Thrifty Glamping (Or Wilderness Survival with a Toddler)


Camping is my favorite way to travel. Why? Because it’s fun and cheap, of course! When my boys were little and I was a single mom, camping was pretty much the only way we could afford to go on trips. So I just made sure I got really good at it. We had some failed trips (torrential downpours, sand gnats), but overall we always had fun. We tent camped at beaches, lakes, and mountains, just the three of us. Spurred by our successes, I took a wilderness survival course. I built and slept in a debris hut, drank water from a stream purified with iodine, and learned to navigate with a compass (not well at all.)

Alas, I haven’t been camping at all since Emmie entered the picture. I credit all that earlier training with knowing a normal camping trip with a toddler would test the limits of my sanity. Enter glamping. “Glamping”, for the uninitiated, is glamorous camping. It’s one of those trendy word combinations I normally detest. However, glamping has become a thing in its own right. And I kind of love the spirit of it. It’s not really “camping-camping” but you still get to be outside. Plus, there’s more chance that the ones you love can be persuaded to join you there. Of course, with all things glamorous comes a price tag. Mine just happens to read, “Goodwill of North Georgia.” Continue reading


A Thrifted Toddler Room


I started a slowish redecorating of Emmie’s room a few weeks ago when I decided she should have a little dress up area. With no prodding from me, this child is the girliest girl I have ever seen. Her favorite thing to do is look through clothes and put on jewelry. Upon meeting other girls (or women) she examines their shoes with ooo’s and ahhh’s.

Without putting in much effort into my search, I happened upon a great closet/drawer/shelf unit with a chalkboard at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $60. It is the best! It fits neatly in the corner of Emmie’s tiny room and has space for her books, toys, and dress up clothes. It was a little dirty and the chalkboard portion was covered in sticker goo, but I cleaned it up and gave it a new coat of chalkboard paint. Good as new!

From there, I just had a string of good luck finding cute things at Goodwill. Now her room is a little less nursery, a little more toddler, and a lot more fun. Continue reading

Wee Playhouse: A DIY Little Tikes Makeover and Sump Pump “Water Feature”

Pictures1   When I was a tinier girl, I had a friend with a two-story, fully-decorated playhouse in her backyard. It was incredible. I still want it thirty years later! Too bad my carpentry skills are so limited.

Emmie spied this playhouse at Goodwill a few weeks ago and would not leave it alone. I’m not usually one to put hulking pieces of plastic in my yard, but I put high value on anything that will keep her entertained outside. I decided to go for it. With my mom’s senior discount, it was $53. 20140416_134330 Our backyard is pretty much dominated by our two big dogs. The only place I could realistically put the house was in the side yard. Our sump pump drains there also, and it is always muddy. It was not an ideal situation. I needed a creative solution, not only to make the muddy area hospitable, but also to make the plastic house look a little less hideous. 20140417_144540 (1)   I decided to make the playhouse match our house as best I could. I took the roof off completely and spray painted it black. Then with huge amounts of tape and newspaper covering areas I didn’t want painted, I spray painted the outside of the house green. I added a battery operated doorbell, a flag, a vinyl tablecloth, and a flowerpot for fun. IMG_4755 To solve the sump pump issue, I decided to create a little creek bed to work with the water. I bought about $6 worth of pebbles from Home Depot, dug a sloping trench, and added a few larger rocks I found around the yard. Emmie loves it when the water comes gushing out of the pipe, and now it’s a “water feature” instead of a puddle. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. IMG_4766   As a finishing touch, I filled a broken wagon we had in the garage with some sand to use as a sandbox. Emmie mostly just picks up handfuls of sand and deposits them in the little creek. She doesn’t quite get it yet. IMG_4770   Here she is, playing in her little house. Even though it’s not a two-story dreamhouse, it makes her pretty happy. 20140420_121916

Cover Me!: Covering Damaged Walls with Groutable Vinyl Tile


Before and After

When we moved into our house, there was wallpaper everywhere! This is no exaggeration. In the hallway bathroom, not only the walls were covered in the stuff, but the countertop, sink cabinet, and door back as well. It was like a flocked wallpaper cave. To make matters worse, the previous owners had helped the wallpaper stick in the moist area with silicone caulk. When we attempted to steam the paper, the drywall came along too. The hallway bathroom took countless hours and gallons of spackle to restore.

