Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Vintage, Baby!

Yea, I finally finished the nursery! Just in time to have my baby. He turned one 2 weeks ago. And while he will likely not be scarred for life due to his previously lackluster space and even though he is child #3, I still wanted a sweet nursery for him. The problem? No nursery budget. I repurposed the cream toile bedding, sheers, and valance but it needed so much more. What's a girl to do? No money for paint, prints, or accents. Providentially, my best friend sent me a link to Nesting Place months ago. "What's this?" I asked. "Mistreated windows?" "Celebrated imperfection?" "Shopping one's house?" I had always been a bargain junkie and was no stranger to thrift stores, but I cannot sew, I have precious little time to decorate, and I felt clueless. The Nester was just the inspiration / kick in the pants I needed. The end result? A cute vintage-inspired nursery that cost me all of $10.

Paint: a brand new can leftover from Brownie's nursery that I never painted. Sadly, he slept in a nursery with cotton-candy walls. This color is a lovely light blue and I wanted to work with what I had.

Crib & Bedding: Crib was found by my best friend, Lily, at a consignment sale for $40 (and paid for by my sweet mother.) The bedding has been used by all of my babies so I am very attached to it. It's also gender-neutral. Obviously I was going to work with it.

Art: These gorgeous boutique wooden plaques were the perfect way to tie it all together. Hee, hee, I tricked you. These are 3 sheets of 50-cent scrapbook paper that I bought before the baby was born. I loved this paper and wanted to use it in some way. The paper found its purpose one day as I visited the Nesting Place and saw an easy project where one simply mounts paper on styrofoam, paints the edges, and voila! Instant art. I attached ribbon to an upholstery tack and I think it's lovely.

Mistreated Windows: I loved my toile sheers and valance that I've had since my daughter was born almost 8 years ago. The problem? It just didn't pop. The solution? Get some red fabric in your attic, get a few dollars' worth of red pom-pom trim from Hobby Lobby, and "sew" (hot glue) yourself a pretty little trim on those old sheers. And while that hot glue gun is still hot and ready, throw some red pom-poms on the valance too.

Look how perfectly imperfect it is. I still haven't glued the hem and you can see the lovely frayed edges. I probably won't ever get to that.

Oops, I ran out of fabric. That's okay, this end is tucked behind the bed. (Nester, you have SO liberated me.)

  • Old sewing table for $5 at thrift store painted red with some old paint I found in garage.

  • Blue shelf from painted red (in first picture.)

  • Faded paintings with sentimental value from my grandmother but with undesirable brown oak frames. More of that red paint. Voila again! Vintage artwork that looks pretty against the pale blue walls.

  • I also mistreated a throw pillow. It's not as cute as I'd hoped. Actually, it looks sort of cheap and tacky. But it still adds a punch of red. The fabric was 50 cents in the remnant bin at Wal-Mart. The iron-on transfer is a Mary Engelbreit design purchased for 25 cents at a thrift store. The trim was in a grab-bag of trim and ribbon from the thrift store. 50 cents for the whole bag! The fabric is too red, the iron-on looks a bit rubbery, and the blue trim looks more purple than blue. But, I'm okay with such imperfection.

  • I already had the antique dresser, mirror, day bed, and mattelasse bedding. I've used it all for each baby. Our nursery has always doubled as a guest room so the bed, while large and a bit of a design obstacle for a small nursery, is a necessity.

  • And last but not least, a mistreated lamp. I glued some of the same toile fabric on the shade plus more red pom-pom trim. Cute. (In case you're wondering, I am not the Norwegian model you see in the frame, kissing my darling baby. I just have yet to print any photos of my now-one-year-old-baby.)

  • Oops! My laziness came back to bite me. Not lining the fabric (in order to cover up the 90's bold primary stripes) was oh-so-foolish. When I flipped the switch, the lovely toile disappeared, eaten up by the bright stripes. Maybe I'll just never turn on the lamp.

And there you have it. Vintage chic. Vintage cheap. I realize this is not a "high-end" nursery. You will not find it in a decorating magazine or a boutique. But I used what I had plus just a few dollars and I think it's a sweet and precious space. It's not perfect. I can think of lots of things to make it even prettier. A rug. Fancy throw pillows. A stenciled vintage alphabet across the top. But, done is better than perfect.

Sleep tight sweet Cupcake.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Get Your Garland Groove On...Nester Style

Okay, Nester. I'm doing it. My first real linky thing to your blog. You've inspired me in many ways but I'll save the mushy stuff for another time.

Exhibit A: Thrift Store Mantle Garland

Garland: $3. Junk to put in the garland: $3. Having my cheap & chic garland up the first week of December: Priceless.

The exersaucer in the corner adds a nice touch, don't you think?

Some thrift store pretties to stuff in the garland.

Tweet. I got this one just for you, Nester.

Exhibit B: Post-Christmas 75% off Pottery Barn Outlet Garland

It is not as full and fru-fru as the mantle exhibit but I love the simple bay leaf garland, wooden cranberries, and ornament bulb lights. All of this was probably $12 at the PB outlet several Christmases ago.

Exhibit C: Christmas Ragamuffin Garland

Yes, I've stolen all of your tricks. My daughter and I had such fun making this and tying kitschy knick-knacks and clips in it. I can't wait to make my next one. Probably $3 in thrift store fabric, ribbon, etc.

And there you have it. Garland for my own nest done 3 ways. Thank you, Nester, for the ideas and inspiration. If a homeschooling mother of 3, recovering perfectionist like me can deck the halls Nester-style, anyone can.

Blessings from my nest to yours!

