my wreath.  I spaced them out evenly around the wreath, poked the sticks through the grapevine and wrapped them around the back until they were snug.  There's no perfect way to do this!  Just keeping working with it until the pumpkin feels secure.

I tied a strip of ribbon around the wreath itself and then tied my bow to that string.

Finished product.

Here is my friend Magnolia's finished product on her interpretation of the pumpkin wreath.  Doesn't it look fabulous?!  Magnolia spent just under $30 on her wreath by utilizing sales and coupons.  

I purchased all of my products at Hobby Lobby.  Here is the cost breakdown for this cheap pumpkin wreath.

Grapevine wreath: $5.99
Pumpkins: $2.99 each
Ribbon: Varies.  (Ribbon can be as cheap as you want or as fancy as you want.  I already had some brown ribbon so I honestly don't know how much the few inches I used would have cost.)

Most expensive this wreath could be: $36 plus ribbon
Cheapest price this wreath could be: $18 plus ribbon

That's a savings of $82 at most and $64 at the very least!  I could buy a lot of hoodie sweatshirts for that much money.  A lot.

Happy wreathing Cheap Mamas!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Finding the Courage to Say It Out Loud

Earlier this year the idea of homeschooling my children came barreling toward me straight out of left field.  I had never ever considered educating my children in that way.  As the child of a public school teacher and a product of the public school system from kindergarten to college degree, I had always planned on sending my children to the excellent public schools in my area.

However as we know the best laid plans can be blown to smithereens (yes, it's a word) when God intervenes.  There is no other way to explain the course we are now on than to say that God spoke to me in a big way and for once in my life I followed without questioning. 

Once I made the decision to homeschool I was blessed to find other cool moms in my area who were embarking on the same journey - and there wasn't a denim jumper to be found in the whole group.  We began talking about the how to's of homeschooling: how to choose curriculum, how to organize your day, how to fit in field trips, how to socialize your children so they don't end up nerds. 

 I'm only kidding; that's just a little homeschool humor.

And then we began discussing the inevitable small-talk question every person encounters in suburbia, "So, where do your kids go to school?"  It's an innocent enough question.  It's usually just a conversation starter and I had never given it a second thought.  That is, until we were homeschoolers.  I then discovered that this is the question every homeschool parent dreads in the beginning.  

A friend of mine who would now be considered a veteran homeschooler recounted the story of the time her then 5 year old daughter was at the dentist.  The mom was in the waiting room flipping through a magazine but she could hear the conversation from where she sat.  The dentist asked her daughter what grade she was in.  "Kindergarten!" she exclaimed with the enthusiasm only a kindergartener can muster.  "Where do you go to school?", the dentist asked.  My friend stopped flipping the pages of the magazine and time stood still for one long second.  "I'm homeschooled!" the daughter replied.  And then my friend began searching the waiting room for a hole in which to climb.  

It wasn't the daughter who was hesitant to answer the question, it was the mother.  I have since experienced the same thing with my son.  We have been asked by friends, family and complete strangers in the grocery store about where he will be attending kindergarten this year and Superman answers with the same enthusiasm, "I do homeschool!"  I smile a sheepish grin at the inquirer and give a slight nod to confirm that it is indeed true - we are homeschoolers.  It's not that I'm embarrassed of the fact that we homeschool; indeed the opposite is true.  I am excited that we homeschool!  It's the recipient I am concerned with.  Will they think we're weird?  Will they make a snap judgement of me and my family when they hear we homeschool?  Will they think my choice to homeschool is a condemnation of their decision to send their children to public or private school?  All of these thoughts and a million more are swimming around in my head as I am smiling and nodding.  

I am finding, though, that every time I have to say it out loud I gain a little more confidence.  I stand up a little straighter.  I find my voice a little stronger as I confirm that yes, we homeschool  I have found courage in the form of a brown-haired 5 year old little boy.

And a little child shall lead them.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Antique Distressed Dresser using Chalk Paint

If I know one thing about marriage, it's about compromise.

When we moved into the house we live in now it was the first house that my husband and I owned together.  In fact, we built the house ourselves creating a space that fit our family perfectly.  However with more space came lots  We didn't quite have enough furniture to fill our new home.  Fortunately my gracious in-laws decided to send us a truck of furniture culled from both of my husband's grandmothers' previous homes.

Some pieces were lovely, some pieces were not so lovely and others just needed a little TLC.

Once we got all of the pieces arranged around the house we were left with a dresser that was a bit of an odd man out.  It just didn't work in any of the rooms but Georgia Boy refused to get rid of it because of its sentimental value.

As an anti-hoarder I am usually inclined to immediately part with something if it doesn't work or we don't need it.  I don't like keeping things around "just because."  But Georgia Boy wasn't going to budge on this one.

One evening while contemplating the ugly dresser dilemma it finally dawned on me that I might be able to make the dresser work as a kind of sideboard in our sitting room.  I asked Georgia boy if I could paint it and he agreed!

In most of the living areas of my house I tend to favor warmer colors but my bedroom is very cool and calm.  I decided this would be the perfect place and piece to try to create the pale blue French antique look instead of my traditional warmer/off-white tones.  I also decided this would be the perfect piece on which to try Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

Here is the dresser before.  Great lines, no real problems but it was the traditional 1960's brown with black flecked finish.

I first painted the whole piece in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Old White.

I then lightly glazed it with a mixture of 3 parts clear glaze and 1 part Sherwin Williams Silvermist latex paint and then distressed it with a rough grit sandpaper along the edges.

Next I applied one coat of Annie Sloan clear wax with a stiff brush.  I then applied a coat of Annie Sloan dark wax.  I was tempted to skip the step using the clear wax but I had heard stories of people who went straight to the dark wax and ended up regretting it because it turned their piece way too dark instead of giving it the lightly distressed and antique look that I wanted.

The trick for this piece was to use the clear wax first and then use a very light hand to apply the dark wax.  I barely tapped the end of my bristles into the dark wax and very lightly, with an almost dry brush technique, applied the wax.  I then rubbed the dark wax into the piece with the brush that I had used with the clear wax to soften the appearance of the dark wax.

I left the hardware in its original state.  I really felt like I couldn't improve on the color and the contrast with the painted wood kept it from feeling too girly.  I am really pleased with the result and the good part is that Georgia Boy gave his approval too!

No rest for the weary, though, because I've got more pieces waiting in the wings!

Happy painting Cheap Mamas!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

$1 Painted Wall Sconces

Does anyone else out there have that one item that when you see it on sale (or not!) you just can't seem to pass it up?  For my mother, it's lamps.  For me, it's candlesticks.  I don't know if it's the straight lines or the promised candlelit ambience that they represent but I love candlesticks, candelabras and wall sconces.

You can imagine how excited I was when I found these wall sconces for $1 a piece!  Never mind that they were made of some sort of resin and had that awful brown/black-flecked look, I couldn't pass them up.  Visions of painted sconces were already dancing in my head.

The sad brown and gray wall sconces.

I painted them with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White.  Mostly because this meant that I wouldn't have to prime them and also I was painting a dresser at the same time in the same color so it was just too easy to slap some paint on these sconces while I had all of the supplies available.

After the coat of Old White I lightly hit the edges with some gold leaf paint I had on hand, distressed them with sandpaper and then hit them with a light touch of Annie Sloan dark wax.

Basically it was a complete experiment for me but I figured there was no way I could go wrong on trying different things on my $1 sconces!

I'd say that is quite an improvement, wouldn't you?  And all for $2!  That makes this Cheap Mama a very happy Cheap Mama indeed.
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