A few years ago, not looking to repeat that nightmare, I decided to fight fire with fire and go over the master bath wallpaper with more wallpaper. This time a paintable variety. Not a good plan! It didn’t start out looking good, and three years of steamy showers made it even worse. I wanted to fix it, but I just had no idea how. I had given up on making the bathroom pretty, so it just kept looking sadder and sadder.


Ugh. This picture embarrasses me.


This is where I decided to try removing the original wallpaper, gave up and covered it in the paintable stuff instead.

This is where I decided to try removing the original wallpaper, gave up and covered it in the paintable stuff instead.

Recently, it dawned on me that we had laminate flooring in both bathrooms and there was no reason I couldn’t use it on the walls. What a revelation! Now I just had to figure out how to do it. Since we have “wood” on the floor, I didn’t think I also wanted that on the walls. Instead, I chose travertine lookalike peel and stick vinyl tile. The Lowe’s closest to me had only a handful of pieces in stock, so I ended up getting as much as I needed for our small bathroom at a discount. Normally Lowe’s sells what I bought for $2.16 a tile. I was able to buy what I needed for around $70.

I knew the sticky tiles probably wouldn’t stay up all by themselves, as they are designed to be horizontal, not vertical. I bought some Loc-Tite Kitchen and Bath adhesive to supplement and got to work. The tiles were easy enough to cut and place. I just scored them on the top with a utility knife. I used tile spacers to keep things even. loctiteAll was going swimmingly until the weather became humid for a few days. I was working in the kitchen when I started to hear noises from the bathroom upstairs. Ugh. Tiles were popping off left and right. Time to amend my plan. Luckily, my dad is a handyman. After I told him of my plight, he suggested a stronger version of Loc-Tite. The stuff to the left. It was fantastic. Totally worth the slightly higher price tag.

After I had all the tiles in place, I had my first grouting experience. I am certain that I didn’t do it right. I found a tutorial online that used a sandwich bag to pipe the grout instead of a tile float. That did not work for me at all. I ended up using a putty knife and my fingers to squish it in the lines. My hands are still covered in grout two days later. However, IT LOOKS SO GOOD! Definitely not professional, but soooo much better. This was not an easy project by any means, but I’m so glad I stuck it out. The price tag ended up somewhere around $100. I bought a fancy new shower curtain and rug at a real (not thrift) store to celebrate. Yay!


My first wall with the tile spacers. 50% of it popped off a few days later.

My first wall with the tile spacers. 50% of it popped off a few days later.


I was pretty proud that I managed to cut that piece around the window correctly. I hate measuring.


This is what the floor looked like when I was finally done.


Ooh, fancy!


It even made my cheap sink look nicer!


Ode to Goodwill: A Love Letter with Pictures

Dear Goodwill,

I love you so much. You are always there for me when everything is going wrong–well, at least between the hours of 9am-8pm and 10am-6pm on Sundays. I can count on you to give me a lift even when my mood and my budget are at their lowest. We’ve been together for so long, yet you always find new ways to surprise me.

Remember that time that I found this school map of Georgia and this industrial barrel on the same trip? I thought my husband would hate both of them, but you knew better. We just turned that barrel into a table and hung up the map above that chair I got for $25 at a garage sale. Don’t be jealous of that garage sale. You know I’ll always come back to you.


Just like when I found that old Library of Congress record player for $11. It has a speaker right inside the case. You knew you had me then. I’m back every week digging through your musty piles of 77 cent records.