P.S. Stay tuned for scenes from my mistreated nursery...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Many a blog post has been written by a weary mother lamenting the applause-less life she leads. The dishes. The laundry. The never-ending tasks to be repeated over and over again, with no one to thank her, no one to notice, wondering if she can continue day after day of this. Today, I am one of them. I've read the encouraging e-mail forwards and blog posts on how we're building cathedrals and how we're molding little lives. I know. I've heard it. And while I need all the encouragement I can get, sometimes I also just need to throw out (whether anyone cares or hears), "Hey, this is freaking hard!" And while I would not go back to work and I would not trade places with my husband, there are days when I am overwhelmed by the mess, by the ceaseless needs, by the bizillion and one things I do that go unnoticed. And while I love homeschooling and think it's super-cool, it is no cakewalk to teach a 7-year-old and 5-year-old the essentials of life while keeping a one-year-old (boy) from eating the rocks and bark fragments the older two have dropped while making a Pilgrim house (their idea, not mine.)

Today I was simply overwhelmed by my reality. It hit me at 2:12 p.m. I was still in my pajamas, teeth unbrushed, face unwashed, finally sitting down to a cold lunch that I refused to reheat again, certain that one more nuke would annhilate the few nutrients left in my leftover stir-fry. I had a big fat pity party. I cried. And because I wanted my pity party to be a really good one, I imagined a gospel choir singing in the background, Noboby knows the trouble I've seen. I toil endlessly all day long and yet I'm still staring at 3 loads of laundry that will not fold itslf. I have swept the floor seven times just today. The ironing. The dishwasher to unload. And then there's the master bedroom, that supposed retreat for the weary, the ostensible sensual sanctuary for me and my man...yet I'm greeted with a pile of baby toys, a folding table with a big ol' computer (lugged down from the attic because Brownie dropped my laptop last Friday and now it's dead), and the contents of my closet strewn about the precious little leftover space because I decided to gut the area last week, thereby begginning yet another project that remains to be finished. (Do you think that's a run-on sentence?)

A dear friend sent me this post from another blog. It's amazing. And it echoes way more beautifully and poetically everything I'm saying here...only there's a point to all of it. So, if you're like me and you're waving the white flag of surrender, click here...and know that it all matters.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Musings on The Mouse

Several days ago, my family and I returned from 5 days at the happiest place on earth. Disneyworld. Land of enchanted bliss. Land where every phone call ends with, "Have a magical day!" Land of no laundry, no e-mail, no cooking, and no overflowing garbage cans. Land where Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins, and Minnie Mouse are your neighbors. I love this place. And I especially love my very fun-loving and generous in-laws who provided such a sweet vacation for us all.

I realize that everyone does not heart the happiest place on earth like I do. I am well aware of the critics and nay-sayers. It's over-priced and contrived. It's an obnoxious beacon of capitalism on steroids shining for all the world to see. It reduces the entire world and all the diversity therein to a cheesey, musical boat-ride. It's a small world after all yet Disney manages to make it even smaller by clothing singing wooden children in garb representing their nationality and a few token icons like a glittery Eiffel Tower or a pinata. I realize all of this. In fact, I've even read the book. Back when I was a heady graduate student working on my PhD, I took a course entitled "European and American Consumer Culture." It was a fantastic class. I read great books and got to write sophisticated papers. One book, however, was not fantastic. It was a scathing diatribe of my beloved happiest place on earth. It was an over-intellectualized, completely ridiculous, mean-spirited expose of Disney, no doubt written by PhD's trying to compensate for not being fun by being mean and hating capitalism.

Luckily the critics did not quash my appreciation and love for contrived, make-believe worlds where I can dine at a castle, wear glitter on my face, eat mouse-shaped ice-cream bars, and ride a roller-coaster through Mt. Everest all in one day. The Man loves this place at least as much as I do. And the kids? Well, they cried (Brownie actually wept) as we left the Magic Kingdom.

Curiously, however, I noticed more than a few ironies during my 5-day stay. Decked out 4-year-old princesses with an ice-cream bar in one hand, a stuffed Minnie in the other, having a hissy fit because some tiny detail of her agenda in this magical place evidently went awry. Parents yelling at their children (at the happiest place on earth.) Children having complete meltdowns over anything and everything. Apparently, the happiest place on earth has not yet found a cure for overtired, overstimulated (and overspent) parents and children who have indulged in illegal amounts of sugar. Hence, I often observed quite a bit of unhappiness at the happiest place on earth. Interesting, don't you think?

So, I'm still a little bummed to be back amid the laundry, dishes, to-do lists, and never-ending tasks of domesticity. Sort of like Cinderella the day after the ball, nose-to-the-grindstone and waiting hand and foot on her wicked stepmother and evil stepsisters. Obviously I don't have the two latter things but I do have 3 children. And I homeschool. So, I'm pretty much even with her. I tried my best to smuggle a fairy godmother out of the park--you know, as a souvenir of sorts. But evidently there are laws against that sort of thing. So it's just me vs. laundry and the children...again. And I'm losing...again.

Have a magical day!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hot Pockets

Don't you just love people who have a knack for taking the most random thing ever and turning it into side-splitting, please-stop-being-funny-so-I-don't-have-a-hernia HILARITY?!? If so, watch this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Bang for your Buck!

Tonight the women at my church are having an event entitled "More Bang for your Buck." We've all submitted our favorite money-saving ideas to share with one another. So, I thought I would post mine here as well. I look forward to sharing others' ideas after this event. Some of these ideas have been in previous posts and are just slightly re-stated here, so I apologize for any repetition.

After quitting my full-time job 18 months ago, it was more imperative than ever for us to trim our budget in any way possible. I have saved tons on our grocery bill and I don’t clip that many coupons, nor do I drive all over town shopping the best deals. The following list includes money-saving places where I shop as well as a few on-line resources for saving money.

