Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Here's My Two Cents

**Sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.
I don't know about your, but every year I get older. As I get older some of my parts don't work as well as they used too. One of the most noticeable is my skin. No matter how hard I try to get enough water, it seems as though it is always dry.

So when I got an email asking me to try Nature's Bounty Optimal Solutions Hair, Skin, and Nails I was excited to try it. (As a member of Smiley360 I am often given the chance to try new products. I usually get a free full sized sample and then various sized samples and coupons to share with my friends.)

I've been taking the strawberry flavored gummies for a couple of weeks now. My nails do seem stronger, I haven't noticed any change in my hair, and my skin actually feels dryer! I do not attribute all of it to the supplement. I do live in MN and the weather has just changed to cold and that always dries me out. I started using an apple cider vinegar rinse for my hair this summer when we were swimming lots and my hair has been all around better, since then. My fingernails though, do seem stronger and are breaking less, even with the cold.

My final opinion is that it's ok. If I really cared about the strength of my nails, I would probably purchase and use it in the future. However, I am more concerned about my skin. Since starting I have noticed dry spots, that I had never had before. Again I don't know if it's just a combination of age and weather, I do not believe the supplement caused it, only that it definitely did not prevent/treat it. Even my go to, amazing, hand cream is struggling to get a spot on my pinkie finger that is rubbing my wedding ring.

**After some research I took off my ring for a couple of weeks to let my pinkie heal. I also gave my ring a good cleaning to remove any irritants. It all seems to be good again.

I do however strongly recommend the use of Apple Cider Vinegar. It's cheap ($2 a gallon) and works on a plethora of things.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Curb Appeal

The hardest part about buying an older home is the constant need for repairs. Every year we tackle another big project, this year it is time for the siding.
Here is what we started with:

We've been saving up for this project. We knew that with all of the funky angles we didn't want to tackle this as a DIY. As with any home improvement project though there was a snowball effect. I was glad to have the energy to tackle those other things since Brad and his guys took over the rest.

Notice in the front we did a little redesign on the front. Opening up the porch brings more light in, I also really like the vertical lines over the port hole window. The other port hole window was changed to square and we finally can open it for some cross ventilation.

The snowball projects out front:
Update Light fixture
Paint porch trim
New house numbers
Match the window treatments in the left window to the right
Paint the blue foundation to match the red/brown upper siding
Trim the lower branches on the trees so you can see the improvement
Weed and mulch planting bed in front of fence
Plant shrubs by the house
You can see I've finished a few of them, I  still have a couple of those projects start.

In the back I had a few pop up too:
Update Light Fixture
Update the woodshed
Replace gutters
Paint blue foundation to match the red/brown upper siding
Trim the over grown hedges by the patio (Only half finished)

The wood shed was a lot of work, so here is a close up so you can admire my handy work.

Here is the before, see how much it needed to be finished:

I also picked up new matching lights for the garage, that I have yet to install.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cracked Up!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of O'Keefe Working Hands for Smiley360 . All opinions are 100% mine.

I bought my first container of O'Keefe Working Hands earlier this winter when I got my second fissure of the year in early November! I was desperate to not be in pain all winter. I'd seen it at the local hardware store, but thought it seemed like a lot of money for such a small can. Desperation has a way of changing perspective. The pain had subsided by the end of the first day, with in the week the fissure was well on its way to healing. Yeah!

Fast forward to the end of December and I am contacted by Smiley360 inquiring if I would like to recieve a free sample of O'Keefe Working Hands? Of course!  All I had to do was take some pictures and share my honest opinion. 

My problem came when they asked for before and after photos. Being an enthusiastic user of the product my before will be the same as the after. Then my friends came to the rescue. They wanted to know if it worked on feet. Lucky for me (?) My feet get fissures too, but I hadn't tried O'Keefe on them yet. I am not a foot person so fair warning, if you don't like get scroll no more! 

One week later. I still have a ways to go, but much better!

O'Keefe makes a foot cream too, but the ingredients list looks the same. Regardless this would be deemed an off label use.

***This summer I got a fissure when sandals dried my feet out. Overnight the pain was gone!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Next Chapter.

Today marks the start of a new school year. This year that looks different for us. My Vet and I have always been proponents of homeschooling, now it's our turn to take the plunge.

Don't worry this blog is still going to focus on homemaking skills. Although,  I might toss in learning projects here and there. (All that work/creativity needs to be immortalized somewhere right?) The main focus will continue to be cultivating a home life you and your family love to live.

(Both are before this update)
Creating a separate space was important to me. I went pretty girly with their book nook, but this space would need to double as my office, and I need some serenity.

A simple modification to my office, turned complicated by a leak in the roof. The leak was repaired when we re-sided earlier this summer, that still left a hole in the ceiling and some patchwork to do.

