Tag Archives: Stretching that Dollar

Show Us Your Life: Dining Rooms

For awhile, I’ve been blog stalking Kelly’s Korner Show Us Your Life series. It’s been so fun to see how other people decorate their homes; even though some of them are MUCH better than mine. The series is a great way to get inspiration for what I would love for my home to look like when I get the courage to make a move.

As you’re about to see, I’m a terrible decorator. It’s not that I don’t have a sense of style, I just don’t know how to make it happen. So instead of trying, I just don’t do anything! This is one of the reasons I haven’t participated in the series, but I thought I’d just go ahead and give it a try this week! After all, my dining room isn’t THAT bad, right? 

Our dining room has already undergone 2 color changes. Originally I had the focus wall painted brown, but instead of the warm chocolaty brown that appeared in my head, it was a more red-rusty brown. Thanks to a kind family member who showed me the way, we went with green tones that match the couches in the adjoining sitting room.  

You may have noticed that the chairs are a little dated with the 70’s wood backing and red twill cushions. All the furniture you seen has been handed down, and I’m convinced that we’ll get a new dining room set soon. So instead of doing what would probably be a simple fix and recovering the chairs, I continue to stare at them and complain that I need new furniture. (They match at Christmas time!)

We are fortunate to have some china. It’s not from our wedding, but from a garage sale. 
Ironically, the china we registered for looked almost identically, so I’m not complaining!
This poor china cabinet has been through the ringer. It’s missing almost all of the handles, and the drawers have to be pried open. But it serves its purpose!! 

I think the curtains are my favorite part of the room. I don’t know why. I just love the green paisley and the way it gives the room a more updated feel. 

I’m slowly hanging objects on our walls. We’ve only lived here for 6 years, so it’s about time! I had these pictures put up for my son’s first birthday party, and decided to leave them. One day when I have an extra few hundred dollars laying around, I’ll get them appropriately framed, but cheap ones will do for now!

This is another one of my favorite dining room pieces. My dad is a handy wood worker, and he made this high chair for the Little Man. It’s the perfect height for our table, and is easily moved when needed. When it’s not being used as a chair, you can flip it horizontal and it becomes a rocking horse. Or flip it another way and it becomes a work bench. It’s pretty cool if I do say so. 

So, that’s our “dining room.” The room often goes untouched. As a matter of fact, I really hadn’t been back in since Mother’s Day; a fact that makes me sad. I often wonder why we have a room that hardly gets used, but I have to remind myself as our family expands, we’ll use it more in the future. 

For now, this is our every day dining room. . .

Dogs placed appropriately under the table searching the floors for food. 

Do you have any advice to help me decorate? 

Link up your room here. . .

A New Garden

Over the last month we started getting estimates to have our backyard patio renovated. The drought last summer created some serious cracks in the concrete patio and it made our backyard just that much uglier. As much as we love to hang out outside (especially now that we have a little one), our backyard just wasn’t a place we really enjoyed. 

What we have is this. . .

And what we wanted was this . . .

I know. A little ambitious? I mentioned that about me right? 

Well, now we know what it’s going to cost, and we’re ready to start saving, but we’re not ready to spend another summer ignoring our backyard like it’s the ugly duckling (that it is). Instead, we did a little cosmetic work on our own, and already I’m enjoying it so much more!! 

The Before
The After

Since we’re spending more time outside, I found this adorable frog shaped bird feeder (in honor of our little friend) at Home Goods. I expected the Little Man to be entertained by the different birds flying in and out. What I didn’t expect was for him to be more entertained by the creature that decided to join us. 


He’s too cute to shoo away! 

I’ll Do It Myself, Thank You: Scripture Wall Hanging

This week I was overly ambitious and decided to start 3 projects. No, I haven’t given up on my calligraphy or book club reads. Apparently, I’m just a glutten for tasks. Idle hands . . . 

Slowly but surely we’ve been progressing on the Little Man’s new playroom, which will one day be his big boy room. A few months ago, I found some awesome vintage sports-themed wall hangings from Hobby Lobby on clearance and snatched them up. Since then I’ve been slightly designing the room around this theme and when the time comes for him to move in, it’ll all be ready! That’s the hope anyway…and we’ve got plenty of time, right?? 

While browsing Etsy the other day for some inspirational ideas, I came across this cute sports-themed wall hanging. I love it! It’s childish, but also something I could see being in his room for years to come, and the rustic colors are perfect for the vintage theme.
Image by The Crazy Polka Dot
Then I saw the price. 