Favorite Stores:
It’s small but they have most of the stuff I need, including produce. They also have their own line of healthy items, Fit & Active, that I really like. Go to to see their weekly specials.
Big Lots: Also a great place for food bargains. I find really healthy, expensive bread there for $1 a loaf and just freeze it. You never know exactly what they'll have but I have found fantastic deals there.
Wal-Mart (of course)
A local salvage grocery store: Featuring dented cans & boxed items, close-to-the-date items (and some shelf items past their date so you have to look carefully.) This place is hit-or-miss. I’ve found amazing deals and come back with unbelievable buys. Others who have gone weren’t as impressed. I like to think of it as a treasure hunt and it’s always been worth my trip over there. I typically go once a month.

Plan Ahead, Shop Your Pantry, & Use Supercook:
It's no secret; planning menus in advance saves us money, time, and stress. I am not known for being a good planner but it's really not tough to write a week or two's worth of meals on a dry-erase board. Second, shop your pantry, freezer, and fridge. What do you have? Got a random can of pumpkin? Make pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins. Got a can of tuna and a bag of egg noodles? Presto! You've got tuna noodle casserole for dinner. One of my favorite free web-sites is You type in any ingredients you may have in your house and it provides a list of recipes. I have made many a new meal during lean times with random pantry items, a bag of pinto beans, and the internet. Look at it as being resourceful and creative!

Become goal-oriented:
Having a goal for anything helps to keep me on track since I am not naturally disciplined in any area of my life. One month this past summer I set an incentive for keeping my grocery bill under a certain amount for the month. If I succeeded, I got a “prize.” It worked and I got the prize. The Man didn't think I could do it and the competitive part of me wanted to show him I could!

On-line Helps: Grocery Game is a website that can save you hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill each month. Log in, spend a few minutes with a pair of scissors, and you're off to win The Grocery Game! When you play, you'll get a weekly list (called Teri's List) of the lowest-priced products at your supermarket matched with manufacturers' coupons and weekly specials -- advertised and unadvertised. The Grocery Game does all the hard work and research, and presents it to you in a straightforward format. (–explanation taken from the web-site) The grocery game isn’t free but you do get a free one-month trial when you sign up. After that it’s $10 for 8 weeks for one store. This FREE site is really easy to use. Simply register to become a member, enter your zip code, click on the stores where you shop and my grocery deals shows you all the sales that week at the stores you’ve clicked on. Flag items you want to purchase; the web-site allows you to print out a handy shopping list to take with you. This is super easy and fast!

Other: A national ministry to provide a month’s worth of balanced meals for a bargain! Anyone can purchase. You go on-line, see the month’s menu, & pre-order. For $30 you can purchase a box of food. For $16-$20 you can purchase supplemental specials (grill specials, produce specials, & holiday specials.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's Fall, Ya'll!

And what better way to bring in a Southern Fall than a trip to the Pumkintown Fall Festival? The Man and me and all our young 'uns decided to load up our '98 Ford Windstar and visit this famed fall festival on Saturday. And while this shindig has been mentioned by the likes of Southern Living, posh and sophisticated it ain't. But, I figured we should go since it would likely result in a blog post that practically wrote itself. I was right.

Folks, allow me to indulge in a bit of cultural commentary pertaining to this here region. Here are the favorites (in no particular order):

* A greased pole climb...with a professional commentator.

* Local bluegrass bands and cloggers...of all ages and sizes. Did you know that 3-year-old itty bitty cloggers exist in real life?

* Confederate re-enactors...even though there wasn't a re-enactment. And even though the Confederacy was defeated exactly 143 year ago. No kidding. When we first arrived and were looking for a place to park, I almost told The Man to keep driving, that maybe this excursion was a mistake. That's because I saw Jed and Zedekiah walking down the side of the road, complete with Confederate caps, boots, and facial scruff. Unfortunately, they weren't alone. My favorite "soldier" was walking around the festival with his lady. I'm pretty sure she was blind because this Jed was wearing authentic 19th-century military boots...with sweat pants. With a Little House on the Prarie "Pa" undershirt (tucked into the sweat pants). With suspenders holding the sweatpants up. But that's not all. Around the sweat pants he sported a holster. For his knives. And of course this little number was topped off with the obligatory Confederate cap and 9-day-old facial scruff. I wanted to take a picture so bad but I feared Jed might knife me. The picture would have been totally worth it though.

* The food. Fried Oreos. Again, I'm not kidding. As if partially-hydrogenated-oils, artificial coloring, and high-fructose corn syrup were not enough for these round sandwich slices of Americana, Bubba and company decided they would ensure artery clogging by deep frying these bad boys in peanut oil. Yep, people were lined up to get their sticky fingers on these deep-fried morsels...and paying $2 for just four of them! Obviously yours truly was not about to lower myself to such barbaric culinary standards. Instead, I opted for the much-healthier option of a funnel cake, laden with powdered sugar. And lest you think I was gluttonous and foolish enough to singlehandedly inhale a 9-inch-wide swirly pile of deep-fried dough, rest assured I did not. I shared it with my 10-month-old baby.

* The crafts. No less than 40 craft vendors came from far and wide to attend this annual festivity. And while there were many handmade treasures I would have gladly taken home (beautiful beaded jewelry, dried hydrangea bouquets, and exquisitely-scented homemade soaps), a John Deere hair scrunchie was not one of them.

* The bumper stickers. I'm pretty sure there were more "United We Stand" bumper stickers per capita than any other place in America. And then I got to thinking, with such a solid showing of national pride and patriotism, isn't the whole Confederate thing a bit oxymoronic? Unless I am historically mistaken, didn't the Confederates decide they did not want to be united with the other states of America? Just a thought.