Have you ever tried to patch a hole in a textured ceiling? Did you know how much I detest popcorn ceilings? Several weeks after removing the furniture, the ceiling was given a crisp, white, smooth finish; the walls were repainted in almost the original shade of soothing beige; layers of drywall dust were cleaned up and it was time to furnish.

Let's step back a minute. "Removing furniture" is a bit misleading. You see I actually spent 2 months purging, re-purging, and re-re-purging. Lots of completely full garbage cans, recycle cans, and many trips to the thrift store to free up some much needed space. I didn't want to ruin it all by buying loads of new stuff to refill it back up. 

This is the same view as above, minus loads of stuff! 
Yes there was a window there!

Here is the total of what I purchased:
Drywall mud (Everything else I needed to patch I already had!) $18
Paint (1 gallon for walls, already had primer, white and brushes/rollers)  $18
Table $25
Clock $5

$118 For a complete overhaul. Everything else I already had, or made from salvaged items around the house!

I really like how these art clips turned out. I made 1 for each kid.
(Yard stick, wooden clothes pins, paint, wood glue, staple gun, Command adhesive)

The left over canvases were a fun project for the girls.

The shelf was the first wood project I made after getting married. It's been in the garage storing assorted hardware for the past 10 years. After a good cleaning I moved it in and it fit the space and the bins perfectly.

I might still paint it in the future, but I just wanted to be done for now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Mmmm Coffee....

***The product you see in the photo was given to me in exchange for my honest evaluation. All opinions expressed are my own.***

My kids eat hot dogs, and mac and cheese. I have an unhealthy addiction to baked goods. I like my steaks medium rare, I even shop the center isles of my grocery store. **gasp**

That said, I try to avoid many of the chemical additives such as aspertame, acrylamide, polysorbates, BHA and BHT. My general rule of thumb is to try and stick to foods my ancestors would be able to recognize as food. I say all that so you get a better understanding of me. What you eat and serve your family is none of my business. We all make choices that are best for us, that's the beauty of living in a country with so many choices and sources of information.

Why such a long-winded disclaimer?  Because my biggest obstacle in enjoying the Keurig is the plastic K-Cup Packs. For starters haven't we repeatedly been told that we shouldn't eat/drink foods that have been heated in plastic because of the toxins released? I honestly don't believe any company that tells me they've engineered a heat safe plastic. (Anyone ever played the card game BS?)

For years we've been told that us evil Americans are literally destroying the earth with our garbage. Here is a side by side photo of the old way and the Keurig way. (A 1 lb bag of coffee beans equals approximately 64 K-Cup Pack servings). That's 266% more garbage. I also can't help but wonder about the Fossil Fuels going into the K-cup Packs. It's interesting to note that there are "Green" companies that are part of this craze, yet very few actual stats are available to the consumer. (Remember that card game yet?)

Sorry about all the skepticism, I'm actually a glass is half full kind of person. I do question the rational that humans are capable of changing the global climate that has historically seen continental shifts, worldwide flooding, an ice age, and an E.L.E. that wiped out the dinosaurs etc. So my concern over garbage production and fossil fuel usage may seem out of place, but as a Proverbs 31 woman I try to be a good steward of resources.

As a good MN girl, I like love bleed Caribou Coffee so that's what I'm going to compare. I expect similar findings from the other brands of available coffees. 

Caribou Blend 12.99 1lb ($.20 per serving)
Caribou Blend 15.99 24 K-Cup Packs ($.67 per serving ) 2.67 packages of K-Cups = 1 bag of coffee. That's $42.53 vs. 12.99!

Now that I've gotten to geek out a bit, it's time to taste test!

I find the K-cup coffee to be much stronger than I can make with a traditional coffee maker, I put that in the plus column!

I also find it so easy to just make another cup, I have had to cut myself off at Noon so that I can sleep at night.

1 week into the test, I have put on weight from the constant availability of brewed beverages. Both my Vet and I have had heartburn problems that we have not previously had. We also feel like our heart rates have increased and feel jittery.

Final result: NOPE going back to my traditional coffee pot.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Here's The Scoop

Summer is finally here! I am excited to share this little teacher appreciation gift I whipped up for the kids' teachers. (BTW when did they grow so tall?)

We have a great local ice cream shop so I picked up some gift certificates and created this pithy little note for the girls to sign. 

You can even download them and use them for your personal use. Since my gift certificates where long, I printed them as 8x4 cards. (My store charges a few cents more for cards than standard photo prints, so if you are using gift cards you could save some money and down load the standard 6x4 size.)

 Click here to download the 8x4

Click here to download the 6x4

You can print them on your own. I like the feel of the heavier photo printing so I send them to the grocery store and pick them up a few minutes later.

(If you are looking for ways to keep your kids busy this summer, check out my favorite local events site I have the icon on my home screen I use it so much!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Energy Star

What better day to think about energy consumption?  With today's projected high -3 (-35 wind chill) my furnace is working overtime to keep us comfortable.