$40.00 plus $10.00 in shipping! 

Really?? I could paint that!

Wait, I could paint that! 

If you’re discovering anything about my personality, you’ll probably soon realize I oversimplify everything. Bathroom needs to be remodeled? Sure! It’s just replacing tile and new fixtures. It couldn’t be any easier! 2 years later…bathroom complete. Redo our patio? No problem! It’s just pouring some concrete. A $12,000 estimate later. Nevermind. . . . Have I learned from this personality flaw? Of course not! So, off to Hobby Lobby I went. 

This project actually turned out remarkably well! I thought I’d show you how I recreated this wall hanging, and maybe you could save yourself some money, and do it yourself too! 

Acrylic Paint Set: $11.99
Brush Set: $4.99
Multiset Canvases: $5.49
Ruler & Pencil: Free

Warning: I’m not an artist and don’t know anything about choosing the right brushes or paints. This is what I purchased because it was the cheapest I could find and the best I could discover since no one at the store would help me. (Sorry Hobby Lobby, but it’s true!) You might be able to find it even cheaper if you know what you’re looking for! 

1) Using the ruler and pencil, plan your drawing in advance. Unless you’re going to use the white background, all of your markings will be covered over by the paint, so draw away! I even labeled what colors I wanted to use so I wouldn’t forget. 

2 ) Begin painting. 
A few tips: I goofed and began painting the dark first, but I’d recommend painting light colors first. It’s much easier to paint over lighter colors to perfect your lines. Also, when you’re mixing colors, mix more than what you think you’ll need. It’s almost impossible to mix the exact same color again, and your touch-ups will be very noticeable. 

Don’t worry if it’s not perfect the first time, you can always go back later to straighten your lines or fill in missing areas. I retouched several times! 

Once I painted the middle area a cream color, I went back with my pencil and sketched where my words were going to be. In the end, I didn’t follow this exactly since my brush strokes were often wider or narrower than I expected, so it was more a guide than an exact placement. 

And here’s my finished product: 

In the end, I spent about $23 plus tax, but I now have a collection of acrylic paints, brushes, and an extra canvas to use for later. My son also has a wall hanging made just for him by his mom! 

It took me 2 days from beginning to end, but I was working within the boundaries of nap times. I easily could have finished this in 1 day since the paint dried pretty quickly between colors. 

Next up, I’m tackling a Pottery Barn growth chart.
More DIY to come!

Top Android App Picks for Toddlers

My son has reached an age where he’s now obsessed with my phone. Before I was a parent, I thought it would be so easy to keep my phone away from him. It’s an adult object that costs money, and I didn’t want my kids to destroy something that was important to me. 

Around the time my son turned 9 months, my hopes of keeping my phone out of his reach became almost impossible. It has buttons. It lights up. It plays music. Sometimes it even vibrates. Cell phones are literally the perfect child’s toy. So, of course, on several occasions I would pull it out to try and entertain him when all toys had lost their appeal; doctor’s appointments that were running long, on car trips or even in the grocery store. I’ve come to learn that it’s portable entertainment, and it’s time I accept that technology is everywhere. Just because I didn’t have it growing up, doesn’t mean it’s wrong for him to have. 

I do want to limit him to when he’s allowed to use it. He doesn’t play with it when we’re at home. When he does get to use it, they’re apps that I think will help him learn (No offense Angry Birds!) 

Up until this point, I’ve pretty much just been downloading Free apps on the fly, and there have been quite a few interesting ones that were deleted pretty quickly. (Baby Bus would be one of them! It’s a well done app, but I’m not sure how my son is supposed to learn words when the app’s speaker has a HEAVY Japanese accent.) 

Since we’re about to go on another trip tomorrow, I thought today would be the perfect time to download thoughtful apps that I could preview before we hit the road. Here’s a few that I’ve found and like: 

Five Little Monkeys by Loeschware
 “Five Little Monkeys” is one of my son’s favorite songs! This app allows you to hear the song being sung in country, rock, or pop. With a simple tap, you choose when the monkey’s fall off the bed, and sing along! Cost: $0.99

Itsy Bitsy Spider by Duck Duck Moose
 This is an awesome app! As the narrator since “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” you follow the spider through the difference scenes with lots of interaction as you go. There’s a squirrel that helps your toddler learn 1-10, a little fly with information about objects on the screen, and your toddler can watch a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. What’s even better about this app is that you can record your own voice singing the song to replace the narrator’s. My son can watch this app for a long time! Cost: $1.99