Well, I could go on but you get a nice overview. Next year I'm going with my camera and a wide-angle zoom lens so I can hide behind trees and take pictures. It's twisted, I know but I feel a sick need to prove to all of you that this stuff is all too real. Ooooh, maybe I can borrow some of Jed's Confederate camouflage so I can just blend into the crowd!

(My young 'uns were plum wore out from The Pumkintown Fall Festival. Ain't they sweet, all snuggled up together at their Nana & Poppy's house later that night?)

Laughing Matters

If you've read "About Me: The Unabridged Version" (my very first post) you may remember that I love to laugh, but I usually take myself and life in general way too seriously. That's why I'm thankful for days like today. My very funny brother sent me some great you tube fodder.

I've determined that more entertainment atrocities have taken place on church stages and religious broadcasting networks than any other place in the world. I am a pastor's kid so I know what I'm talking about here. This first clip, "Jesus is a friend of mine," demonstrates my hypothesis. You will be humming this song for a minimum of 3 days after viewing.

"Jesus is a friend of mine"

"The Way" This one sent to me by my other funny brother.

"Biggie Fries," a parody of One Republic's "Apologize," done by funny brother's college friend, Dustin Ahkhoui. Hilarious!

"Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" (Actually, a lot of the stuff from Flight of the Conchords is hysterical; however, some of it is a bit crude. My favorites are this one and another one called, "issues." Check it out.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baby Steps

It's Sunday morning and I'm at home. Normally I would be in church but it was a long night and I was barely functioning this morning so The Man took the older two kids to church and I stayed home with Cupcake. I'm still in my pajamas, wrapped in my favorite blanket, with a tummy full of warm English breakfast tea and three slices of bakery bread with real butter. I just finished listening to a Tim Keller sermon and I feel cozy and content...truly it's been a quiet and lovely time.

And as if on cue, I heard Cupcake stirring in his room. I love to get that baby after he's had a good nap. I miss him when he sleeps and there's nothing I love more than feasting on his scrumptious baby self when he wakes up. The truth is, I love babies. I would keep a baby in the house all the's the raising them as they get older that I'll pass on. As I was nursing this sweet soul, basking in the sweetness of the morning, I began to ponder this blessed relationship--that of a baby and his mother. And as I pondered, I sensed the Spirit saying to me, "This is how it is with you and me...think on it." And so I did.

What I love about this baby of mine is that, well, he's mine. He is mine. I love him because he is mine. I am deeply invested in everything about him because he is mine. And because he is my child, I have plans for him...and all of those plans are within the context of my immeasurable love for him.

And do you know what else I love about this child? He delights in being totally dependent on me, the one who gave him life, the one who continues to give him life. He literally cannot get out of bed without me lifting him up and over the side of his crib. When I walk in his room, he squeals with delight and bounces up and down. He knows I am his rescuer. And when I lift him out of that crib, he buries his chubby face in me because he is hungry for what I have to give him...and he knows that only I can give it to him. And when he is done, he is totally full and satfisfied, ready to take on life's adventures...(which for a 9-month-old involves dragging himself around on the floor, not playing with the baby toys that are safe and instead scavenging for dust bunnies under the sofa and the power cord to my computer.) The point is, it should be that simple for me too. My Father loves me because I'm his. He wants me to feast on Him, to fill myself with what He has to offer, to be nourished by Him and Him alone so that I can face my own life's adventures with glee and fortitude.

And as wild as I am for this baby of mine, my Father is a zillion times more wild about me. As I have kissed and hugged and squeezed my baby this morning, delighting in his chubby legs and gutteral laugh, I've thought, "Father, do you love me this much? Am I this perfect in your eyes?" "Yes!" He replied. "But a zillion times more." My mind cannot fathom it. But I know that if I could really live out of that truth, how different life would be. To look to Him and Him alone as the one who can fill me up and meet my needs. To come to Him with outstretched arms so that He can lift me up over the obstacles I face. To live in total dependance on the one who gave me life...who continues, daily, to give me life. He has plans for me...and those plans are always within the context of His immeasurable love for me, His child.

Daily, I am wayward. I have my own selfish agenda. I want things that look so good, so enticing...but they will harm me. I throw fits and shake my angry fist because, like a baby, I want what I want. Period. Sometimes my Father lovingly redirects me. And sometimes He lets me have what I want and He allows me to experience the painful consequences of my misguided pursuits.

Even now, Cupcake is frustrated that he can't get what He wants. Just moments ago He was content, here with me receiving the love and nourishment he needed. And now, he's crawling back to me, both crying and laughing, saying "Mama" and reaching for me. So I lift him up into my lap and I kiss him and hug him and tickle him...and he's laughing again, squealing with glee and delight actually. And I will always pick him up when he needs me. I will never turn him away. I will love him regardless of the messes he makes and the many times he rejects me and swats me away...because I seemingly get in the way of what he needs.

Just as my Father invites me to crawl up in His lap and find comfort. Just as He will always pick me up when I ask...and even when I don't. Just as He will never turn me away or stop loving me. Just as He will watch me make mess after mess trying to get what I want. Just as He has painfully watched me swat Him away and reject Him.

May my Father grant me the grace to see my infinite need of Him, to squeal with delight like a dependant child, longing to be picked up and comforted and held tight. May I understand anew, possibly for the first time, how wide and how deep and how strong is His love for me.

And to my sweet Cupcake, I'm so grateful that God gave you to that I can feast on your sweetness and in so doing, taste my Father's goodness.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I love to shop, always have. Clothes, shoes, make-up, decor...I love it all. Some of my earliest memories involve "shopping" through my mom's nightgown drawer, making gauzey, flowy, belted (with scarves) dresses for myself. I was three when my first sibling came along. Sadly, my most vivid memory surrounding my younger brother's entrance into the world was not me holding him or oohing and ahhing over his sweet newborn face. No, nothing noble or sentimental like that. I remember the brand-new Sesame Street sneakers that I got and so gloriously displayed through the hospital. Big Bird graced the bottom of my sneakers and I took giant, exaggerated heel-to-toe steps through the lobby to make sure everyone saw my accessorized sneaker soles. Yes, I can recall every major milestone of my life...and exactly what I wore to mark each of them.

