Monday, September 30, 2013


Earlier this year, we decided to improve our home's energy efficiency. So far we have focused on reducing the amount of outside air we heat and cool. We even started noticing a positive change in our utility bill! Every month our energy consumption was still higher than the control group, but when the group went down, we went down a bit more and when the group's use went up, ours went up less I was feeling good that we were on the right track. Then it finally got hot, and we turned on the Air Conditioner and the bill came. It was even worse than I thought it would be. We rose drastically higher than the control group. Now what?

We contacted a friend in the heating and cooling industry and he stopped by to assess the situation. He found that we weren't properly ventilated. The blower on the furnace/AC was having to work extra hard to find the air it needed to function. It was literally sucking air between the cracks of the basement door which was almost always closed! No wonder I was constantly needing to dust around the door and the trim, I've always thought that was weird.

We immediately spotted a couple of easy ways to increase air flow, and will have to run duct work to the second floor soon, but for now we removed the door on the laundry shoot. We have only ever used it for the kids to play telephone and to drop stuff down. The laundry is in a different part of the basement, so there is no perceived loss. I still need to pick up a grate to cover the hole, but until then we still get to enjoy the airflow.

We also found a wall cavity that had an opening in the floor to the basement. Careful measurement showed us exactly which wall it ran too.
Doesn't the white ceiling make you smile?

Then it was just a matter of marking a hole. I made a template from a wall plate we purchased and drew it on the wall after making sure it was level.

Using a drywall saw I cut on my pencil lines.

I got lucky and found studs behind the drywall where my screw holes were. So I just screwed them right in. I could have used wall anchors if I hadn't.

Vacuumed my mess on the carpet, then went to the basement and cleaned up the drywall dust there too.

Now when the blower is on, we can feel a pretty good breeze sweeping through the house that we never could before. I can't wait to see how much of a difference this small change makes on our bill.
I hung it a bit higher than the baseboards, because I usually have something sitting on the floor here. Not always a Bocce set, but always something.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Girl is on Fire!

Missing Grout - Annoying
On Monday I started telling you about my progress on the Fireplace. Well today I am back at it. With the top portion finished and looking good. I couldn't tear my eyes away from the missing grout in the tile. With the top a mess I had successfully averted my eyes for months, but with the completion of the drywall and the imminent arrival of the mantle I had to put this project to bed.

I had looked at lots of grout color samples, and envisioned a variety of finishes, but then while working in the basement, I found left over grout from the previous homeowner. Can you say hoarder? I know I am but what are you?

There was a little light grey, and a little beige. Since I didn't know if either would be enough, I decided a nice beigy/grey grout would be perfect. I know and all this time you thought I was a slave to fashion and didn't even consider cost. Not! I know that I'm probably an atypical homeowner, but I was able to find latex based additive, grout sealant, and all the tools I needed for this job already in the house.

With all the decisions made for me. Color? Sanded or Unsanded? Do I use additive or water? Should I seal it? I stepped outside to mix it up. Since I only needed a small amount I decided to just mix it by hand with a trowel in a recycled ice cream bucket. It started fine, but since the grout was old it had lots of clumps that I just couldn't mix out by hand. So I searched the garage for paddle and a drill.

For grout/mortar/cement I like to used a corded hammer drill. I turn the hammer bit off, but it has a handle attachment so I can grip the drill with both hands. It is also stronger than a cordless and less likely to burn out if my mix gets to thick. (I've burned out a hand mixer making mashed potatoes, so this is a valid concern in my house.) The paddle and drill made quick work of the clumps leaving me with a smooth mixture.

After letting the grout rest for 10 minutes per the instructions I got to work squeezing it between the tile cracks with a rubber float at an angle to the grout lines to work it in and squeegee the tile somewhat clean of grout.

I worked for a little over 30 minutes on the front, then came back with a special grout sponge that is scratchy on one side and smooth on the other, changing my water often. After it looked pretty good I moved on to the narrow sides and did the same thing.