How do you know exactly what I love most? This store display dress form you gave me turned into the perfect lamp for sewing.



Speaking of lamps, you really know how to light up my life! This lamp I bought for $15 sells for $178 at Lowes.


I know sometimes others find your virtues difficult to appreciate, but I was over the moon when you found me this desk organizer. Did the makers realize that “tomorrow” and “manana” mean the same thing? Were they going for a more poetic meaning? We’ll never know. Just one of our many inside jokes.


All jokes aside, you know that you really had my heart when you urged me to pursue my love of skating–for only 25 cents.


Goodwill, we’ve had such good times! I can’t wait to grow old with you. Especially when we reach that milestone in the golden years of our relationship, 25% off Super Senior Tuesday.

Love Forever, Jaime


Home, Canned: Menu Planning and Chore Jars


My approach to organizing is similar to my  approach to exercise before I started playing roller derby– I get really into it for a few weeks before crashing and burning. I want so badly to be one of those super-organized people. I do NOT come by it naturally, for sure. I need it to be a little more fun and a little less work, just like exercise is fun now that it’s essentially my hobby.

When I was a kid, my mom made a chore jar for me. Though I still had to do the boring chores, the novelty of choosing them from the jar was enough to make the process seem fun, somehow. After many attempts at notebooks, calendars, and spreadsheets, I decided to give this method a try for my adult self both for meal-planning and monthly cleaning chores.

I actually had a pretty good system set up for meal-planning before. I had a two-month rotation of meals in calendar form with a shopping list for each week. Then, last spring, my son Ryan decided to become a vegetarian. I didn’t have a problem with his vegetarianism. In fact, I thought it would be better for the whole family to eat less meat. Unfortunately, my meal-planning system was shot. I’ve spent the past year experimenting with some vegetarian meals on which we can all agree. On the nights that Ryan’s with his dad, it’s burgers and steak for Bob, Emmie, and me!

My new meal jar system is deceptively simple. Before doing my grocery shopping, I choose the appropriate amount of vegetarian and omnivore meals I need for that week.


In addition to the entree name, each spoon has a number written on the back which corresponds to a Google doc of monthly meals.


The doc links to online recipes. I’ve also written the shopping list for each item underneath the link, which I can copy and paste into a shopping list. I put the spoons up on a magnetic weekly calendar I have at my desk in the kitchen. When the week is over, I put the spoons in a jar for the next month. Bam! Menu planning fun!




I had these little spoons left over from the Daddy/Daughter Birthday Extravaganza. I originally thought I wanted to write on them with chalk, so I painted them with black chalkboard paint.



The chalk didn’t work out well at all. Too blurry. Plus, I’d just bought this awesome typewriter at Goodwill that I was itching to use.


I cut up a brown paper bag and made the labels with the typewriter. I stuck them on with rubber cement and attached a magnet to the back of each one.



For the cleaning chore jars, I used some popsicle sticks I’ve had rolling around my desk since the boys were little. It’s always more fun to make things cute, and I have a ton of paint that I bought at Goodwill a while ago. I decided to dip the ends.


More typewriter labels!






I added some little chalkboards to the jars, and done! I choose one stick each day. That’s manageable enough for me.









Starry, Starry Lights: Battery-Operated Lights from Candle Sconces

I’ve been semi-obsessed with sunburst mirrors lately. They are so retro, yet current. I just love them. Luckily, I’ve run across quite a few of them at Goodwill. They are one of the things that I buy pretty much whenever I see. When I found these rusty, brass candle holders for $1.91 each, I knew they would be a perfect complement to my collection of mirrors.


Only, who puts candles on the wall? Seems like a fire hazard to me. I decided to turn them into little lamps with these battery-operated lights. I picked these up for 75 cents each at Salvation Army and unscrewed the bottoms from them.


After giving the candle holders a fresh coat of gold spray paint, I secured the lights to them with a blob of hot glue.


Then I just added some little lampshades and put those puppies up! Easy!