Lest you think I was born into privilege, let me state that I come from humble beginnings. My dad was a minister and my mom stayed at home for 13 years until the youngest was school-age (then she went back into teaching). I am the oldest of four children. I had an immensely happy childhood! Lots of love, lots of friends, big families, and my mom's great cooking. What I did not have, however, was a closet full of the latest fashion trends like most of my relatively wealthy friends had. Remember Guess jeans? Yeah, I didn't have those. I survived from hand-me-downs and department store clearance racks. I started babysitting when I was 12 and from then on, bought most of my own clothes. I learned to be creative and resourceful, traits that serve me well now. My mom laughs about seeing me walk out the door for school as a teenager, with an oversized v-neck sweater of my dad's (remember, this was the 80's...oversized anything was soooo "in"), belted with a paisley scarf from her winter coat, and my size 6 feet shod in cream-colored flats from Target...into which I strategically placed Liz Claiborne labels I ripped out of my mother's church pumps. Cut me some slack, I was 15...image was everything.

We are all products of our past to a certain extent. And while I thought God was less than merciful in placing me, a full-of-potential fashionista, in a barely middle-class home, I now see His sovereignty in the seemingly inconsequential aspects of my upbringing. Clearance racks and shopping family members' closets made me who I am today.

Luckily, I am now privileged enough to shop at Nordstrom's and my favorite store, Anthropologie. asfjaw#@!!!uer09q823q/jpo. Sorry, that was just me darting out of the way because lightning struck. Truth is, I would LOVE to shop at those chi-chi stores. My reality, however, starkly contrasts. Technically, I guess I could buy those amazing $468 Anthropologie Button Brigade Boots (not that I've looked at them on-line and coveted) but then my family would be forced to eat peanut butter and boots for a month and that would just end badly. You know, me resenting the children because they ate the boots, the children resenting me because it's "boots for supper...again?" So, I love thrift stores. I shop them almost once a week, usually on my way to get groceries or drop off stuff at the library (which is also a cool place because you get stuff for free...unless you're me and you have a daughter with a wayward foot who accidentally stepped on the Thumbelina dvd and broke it in half...then it's not free.) And while I know that many of you may not have a penchant for second-hand clothing and cast-off furniture, keep an open mind. I like to think of my favorite thrift excursions as treasure hunting. You know, an opportunity to find a diamond in the rough. So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to boast about some of my more recent gems. In so doing, maybe I'll inspire some of you to venture into second-hand heaven and see what you come out with. Oh, and for those of you who are trying to go green, think of thrifting as the best kind of recycling. Here it goes:

* a $40 Southern Living at Home vase for just $10 (courtesy of my mom who I dragged along with me.)

* plates (I LOVE to hang plates on my walls!) for 50 cents each

*fabric to make bookshelf curtains for just $1 (to hide all my homeschool mess behind)

I am especially proud of this bookshelf "mistreatment." You see, I do not sew...but I am armed and creative with some remnant fabric, trim, and a glue gun. I put these together in an hour and while they are rather unsightly from the back, from the front I am totally Martha Stewart (except I haven't gone to jail.) Thank you, Nester, for showing me how to mistreat.

* the whole series of the Little House books for my daughter for $2 (and LOTS of other books for me, my hubby, and the kids)

* a fantastic old sewing table that I painted red and put in the nursery for $5
* a set of 3 brand new Ikea pillow covers for $1.50
* some super-cute and trendy black flats (like new) for $3
* a Barbie pool, complete with slide and resort deck for $1.50
* a faux Bamboo plant that looks totally real and graces my mantle for $3

* Ralph Lauren dress pants (like new) for my handsome hubby for $2.50
* 3 like new Banana Republic dress shirts for handsome hubby, also $2.50
* a JoS A Bank new with tags beautiful dress shirt for handsome hubby, $4

I could go on but maybe I'll save some of my other treasures for another blog post. What's my point? Actually, I'm not sure but something to the effect of: Never pay retail, work a weekly thrift store jaunt into your regular errands, and be willing to see the potential in things that may look a little ho-hum surrounded by junk, dust, and porcelain kitties. The thing about thrifting: it's hit or miss. Sometimes I hit the jackpot. But for every one of those, I may have three excursions that yield little to nothing. Either way, I'm still getting out of the house and getting a break from laundry, diapers, and children. Thrifting allows me, a consummate shopper, to still be able to shop. Because right now, even a rendezvous with some of my former discount lovers like ROSS and T.J. Maxx are out of the question. (I love you R and T.J...please don't hate me.)

Happy hunting!

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Favorite Dish

So what does the Frugal Foodie feed her family for dinner? First of all, let me say that I actually do love to cook and to bake but in this season of my life, I do not have the time, energy, or resources to put a meal on the table each night ripped from the pages of Bon Appetit. Here is my favorite easy, fairly frugal (b/c you can make it in bulk and have amazing leftovers), and relatively healthy recipe:

Salsa Chicken
* Desired amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins
* Desired amount of jarred salsa
* Optional: canned diced tomatoes and/or black beans to supplement salsa

(Example ratio: I use a 2.5 lb bag of breasts or tenderloins, combined with 2 jars of salsa, 24 oz. or so, a can of diced tomatoes, & a can of black beans.) Dump ingredients in a crock pot or just a large saucepan on the stove. Cook chicken until done. Shred chicken.