I then used clear water one more time to sponge off any remaining residue. I still need to use the sealant I found on the grout, and the mantle is coming, but I'm digging it!

Yep that's My Little Pony, that's how we DIY around here!

FREE every item used was left over from previous projects.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Money, Money, Mo-ney!!

First FREE item I purchased with reward points!
Ok so I am pretty skeptical about most make money in your spare time things. Most take way too much time, and only result in a dollar or too. So when I heard about ExpoTV. I figured it fell into that category to, but what did it hurt to try?

I grabbed my camera and recorded my first video. I'll be the first to tell you it isn't great. But it met all of the criteria, and earned points. I quickly recorded and uploaded a few more, earning more points. The points can be redeemed for a number of things including Amazon Gift Cards. In one evening I recorded 6 videos and earned enough points to get a $45 Amazon Gift Card!

I also am getting more practice in front of a camera and editing. I want to start using more videos in my blogging, so this is actually awesome for me. Wow do I say Um a lot! If I was listening to myself speak I would drive me crazy. I asked My Vet about it and he says that I do pause a lot. OK. Guess I know what I get to work on. My plank video wasn't so bad, but I will be recording a lot more videos so that I can practice and get better.

To sweeten the deal, I watch for items on Amazon that are on sale so I do even better! I now have one Christmas present done, and have free money waiting for me to Find for more!

**Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you content free of charge. In order to do this, please note that when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to empower more people worldwide to live frugally with less worry and less hassle. Thank you! :) ”  - Cindy

Monday, September 23, 2013

En Fuego!!!

Finished, but lets get back to that.
I've been so busy telling you about all the happenings in my basement I completely forgot to tell you what else happened Labor Day weekend. You may remember a couple of years ago My Vet put the kibosh on all new projects until the fireplace was finally finished. Which led to a 2 year project completion goal. With all but the fireplace completed, and a major new project starting, I had no choice but to make sure the fireplace finally got finished too!

It only took 7 years from initial demolition. Several starts, stops, restarts, and do-overs have brought us to here. My initial plan was a stone finish at the bottom with a wood paneled surround at the top. I even had started applying materials, only to rip it all off.

The final finish of ceramic tile and smooth drywall not only compliments the mid century age of the house, it has clean lines that appeal to me.

But if you've ever done drywall it takes a long time from start to clean.
Second and final coat of mud. Followed by sanding, dust, and more dust.
Then I got to paint, but I was still recovering from fumes, so I opted for water based primer and finish coat..

 We did a small detail at the ceiling to cover a small gap that was originally covered with crown molding.

Here it is again so that you can properly ooh and aah.

How it's look the past 7 years
Getting there!

Cost Rundown
Drywall board FREE (left overs from a friend)
Mud and tape FREE (left overs we had on hand)
Corner strips $5
Primer FREE (left over from previous painting)
Paint FREE (left over from basement project)
Roller and brushes FREE (already owned)
Drywall screws FREE (already had on hand)
Total OOP $5

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Repairing Holes in a Boat Cover

Last winter when we put the boat away for the winter, we forgot to close the center portion of the wind shield. Unfortunately, all of the weight from the snow and the wind did a number on the cover where it met the corners of the open windshield. Instead of throwing it away, we decided to use some scrap canvas material we had to make a patch.

I started by identifying and measuring the rips.

Then I cleaned the area, so my patch would stick
Got a section of repair canvas.

 Following the included instructions... 
ironed on my fusable paper to the patch material.

Cut the material to size and then ironed it onto the boat cover.

To insure that it was strong, I repeated the process on the back. Sandwiching the ripped portion between 2 strong patches fused together.

I did the same thing to the other hole. 1/2 hour and $1.97 later the cover was fixed and ready to be used for another year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Magnet Wall

While prepping my basement ceiling for a coat of paint. I pulled down sheet metal that had been used for the homes original furnace, but no longer had a purpose. Instead of just tossing it, I decided to make a magnet wall.