Toddler Tapping Zoo by Tipitap
 This app reminds of me picture cards. Your toddler can scroll through very colorful and vivid photographs of animals and hear the sound each animal makes. There’s all sorts of animals from cats to zebras. Did you know a Koala makes a noise?! Cost: $0.99
Toddler Cars by Russpuppy
This is a fun, simply app that gets your toddlers attention. By pressing on the different types of transportation, they can hear the name of the vehicle, the sound it makes, and a little background music to go with it. All they have to do is tap! Cost: Free

What other apps have you tried that I should download?

An Ikea Morning

One of the benefits of living in Dallas is having access to all sorts of great stores and activities. I’ve blogged before about the thrill of H&M and In ‘N Out coming to town. I’ve also recently discovered we now have a Del Taco. But long before these popular places showed their faces, Dallas was become a shopping destination overnight when this big blue building moved into town. 

Tim and I happened to live in Frisco when this monstrosity was built. I have many great memories of waking up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and heading over to Ikea to have a breakfast date with my hubby for $0.99, then shopping for our apartment. 

When we moved away and headed south to the suburbs, we don’t find ourselves going up there much anymore. As a matter of fact, I think I can count on 3 fingers the number of times we’ve been in the last year and it’s only when there was something specific we needed. Well, this week I needed something specific, so the Little Man and I headed up to Ikea, and we went shopping! 

If you haven’t thought of Ikea as an outing with your kiddos, you should! The Ikea Bistro opens at 9:30am during the week (30 minutes before the store), and has tasty, Swedish breakfasts at an amazing price.

The bistro area is set up to be kid friendly! There’s high chairs and boosters right as you exit the line and disposable bibs and children’s flatware at the ready. There’s also a small walled-in kids area with tables and chairs perfect for little bottoms with a tv playing cartoons so you can eat in peace. 

When the store opens at 10am, their children’s area is right next to the Bistro, so you don’t have to go far if that’s your destination; which it was for me. I picked up exactly what I needed plus a little extra. I found these cute cups, bowls, and plates all for under $2 each. I just paid $6 for a plate at Buy Buy Baby, so I jumped on these deals since I wasn’t sure when I’d be back. 

If you’re wanting to do a little more shopping, Ikea has a Smaland Play Area for kids who are at least 37″ tall. Sign them in with their belongings, and a staff will watch your kids play in a safe, imaginative environment while you browse through the store. 

When we arrived home an hour later, I put my son down for a nap. By the time he’d woke up, I’d already assembled my favorite Ikea purchase, and had it ready for him to play on!
Latt (table + 2 chairs)$19.99 / Toy Hammering Block $5.99

DMB Friday: Filling Your Child’s Piggy Bank

Psst! I’m over at Dallas Moms Blog today talking about money.
Sounds boring, but I promise you’ll want to read it! 

Dallas Moms Blog: Filling Your Child’s Piggy Bank

Behind the scenes, I did a lot of research for this blog post, and I was quite proud of myself! When it comes to financial matters, I’m usually pretty clueless. I can pay the bills and keep a budget, but as far as investments and financial planning, it goes in one ear and out the other. 

When Mark received money for his birthday, I really wanted to be purposeful in what we did with it. People were trusting us to make sure it went to him or towards him even though he’s not old enough to use it on his own yet. So, I took to the internet to find the best way to invest his new savings, and revealed my findings on Dallas Moms Blog. 

I hope you’ll read over the article carefully, and find that investing in your child’s future is something to stop and, at least, think about! 

For those of you who are curious. . . we went with a 529 plan. But once again, I leave up how the money is invested in that 529 to Tim. Some things never change! 

It’s All In the Details

I have a problem with expectations. 
(My husband will laugh hysterically at this understatement.) 

The Little Man’s first birthday was a huge learning experience for me and a lesson in dealing with expectations. Now that the wrapping paper has been cleaned up and the dishes have been loaded into the dishwasher, I can look back and shake my head at all the silly things I’ve been stressing over the last week. 

From the beginning, I knew that he wouldn’t remember ANYTHING from this party, but in my head I wanted to make it special for me, Tim, and all of our family that has been through this last year with us. I envisioned Martha Stewart worthy decorations, appetizers that would be pinned for years to come, a picture-perfect homemade smash cake, and a home filled with family and friends. 