Serve chicken mixture over rice with toppings of choice: cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado.

Definitely make plenty of this! It's great leftover and you can even make two totally new meals from it. It's fantastic as quesadilla or burrito meat. If you also have extra toppings, throw those in your quesadillas or burritos. Or, if you're in the mood for a yummy, Mexican soup, try this: Take leftover chicken mixture, add some chicken broth or part broth / water depending on how much you have. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro, avocado, and a big scoop of leftover rice. You will have an amazing soup identical to the one my favorite local Mexican restaurant serves. Top soup with crunched up tortilla chips, shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, etc. But wait, there's more...the men in my family love to use the leftover salsa chicken to make ultimate nachos! Layer chips, chicken mixture, cheese, and any other toppings you like.

And there you have it: One ridiculously easy dish served four different ways!

This recipe has become my signature dish. I take it to moms who have just had babies, serve it when we have guests, and make it for my family almost once a week. Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Frugal Foodie

If you know me, you know that I love an amazing bargain...on anything. I want to find the best deal on everything I purchase and that comes to groceries too. I'm sort of a goal-oriented person and in July I decided to set a crazy goal for my grocery budget that month: $275 for a family of five and that includes diapers and toiletries. A few disclaimers: we were gone for about a week of July (but that still leaves 25 days) and my kids do not yet eat tons of food. I am not a coupon nut (I simply don't have the time) and I do not go to 5 different grocery stores shopping sales. I do clip some coupons and I use them from time to time but that is not how I have saved a lot of money. What's my secret? A bit of planning, using what we have, preparing inexpensive meals, and shopping at a dive of a grocery store once a month.

It's no secret; planning menus in advance saves us money, time, and stress. I am not known for being a good planner but it's really not tough to write a week or two's worth of meals on a dry-erase board. Second, shop your pantry, freezer, and fridge. What do you have? Got a random can of pumpkin? Look on the internet to find a recipe for pumpkin muffins using stuff you have. My kids love those for breakfast and snacks. Just this evening, I spied a few gnats hovering around 6 very ripe bananas. I mustered up the energy to throw together a double batch of banana oat muffins. (I always have flour, sugar, eggs, oil, etc. on hand so it's a no-brainer.) Now my kids will have yummy and hearty muffins when they wake up in the morning. Got a can of tuna and a bag of egg noodles you've had for a year? Presto! You've got tuna noodle casserole for dinner. Have 2 cups of Bisquick in the cupboard? Have breakfast tonight. What kid doesn't love pancakes for supper? I serve mine with some turkey bacon and fruit and you have a well-balanced meal. One of my favorite web-sites is You type in any ingredients you may have in your house and it spits out recipes for you. How cool is that? I have made many a new meal during lean times with rogue canned items, a bag of pinto beans, and the internet. Look at it as being resourceful and creative!

Third, don't you just love those fancy grocery stores with bakeries, a cafe, calculators on the shopping carts? I do. But I never shop at those. My grocery haunts are Wal-Mart, Aldi, and a salvage grocery warehouse 25 minutes away that has ridiculous prices. On my last visit I got cans of chickpeas for 10 cents, canned pumpkin 4 for $1.00, and boxes of power bars for 99 cents. (Just to name a few of my bargains.) It's sort of hit or miss. You never know exactly what they'll have but if you don't mind being flexible and making meals around the bargains you find, it's great. This place is full of dented cans, health food items that the Kroger in Paducah, Kentucky just didn't have the clientele for, and Hunts spaghetti sauce with Spanish labels. For me it's a grand adventure and sort of a treasure hunt. I realize that not everyone is down with shopping that way but I sort of enjoy the "cultural experience" of it all. Oh and they play this hysterical old-time-religion gospel music really loud while you shop. It's a riot. I've attached a picture from my latest trip...two carts of groceries (all that you see here) for just $118.

Well, I didn't hit $275 but I did spend less than $300...and I still had a lot of things left that took me into August. Plus, my sweet hubby had been given a $25 Starbucks gift card at work (that he didn't tell me about) so he saved it and surprised me with it as my reward at the end of the month. I slurped that gift card down in about 8 sad.

Stay tuned for my next post where I'll share recipes and talk about what I actually feed my family.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Top 20

Today is a lazy day for me as I enjoy some relative peace and quiet at my parents' house. Cupcake is napping and Brownie is playing beside me. I'm reading my new Real Simple magazine and choosing not to feel guilty about it. This month's question was: "What are the top-three things on your lifelong to-do list?" It got me thinking, "What are my top-three things?" Well, brevity is not my strong suit so I came up with 20 (in no particular order.)

1. Become fluent in French

2. Live abroad
3. Write a book (which presupposes that I have something meaningful to say and that others actually care about what I have to say...)

4. Run a marathon
5. Organize every square inch of my home
6. Have all my favorite photos scapbooked and documented
7. Make it to my 50th wedding anniversary
8. Travel cross country in an RV with my husband and kids for the summer, stopping at historic sites and kitschy tourist traps

9. Go to New York with my daughter to see Broadway shows

10. Take dance lessons: Ballroom, Swing, & Hip-Hop
11. Travel the world
12. Get my nose pierced
13. Sing a duet with Bono

14. Learn to sew
15. Take photography classes
16. Read ALL the hundreds of books on my "to read" list
17. Do short-term missions work with my husband and children
18. Hang-glide
19. Successfully educate my children
20. Live on the ocean

A fave from my family blog: "Today Screamed 'Blog Me!'"