We made it through Christmas without a huge jump in energy use and still came in 3rd place with our exterior lights. 

We've also made many energy improvements in the recent years,  but or utility bill still shows us as less efficient than our neighbors. Grrrr

One thing we haven't been willing to do is change from incandescent to CFL light bulbs.  There are many reasons we don't like CFL bulbs. Now there are LED and they are much more similar to incandescent. They operate outside in our extreme cold, instant brightness when the switch is flipped, more traditional appearance, no mercury, and the deal breaker available in soft white. Yes those warm amber tones trump the blue and green tones in our house. 

Sam's Club was running a special and the utility company was offering 50% rebate so I decided to switch out our most used fixtures. 

2 farthest are LED. You can see that they are brighter,
but the color is the same.
I was surprised by how big of a difference those few lights made! They are brighter, cheaper, supposedly last 20 years, and look the same, I am sold.  Going forward I will be replacing any broken bulb with a new LED. I even picked up 16 strings LED Christmas lights on sale. I got such great deals on those after Christmas that I got 100% rebate from the utility company on most of them! I have already gotten rid of most of the old strings, and will hopefully replace the remaining next year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dust Bunnies

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner for Smiley360 . All opinions are 100% mine.
**You can get a $3 off coupon here to try it too!

Now that the carpet is finally gone, I'm constantly dusting my floor. After 2 months I'm getting closer to finding that sweet spot for keeping it clean. 

As the flooring guys were finishing up I got an email from Smiley360 asking if I wanted to try a free sample of Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Not wanting to do anything that would damage my newly refurbished floor I consulted my flooring guy.  He recommended against several brands that I knew and thought would be good, so I didn't want to take a chance on this brand I hadn't heard of.

He had high praise for Bona. It's the only brand he recommends and uses at his home. So I logged in and accepted the mission. Within a week I had a package of wet floor cleaning pads.
Daily dust  (That's what kids, a dog and fireplace cause daily)

For now my method is to dry Microfiber Cleaning Pad most days for general dust. I use the wet Bona cloths every week or so to keep the shine and remove any lingering shoe residue. When the Bona disposable cloths are gone, I will purchase Bona cleaner and use it with washable covers going forward. I like to avoid creating extra trash.

Sparkly and Clean

The product is good. It cleans without leaving a residue and doesn't make the floors dangerously slippery. Overall I am just so glad to have the carpet gone. My allergies and asthma are so much better!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Phase 2

It's been a long time since I last updated you on my sneaky, sneaky living room floor upgrade. Mostly because I've been distracted and waiting for My Vet to be gone for a week.

My Vet doesn't like living in mid-construction so I try to wait. Additionally, My Vet hasn't seemed convinced this flooring project should be completed. One evening after the kids went to bed, we started talking about how the carpet needed to be cleaned again. This led to a discussion on how the 15 year old couch needs to go,  and how nice it would be to have an inexpensive rug that could just be replaced. During our drawn out conversation My Vet posed a question to his social media account and within a few minutes was conversing with a local floor refinisher and had a bid that fit our budget! I quickly ordered a new rug and removed the old carpet so he couldn't change his mind.
Not the best but you can see my patchwork around the edges.

Sure we could have rented the equipment and done it ourselves, but the cost of rental and supplies wasn't that much different than the bid from TNT Sanding and Flooring.

As avid DIY'ers you know we aren't easily intimidated and usually prefer to save the $$. We always try to think a project all the way through as well as weigh the pros and cons before diving in. This time, hiring out was the best decision. 

My helper was a bit nervous and wouldn't leave
my side after the furniture left the room.
While we were able to accomplish other things, the team from TNT spent 6 hours with multiple machines, sheets of sandpaper, and sweat just sanding. About hour 4 I knew that I would have said "good enough" so I know they got much better results than I would have. Reason #1 why hiring TNT was financially smart.
Looking Pretty!

I had originally planned on just sealing so the floors would be light in color, but My Vet wanted a dark stain.  Ultimately, I wanted the carpet gone more than any color. After looking at half a dozen stains non seemed right.  TNT kept looking and brought back a color that both My Vet and I loved! (Reason 2) 

The entire project took 3 days plus a week of dry time before I could move in the new rug. I know it would have taken me a lot longer than 3 days to finish (Reason 3)

This is after 3 hours of sanding. They got the rest of that bruising out!
It is not considered to be a "dustless" process, but they taped of the room and vacuumed 3 1/2 large bags of sand dust that were removed from the house. There was a thin layer of dust on surfaces in the living room, and no more than usual in the rest of the house!  On my own I would have had a week of deep cleaning the rest of the house!  (Reason 4)

It's been almost 2 months and I love it even more!  I dust more now,  but all of that was just hiding in the carpet before. The house smells so much better too. I still have some trim work to do when I can work outside again next summer, so I'll share those steps with you then. For now I'm enjoying my beautiful new to me living room.

Lets go way back and show you how much has changed.