What I got was this  . . . 

This is my homemade smash cake. 
Uneven fondant circles, rough butter cream icing, and leaning like the Tower of Pisa.

I don’t think anyone will be pinning this anytime soon. 

But that’s okay. Because what I learned today is that it doesn’t matter what the cake looks like. It’ll get eaten. And it doesn’t matter if the cookies I baked weren’t perfectly round because they still tasted amazing. And even though only 12 of 30 family members are able to come, the house was still filled with laughter and love for my son.  

Just like pregnancy and having a newborn, I wish I’d listened to the advice I’d been given about throwing a birthday party for my child. And just like our next child, the next birthday party I’ll do things differently.

My Advice for Your Child’s 1st Birthday 
From Someone Who’s Been There

1) When it comes to decorating, Dollar Tree is your friend. 
They have a whole aisle dedicated to party supplies. You might pay $2.99 for a brown plastic tablecloth at Party City, but you’ll pay $1 at the Dollar Tree. And just like Party City, they’ll have plates, napkins, silverware, and cups to match your table cloth. 

2) Stick with recipes you know, or at least test them in advance. 
Pinterest is awesome for discovering new recipes, but don’t expect them to always work. When trying out new recipes, go with a trusted source like Allrecipes.com or TasteofHome.com. When nap times are all the time you have to work and bake, don’t waste your time with recipes where the only comments are “Those look so delicious!” Look for ratings and comments from users who have tried the recipe before you. It will save you a lot of precious time! Then you can pin the recipes and let others learn from you!

3) Stick to a budget.
Party planning and decorating can get expensive and fast. Basic supplies like balloons, ingredients, invitations, food and party favors can easily add up to $100. Then when you add decorations, bakery cupcakes and/or cakes, drinks, etc. . .it adds up! Come up with a plan, draw out what you want your party to look like, and stay with it! 

4) Stop and smell the roses. 
Remember, when it’s all said and done, you want your memories to be of your child’s happiness on their special day; not slaving away in the kitchen throwing cookie dough at your husband when something doesn’t go right. (Did that happen?)  If it doesn’t all get done, don’t worry about! Your child will be just as thrilled that they’re being celebrated and won’t noticed the little touches you didn’t have time for.

I’ve walked away a better person for having experienced all the trials and tribulations that go into a first birthday, and now that I can take a deep breath and brush all the drama away, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. 
Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies / Gift tags by Whimsical Occassions / Turtle fonts & images by Little Prints Parties
Cake Mix Cookies / Caesar Salad Bits
Banner by Whimsical Occasions / Photo Frames – Dollar Tree

I’ll Do It Myself, Thank You: Invitations

As the Little Man’s birthday begins to creep up on me, I’ve been head’s down on all things party. In an effort to save money, I decided I was going to make everything. From the smash cake and cupcakes to the invitations and envelopes. That’s right. . . even the envelopes. 

I may not have many talents, but the one thing I am good at is stationery. My job pre-mommy was managing a stationery and invitation studio. I handled materials, assembly, and quality control so I know the in’s and out’s of fine paper. Which is why when it came to my son’s first birthday, I wanted the best! 

Slight problem. 

I’m no longer working, so I can’t afford the best. BUT that doesn’t stop me from making it look like I can!

For weeks I’ve been working on the Little Man’s party invitations. First, if you’ve never used Photoshop Elements, I highly suggest you head over to Costco, purchase a relatively cheap copy, and learn some of the basics. When you’re familiar with Photoshop, the world is at your finger tips! 

As I was playing with the invites, I discovered there are shops on Etsy that sell graphics for your personal use. I wanted to do a turtle theme and found some great icons and alphabets from Little Prints Parties

Details of the invitation have been modified for privacy.
Using Shutterfly, I ordered some prints and had my own personalized 5×7 party invitations! 

A Little Extra: If you want to get really creative, you can purchase some card stock and glue it to the back of the invitation to add some thickness and hide the fact that it’s a photo.

But I couldn’t stop there. An invitation doesn’t really impress unless the envelope stands out too. One of my favorite ways to add a little extra “umph” to my envelopes is by adding a liner. 
Now there’s several ways to do this.

The Please Do It For Me Option:  If you really want your envelopes to sparkle, head over to Nest on McKinney Ave. or online to bell’Invito and purchase your envelopes and liners from The Paper Store. They have beautiful European envelopes and Japanese silk-screened liners packaged up and ready to assemble. (Envelopes average $8.50 for a pack of 20 & liners are $6 for a pack of 10.)