Monday I was Momzilla: edgy, cranky, screaming, impatient, anxiety-ridden, scary to level uncooperative children with a single glare, or at least a swat of my hand. (DSS, I hope you're not reading this.) Anyway, I'm not sure why I was so evil but I was and I talked The Man about it and he determined two possible (non-pharmaceutical) remedies: more sleep and more prayer. So, I've been going to bed a bit earlier and he's been praying for me more during the day. Plus Cupcake is getting back to his pre-vacation sleep habits so that's helped.

Today I got up feeling fresh as a morning daisy. I was calm, patient, and even spoke to my children in that soothing June Cleaver like voice I so rarely posess. Brownie has swimming lessons every morning this week and next so getting 3 kids out of the house by 9:30 without being hauled off by DSS is no small thing. There are breakfasts to prepare, faces to clean, teeth to brush (on a good day), a baby to nurse and keep happy, bottoms to wipe, sunscreen to apply, the mother of all beach bags to pack, lunches to fix, water bottles to fill, a van to load, and most importantly coffee to make and pour into the sacred travel mug. There are so many little tasks that I had to make a packing list for each day just to make sure we're good to go by 9:30. This morning was perfect! The children were cooperative and cheerful, I was organized and had everything and everyone smeared, packed, and loaded up by the appointed time. I was also sporting a new bathing suit and felt half-way decent for a 6-month post-partum, 35-year-old mother of 3. As I sipped french-pressed Starbucks from my stainless steel holy grail, I felt content, blessed, and oh-so good about myself. I was Supermom incarnate, a far cry from her arch-enemy, Momzilla, who had been slain less than 48 hours prior. Nothing could shake me or wrinkle my cape today.

Then my cell phone rang. It was my neighbor, CA, informing me that the swanky neighborhood pool where we have lessons was closed until noon because it had been treated the night before. As we're brainstorming about options (we pay a private instructor by the hour but we provide the swim location, so time is money), my cell phone dies. Apparently my superpowers can't bring a dead phone back to life and my alter ego, Absent-minded Mom, lost the car charger weeks ago. Momzilla probably crushed it. We arrive at the pool, trying to think of other options, calling directory assistance for other friends who have access to pools, and arranging make-up options with our instructor. Our kids are sunscreened, lunches are packed, and we're in swimsuits...must find water. My aunt and uncle have a pool and it's probably not in use, but I can't call ahead because of dead cell phone. I say to CA, "We'll just drive over there." 10 minutes later, we arrive at their driveway, only to find the pool full of little kids for a pool party. Plan C. Let's go to the local beach! It's certainly not our first choice. Even though our lovely region is dotted with gorgeous lakes, this particular public access beach is, well, public access. All we can think however is, sunscreened kids, packed lunches, it's hot, must find water.

The next part of the story is like something ripped from the pages of the Southern Redneck Handbook. For all you non-local readers, I live in the South not far from the city limits of a quaint college town. But my 10 minute distance from this quaint town is just enough to remind me, daily, that God indeed has a sense of humor. Those who know me well know that I am an urban wannabe. I regularly lament that I do not live in a major metropolitain area and I frequently imagine myself strolling the streets of Manhattan, far from the Confederate-flag-flying homesteads and stores selling Dixie Outfitters merchandise that dot my real-life commute to and from town. This cultural context is important for the rest of the story. We arrive at public access beach. I unload my minivan, load up the stroller, load the kids' arms with the necessary items and trek to the water to meet CA and her kids. I unload the stroller, the kids, the towels, quilt and cooler. Ahh, we have finally arrived at a wet destination. Oh, I left out one part of the story: the beach was 10 minutes from my aunt and uncle's pool and when I got within sight of the beach, there was bridge construction so I turned around and made the 10 minute detour allowing me to get to the other side of the bridge. The amazing part of our journey thus far is that Momzilla was still no where in sight. Supermom maintained grace, compusure, humor, and June's voice through it all. I assumed that The Man must have been leading his Economics class in intercessory prayer during this whole time because such composure was indeed a miracle.

Back to public access beach. Everyone's happy. Cupcake is sitting on my lap splashing in the water. He tried to put a rock in his mouth but Supermom was on it and saved the day. I notice Brownie nearby, pulling a sludge-covered dripping something out of the lake while remarking, "Hey, somebody left their sock in the lake. That's silly," and he threw the sock back in. A moment later something brushes up against my foot. I look down to see a clear tube, sort of like the kind one would employ for intravenous drug use. Only minutes later, my 5-year-old neighbor spots a band-aid floating just beneath the surface. And as if all of that wasn't enough to remind me that I have landed on Planet White Trash, Brittney Spears' twin and her string-bikini-clad friend walk by with their nasty dog and into the lake, only 20 feet from where my pure precious children are catching minnows in their lunchables containers. My 6-year-old neighbor tells CA, "Hey Mom, doesn't that sign say 'NO PETS ALLOWED'?" Apparently on Planet White Trash, small children can read better than celebrity look-alikes. The thought of my children swimming in canine fecal matter was simply the last straw. Supermom supressed her gag reflex and calmly loaded up the baby stroller caravan to get as far away from public access beach as possible. My stroller isn't made for loose sand so I had to pop a stroller wheelie and heave poor screaming, sweating baby Cupcake and all our gear at least 100 yards back to the van. Just as Momzilla was about to make her appearance, my sweet Blondie observed my struggle and said, "Mommy, what can I do to help?" She pushed the stroller while I pulled it and as I fought back the tears, I thanked God for the abundant grace He poured out on me and my children this morning.