The Children's Museum has a couple of magnet walls that I have always admired. So to have one in my own basement seemed like an awesome idea.

I started by hammering the edges to flatten and washing away years of grime.

Since my edges were still a bit raw from where the nails had held it to the ceiling, I decided to trim it out to keep little hands and fingers from getting injured.

I had some scrap 1x4 that I had also found in the rafters. I framed the top and sides like a picture frame using a Kreg Jig to drill pocket holes for stability and aesthetics.  For the bottom trim I followed these great plans to create a shelf ledge. I even got to use my new to me air nailer for the first time. I didn't even get scared this time!

For now we have letter magnets for play, but I plan on making other magnet toys too.

Since my sheet metal was pretty thin, I didn't worry about creating a groove for the metal to sit. I just tacked it to the back using 1/2 inch nails. For nails that small I used a needle nosed pliers to hold the nail while hitting it with the hammer.

To hang it I screwed in eyelets at the top and hung it from the rafters in the basement with picture wire. I just couldn't bring myself to drill any holes into the freshly painted concrete walls.

I'm pretty happy with the result. Have you done any creative recycling lately?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Free Shutterfly Gift This Weekend!

Offer ends Sunday   Promo code: FREEBIE 
This weekend only choose from a free mousepad or 12 4x5 flat cards or 12 3x5 folded cards.
Use promocode: FREEBIE
Only pay shipping. A great way to start stocking up on your Christmas Cards!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to Slice a Tomato

Last week's post on how to chop and onion has been a surprising hit. So I thought I would share this easy little trick that will not only make your slices pretty, the juices wont slip out of the middle when you try to pick it up and put it on a sandwich. For starters you need a serrated knife. That is just a fancy term for a knife that has a scalloped shaped blade with tiny ridges vs. a straight edged knife.

When you are about to cut a tomato, the stem should not be at the top
 You will get a nice cross section of top to bottom, but the juices will have nothing to stick to and you'll end up with more of a ring than a slice.

It should be to the side parallel to the knife cut.
 You slices will have pretty marbling, I don't know if that's what it is called, but that's what it reminds me of. Those small pockets of juice will give the slice stability and you will not have a plate full of tomato guts when your finished slicing.
For fun here is a side by side. The sloppy fall apart way on the left. The blossoming flower that holds together on the right.
That's right I said for fun. Hold on to your hats, it is getting pretty crazy around here with all the produce coming in from the garden. How is your garden doing this year?

Monday, September 9, 2013


School started back up so I only have one daily helper now. But she worked hard and made sure I didn't miss any spots. Since my floor had been previously painted, my options were to live with it as is (No Way!); sand/grind the paint off so I could lay tile or a concrete overlay(Uh...No); or repaint (that sounds pretty painless).
After painting all the other surfaces, I prepped the floor for new paint. I started by sweeping that went pretty good, but I did haul out a couple of full small garbage cans. Yuck! Then I used a scrub brush and a mop to scrub them clean. No matter how often I changed the water, it was almost always a thick sludge color. No wonder nobody wanted to spend much time down here. During the mopping stage I noticed lots of small debris and lint that was released from the floor, so I followed up with a final vacuuming to get any small particles.
Kids area almost back together.
 After letting the floors dry overnight, I took my oldest to her first day of school then changed into my paint clothes. I found a paint screen and an empty, clean 5 gallon bucket to pour my floor paint. Allowing me to completely submerge my roller in the bucket. Then started to trim around the edges with a brush. My youngest found me just as I was about to start rolling and lent a helping hand.
It is so bright now I am able to take photos without a flash or a tripod! I've also noticed that for the first time ever the dog likes to come downstairs too. I am almost ready to pat myself on the back.

Cost for this project for:
2 gallons of tinted paint
1 paint screen
-25% coupon
$50 Total OOP