The I’ll Do It All Myself Option: Now this takes a little more time, but with a few supplies from Paper Source, you can make select your color of envelopes and make your own liners from your choice of paper. (Envelopes range between $3.25-$8 for a pack of 10; based on sizing.)
. . .This is the route I went. 

If you choose to purchase your envelopes and liners ready to go, then you can skip down a few steps. If you’ve decided to do it on your own, here’s what you’re going to need:

Scissors, Pencil, Envelope Liner Template, Paper for liners

Side Note: Silly me! I made the mistake of purchasing a roll of paper to make my liners. Don’t do that! The paper is very curled and makes cutting difficult; especially if you want to try and cut more than 1 at a time. Also, don’t purchase paper that’s over text weight; meaning it shouldn’t be any thicker than a piece of computer paper. 

Step 1
Cut your paper into squares leaving just enough for your template size. 
Draw around template, and cut out the shape. 
If your paper is perfectly flat, you can cut out several at a time using a paper cutter. 

Step 2
Glue about 1/4″ of the tip of the backside of liner. 
DO NOT glue the whole backside of liner. 
It’s unnecessary. It just wastes your time and your glue. 

Step 3
Slide liner (glue side down) into envelope. 
Press firmly along the edge where you glued starting from center and working your way down. 

Step 4
Let your envelope dry before folding. 

The easiest way to make any invitation or piece of stationery beautiful. 

The creativity doesn’t stop here!

If you really want to be unique, 
use a photo from a magazine or pages from an old book for your liner. 

The possibilities are endless!

Going Green: Cleaning

When we came back from North Carolina, I felt like I was just covered in sickness. . . no, I WAS covered in sickness. Everywhere I turned there were Kleenex and Boogie Wipes! (Which if you’ve never tried, I highly recommend them! They might seem excessive, but after rubbing his nose raw from generic tissue, the Boogie Wipes proved themselves worth the expense!) So, once we got him down for his nap this morning, Tim and I began Project Disinfect. 

One of the biggest problems I have with cleaning is the chemical smell that fills the house. Although some products claim to be lemony fresh, all I smell is an overpowering lemon smell that stings my nose. It’s also always bothered me that I use chemicals to clean off the very counters I sometimes put food down on. It then becomes a cycle of having to clean the counter tops, then wash down the counter tops. Why am I doing twice the work?? 

And don’t get me started on the bathrooms. I’ve used ever product out there to try and clean our shower. 409, Scrubbing Bubbles, Mr. Clean, etc. Unfortunately, nothing does the job better than simply getting down on my hands and knees with a sponge. And that’s when it finally dawned on me. . . why am I using these EXPENSIVE products when I know there are non-toxic products in my cabinet that can do basically the same thing.

So, I’ve searched the internet, and I’ve found several homemade cleaners that I think you might also like to try. All you need is White Vinegar, water, and Baking Soda. 

You can find out more homemade recipes and other ways to “Green” clean by checking out a few of these websites: 
What homemade cleaning solutions have you tried? 
Have you made any amazing discoveries? 

Need Something To Do?

As a resident of North Dallas, I’ve often passed by the local recreation centers. There’s usually marquees advertising “Karate” classes or “Chess Club,” but I never thought there’d be anything of interest for me. Then one day, one of my new mommy friends invited me to the Campbell Green Rec Center for a Mommy & Me program. I had no idea what to expect, but I have to admit I imagined a yoga class for babies. I have NO idea why that popped into my head, but this was the image I got. 

It was such a surprise when I saw everything they had out for the babies to play with!  

This little play area is the perfect environment for my almost 1 year old. He can crawl under, over, and around all sorts of objects without me having to worry about him falling and getting hurt. There’s balls, musical instruments, and toys. He also loved (what you also don’t see in a picture) a smaller sized bounce house set up to the side of the playmats.

I never would have thought about going into my local rec center and asking what activities they have available for little ones, but I’m sure glad I discovered this! This Mommy & Me set up is Wednesday & Thursday from 10-11am, and it’s the perfect environment for younger children. (Children older than 3 or 4 might find this a little boring.) But you want to know what the best part is . . ..it’s only $1 on Thursdays. 

That’s right! 

So, if you’re ever looking for something to do on Thursday mornings, come to the Campbell Green Rec Center between 10-11am. Let me know you’re coming, and I’ll meet you there!