We journeyed back to homestead as the kids sang silly songs about talking strawberries and Cupcake laughed. CA and I told the kids we'd have a P.P. party on the deck. "Popsicles in the pool." Our sweet kids piled in the giant kiddie pool on our tiny deck and had a ball. (Page 2 of the Southern Redneck Handbook: inflatable pools that all but exceed the size of one's deck.) All I could do was marvel. I'm sure the lessons are many but here are just a few observations:

1. Motherhood is not for the fainthearted.
2. My attitude and response to stress or plans gone awry directly determines how my kids respond.
3. God's grace and mighty power is for all of us. He meets us where we are. I realize I don't "suffer" in the sense that many people do; I'm just an everday weary and inadequate mom begging for strength so I don't lose it with my kids.
4. Sleep is huge.
5. God answers prayer and He daily provides what we need, whether it's bread or just the ability to see the humor in the unplanned and maintain one's gentleness, thereby keeping Momzilla at bay.

Sometimes I believe God's greatest miracles are found in the day-to-day. Changed hearts. Renewed minds. A child's creativity. My daughter's ability to see I was struggling and her help (literally) to lighten the load.

Until next time...

About Me: The Unabridged Version

{Also known as the post where you learn more randomness than you ever wanted to know about me.}

I'm Marian {aka "Scooper"}. I love words, beauty, and funny people. I have been a wife for 17 years and a mom for 12. Once a history professor, I'm now a stay-at-home mom, having traded in a college classroom six years ago for five years of homeschooling my own kids around the kitchen table. 

In December of 2011, we made the big decision to put our kids in public school. It's been a welcome change for all of us and we vow to simply take things one year at a time.

You can find me reading, writing, taking pictures, sipping Starbucks, over-thinking everything, rearranging furniture, and not doing laundry. I write for many reasons but mostly because it's cheaper than therapy. I joke about that but it's the truth. Through blogging, this glass-half-empty girl spills thoughts one letter at a time until lemonade is squeezed from the lemons. It's a serendipitous thing really, not at all the reason I started but the sweetest reward. Through my posts, I often find perspective.


I think I blog partly because it's the only thing in my life (of keeping home and teaching children) that stays finished. I don't have to wash, sweep, or fold my blog countless times a day. Once I click "publish post," I actually have something to show for my time. I like that.

I have many loves and an equal number of disclaimers. Here it goes...

I love fancy food and drink, though I've been known to feast on PB&J remnants from my kids' plates. 

I find great fulfillment in writing, though I remain ignorant of countless grammar rules. I also like to make up words.

I was a history professor until 6 years ago but I rarely know the correct answer to the esoteric history questions asked on Jeopardy or in Trivial Pursuit. I am not a history buff. I have never been to a re-enactment. While I enjoyed 14 years of university life as a student and a professor, I now consider myself a recovering academic.

I adore books but I'm usually reading about 17 at a time resulting in an embarrasingly low completion rate.

I'm a fan of all things "girly": make-up, fashion, hair, etc...but confess that on most days I am sporting yoga pants (though I don't do yoga), unchanged running clothes, a pony-tail, and a face that's lucky to get Chap-stick & mascara.

I describe myself as an introvert disguised in an outgoing personality. {Classic INFJ.} I love people yet crave solitude, in part because I can't take a shower or go to the restroom without being interrupted by tiny humans or a dog who always need something as soon as I close the bathroom door. 

I'm the only person I know who is equally inspired by make-up and History. I actually own a book entitled, The Cultural History of Lipstick. For real.

I will admit to loving smart people, thoughtful books, and great journalism. But I can also devour three People magazines in one sitting while on vacation. And I get school-girl giddy for televised red carpet events. I may or may not covertly watch Entertainment Tonight when my kids aren't in the room.

Laughing is a drug for me and I'm crazy for people who are funny. Ironically, I have a tendency to take myself and life in general much too seriously.

Ever the bargain junkie, I actually don't mind living a frugal-ish life. But, I have been known to blow money on crazy thrift store kitsch and forget to mail in valuable rebate coupons. My husband jokes that I could write a book called How To Go Broke $1 At A Time.

A clean, organized and orderly home makes me happier than it should. Currently, however, a 7-year-old's half-written story, jewelry beads, pre-school workbooks, an iPod, hair clips, fruit puffs, a dismembered Polly Pocket, the newspaper, a dish towel and a bowl of half-eaten pasta graces the kitchen table where I'm writing. Such disarray is an accurate reflection of the general state of affairs here.

I have never gotten a tattoo, ripped my jeans {on purpose,} or sported funky hair. But at 36, I pierced my nose, something I'd inexplicably wanted to do for 10 years. My nose, however, {quite set in its ways after 36 years of minding its own business} didn't like it and I kept snagging the tiny jewel on towels and tissues. Goodbye, nose ring. Hello conformity {and common sense.} I'm still kind of sad about it.

As I mentioned earlier, I home-schooled for nearly 5 years and then abruptly did the unthinkable: sent my kids to public school. They love school. I love the quiet. Sometimes the "real" collides with the ideal and sometimes that's for the best. I've learned to never say never and to hold all plans loosely.

I always wanted a career, a husband, and a family {in that order.} But I fell in love with a charming boy I met my freshman year of college and we started dating two years later. Three months after we graduated, I married him. I'm convinced he's the only man on the planet who could put up with me. Marriage has been hard {we are, after all, strong-willed first-borns} but God has been faithful. The charming boy is still my best friend and he is still irresistably charming. Marrying him is one of the smartest things I ever did.

Growing up as a pastor's kid, I was in church every time the doors were opened. You might think that skeptical notions about faith and God and truth would have not an ounce of non-conformist air to breathe in a churchy upbringing like that. My heart, however, has a fierce will of its own and has forever been the heart of a skeptic. Faith does not come naturally and my "story" from belief to unbelief and back to belief is simply a testimony to God's irresistible grace. 

On any given day I still look to people and circumstances for happiness and personal peace. I often trade pleasure for joy and reason for faith. I'm immensely grateful for a God who delights to pursue, longs to forgive, loves without limits, and never gives up, even on a crazy skeptic like me.


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